Devon Alexander and Marcos Maidana will both be attempting to recapture moments of years past when they face off at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri, on Saturday night.
In June 2009, Maidana, 31-2 with 28 KOs, survived three knockdowns against highly touted Victor Ortiz before making him surrender in the 6th round. Since then, his performances have been uneven given the elevated level of competition, with closer-than-expected wins over a faded Demarcus Corley and Erik Morales sandwiching a closer-than-expected loss against Amir Khan.
Nine months after Maidana’s coming out party, Alexander, 22-1 with 13 KOs, destroyed a normally-durable Juan Urango. His incineration of Urango was especially impressive because he looked great compared with Ricky Hatton and Andre Berto, both of whom resorted to jab-and-grab techniques against the heavy-handed titlist. It effectively traced a path towards a disappointing showdown against Timothy Bradley.
Since that statement fight against Urango well over two years ago, the only statement Alexander has made is “happy hunting” to the audience. Within the last year and a half, viewers, amidst all the yelping and back-foot swatting, were forced to search for a punch worth a damn. Unfortunately, judges have chosen not to be burdened by this chore, opting to place value in the insignificant. So while he lost a technical decision to Bradley in Pontiac, Michigan, Alexander escaped with victories over Andriy Kotelnik and Lucas Matthysse in St. Louis, two fights in which the vast majority of memorable blows were delivered by the hands of the opposition. Perhaps those particular judges were more into quantity than quality. Or maybe all of it was hometown bias. But needless to say, Alexander hasn’t been impressive in a while.
Still, it’s difficult to notch an easy win over the St. Louis native. He’s an athletic fighter, armed with quick hands and solid reflexes. He’s tough, capable of bouncing back from a bad stretch of rounds. And he has active gloves when a lot of fighters hesitate come time to reverse the tide of a bout. He’ll never succumb easily to the heat of the moment.
Maidana, Santa Fe, Argentina, has the technique of a wind turbine while packing unrelenting power in both hands. But his footwork is as flawed as his hands are caustic. Because of how often Maidana squares himself up, Demarcus Corley and Erik Morales–heavy underdogs against a far bigger, stronger man–very nearly pulled off upset victories. Meanwhile, Amir Khan and Andriy Kotelnik did manage to squeak out wins over the 28-year-old, because of their ability to bag early rounds while surviving a late surge. “Surviving” remains the operative word: When Maidana rallies from a deficit, he’s a whirlwind of punishment.
Alexander’s southpaw stance is equipped with a busy jab and right hook that serves as an effective deterrent, at least for the opening rounds. His defense is littered with deficiencies though, as he tends to pull straight back with minimal head movement, providing openings for looping right hands. Because of his robotic mobility, every landed blow from his adversary tends to snag your attention. Certainly, Alexander should control the proceedings early with his quicker hands and feet, but as fatigue settles in, he’ll begin to get caught with haymaker rights and left hooks underneath the rib cage. Then the fight gets interesting, and we’ll start to question whether Maidana can improve upon what his countryman Lucas Matthysee did last year enough to win the bout.
Because of the shrewd move from Alexander’s team to turn a 12-round title eliminator into a 10-round bout by refusing to pay sanction fees, Maidana will have to surpass Matthysee’s assault to avoid another dubious loss. That likely means either knocking out the 25-year-old or dominating the fight. Due to Alexander’s durability, fortitude, the judges’ affinity towards volume, and a hometown advantage, it’ll be a difficult task.
For both fighters, an increase in the level of opposition has left more questions than answers. A convincing victory either way, or an entertaining fight with controversy, will go a long ways towards answering those questions.