By Mitchell McMahon
Devon “The Great” Alexander needed to look the part in his welterweight debut against Marcos Maidana. Carrying added weight and anxious to silence the critics, he appeared sharp, classy and lethal while dominating the heavy-handed brawler from Argentina.
Kevin Cunningham, his longtime trainer, noted the changes in Alexander’s mind and body. “Everything was coming out Saturday night. He heard the critics and wanted to put it all to rest.
“Tension drains a fighter,” said Cunningham. “Everyone knows Devon can box, but he’s an aggressive fighter. He wanted to take Maidana out early. I told him, ‘Relax and box. This fight is going to be a lot easier that way. He settled down, and by the 6th round he took over masterfully.”
Alexander looked like a different fighter at 147lbs than the man that tired against Kotelnik, Bradley and Mattysse. He broke Maidana down with crisp, hard punches, showed strong legs and a more sustained, balanced energy level. Only one judge scored a round for Maidana, who looked sluggish at 147.
The tendency for Alexander to overexert himself had been a big problem in the past. Cunningham cites two reasons for the change Saturday: strategy and weight. “I knew with Devon not having to kill himself to make 140, he would step up. We worked on not fighting full-throttle, on changing gears, and it paid off.
“Going into Bradley and Kotelnik, we worked too hard to shed weight. He outgrew his weight just as he broke through at 140. But we were the champ: We couldn’t toss the belts.”
Together, Alexander and Cunningham have won more than 300 amateur bouts, gone 24-1 professionally, 6-1 in title bouts, the lone loss coming to Tim Bradley on tired legs. But criticism is the flip-side of praise, and after three underwhelming bouts, each received their share. Whispers became shouts: Had they stagnated?
Cunningham shrugs it off: “This isn’t my first time at the rodeo. When Spinks unified the belts, I was a genius. We lost the Judah rematch and suddenly he needed a new trainer. That’s just the way it goes.
“Devon is like my son. He’s been with me since he was 7 years old. When he’s out of boxing, we’ll be as close as ever.”
They plan to face a solid opponent in July, then challenging the winner of Berto/Ortiz in a welterweight showdown. “That’s the logical fight between the two best welterweights not named Floyd or Manny. We aren’t interested in politics. We just want to fight the best, like we always have. And oh man, either one of those--Berto or Oritz--versus Devon 'The Great' Alexander...look out!”