The “Battle for Supremacy” was not worth the broadband space used to hype it up as Timothy Bradley scored a fairly easy technical decision over Devon Alexander after 10 pedestrian rounds at the now notorious Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan. A headbutt forced Alexander to quit under strange circumstances, and the scorecards were mercifully tallied to abbreviate what was a dreary affair. Final scores were 98-93, 97-93, and 96-95, all in favor of Bradley.
No matter how long you watch boxing, you are sure to run across something that will leave you flabbergasted. Last night, Alexander, now 21-1 (13), was ruled unfit to continue fighting after he all but refused to open his eyes at the request of the ringside physician. More than once Dr. Peter Samet implored Alexander to widen his peepers, but Alexander was in such a sorry state, apparently, that even fluttering his eyelids was too much for him.
It was a fitting end to a fight whose surreal atmosphere nearly rivaled that of the entire oeuvre of Marcel Duchamp. Who was that man dressed in a pimp outfit who refused to leave the ring before the first bell rang? How many journalists are actually going to pretend that 6,247 paid to see this event? Does Kevin Cunningham ever shut up? What about the mystifying—and bogus—statistics thrown around about this fight by HBO and Dan Rafael?
As for the fight itself, it was dull from the moment the fellow in the pimp hat left the ring. But the 10 desultory rounds at least served to point out the difference between reality—Tim Bradley—and hype—Devon Alexander.
Tim Bradley, 27-0-0-1 (11), is a professional prizefighter, capable of establishing a game plan, building a foundation in the ring, and executing with a purpose in mind. Bradley was looking to dismantle Alexander brick by brick as the rounds went by. Meanwhile, Alexander was looking perhaps to do the same—bark by bark. His yips and yelps resounded above the silence of the funereal crowd, but Alexander, St. Louis, Missouri, lacked the skill to do any damage and needed a knockout (or a few knockdowns) to win at the time the fight was stopped.
Bradley, Palm Springs, California, set the tempo by coming forward, belaboring the body in close, and occasionally pinning his discombobulated opponent against the ropes, where he threw quick flurries. Alexander, 140, worked behind his imprecise jab, ran off pitty-pat combinations that duly scattered molecules, and lunged in to hold whenever he could get away with it.
As noted, he also barked incessantly, a symbolic counterpoint to the simple fact that Alexander has all the bite of a sock puppet. Let it be stated clearly here–coldly and objectively, with no ridiculous ”P-4-P” palaver in play–right now Devon Alexander is little more than a competent spoiler. Fast hands and a southpaw style are not enough to make a legend, no matter what Max Kellerman says. Sure, standards in boxing have dropped precipitously over the years—from trainers to fighters to journalists—but the public rainbow party given to Alexander over the last eighteen months or so was absurd. Beating a jaded Junior Witter, stopping Juan Urango, and barely surviving Andriy Kotelnik makes you a “star” these days in the same way that Paris Hilton and Snooki are stars—for no apparent reason.
As in his fight with Kotelnik, it took only a handful of rounds for Alexander to look skittish in the ring, slapping inaccurately, moving without purpose, and initiating ugly half-nelsons whenever Bradley, 139 1/2, got too close for discomfort. Some of his flurries were embarrassing in their amateurishness, but you got the sense this might happen when training footage broadcast by HBO before the fight showed Alexander whipping the air with both hands like a man trying to break some sort of obscure record for beating eggs.
With the exception of a couple of jabs and an isolated straight left or two, Bradley landed the only meaningful punches of the fight, including an overhand right that staggered Alexander in the sixth. A headbutt–one of many throughout the bout–left Alexander with a ragged cut over his right eye in the third round. Fortunately, Jim Strickland came through as the only steady professional in the Alexander corner.
By the time the ninth round rolled by in this lackluster fandango, Alexander, 21-1 (13), had already been “faking the funk” for a quarter of the fight, simply trying to con Bradley and the judges with phony shimmies no real professional would fall for. At one point, Alexander opened up with one of his counterfeit squalls and Bradley simply put his hands up, disdainfully, and blocked every punch that skewed his way. Alexander was about as much of a threat to Bradley in the ring as a Gettysburg reenactor is to a Special Forces unit. A fighter knows when his opponent is more interested in playing charades than mixing it up, and Bradley simply went about his hard-nosed business.
When the two cracked heads in center ring early in the 10th, Alexander let out a banshee cry and reeled into a corner, where he dropped to his knees like a supplicant. Referee Frank Garza urged him to rise, and when Alexander continued mewling, the referee called for the ringside physician and the bout was halted.
In the end, Bradley was simply too much of a professional for Alexander to keep at bay. Once a spoiler is figured out, he usually reverts to his worst impulses—lunging, grabbing, flailing, etc.—and Alexander made sure to use his full repertoire of marring tactics.
All prizefighters, with rare exceptions, work hard to get what they can when they can in an unforgiving business, and Alexander is no different. But the idea that some get more because Max Kellerman has iffy judgment–compounded by an oversized ego–or because Dan Rafael plays hype man–compounded by an oversized ego–might be a little hard to swallow for those without their own personal cheerleading squads. Bradley, for one, was not impressed by all that barking at the moon.
A note on the bizarre “historical” statistics tossed around by Jim Lampley and other informed members of the media. As if this fight did not have enough hype already, some of the hardworking press came up with the following dopey stat, as fleshed out by Dan Rafael:
It was not only a fight between two of the best American fighters in boxing, but it was the first unification fight between two undefeated Americans in 24 years and only the third ever. The others were Mike Tyson against Tony Tucker in a 1987 heavyweight championship unification bout and Donald Curry against Milton McCrory in a 1985 welterweight unification clash.
Not only does this assertion bring to mind the over inclusiveness of paranoid schizophrenics, it is also woefully incorrect. Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad met in 1999 to unify two shards of the welterweight title. Or are some people so ignorant that they will claim Trinidad is not American?