Bryan Armen Graham: What we learned from Bradley-Alexander - Sports Illustrated

Lessons from Bradley-Alexander

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1. The idea of Bradley-Alexander was far better than Bradley-Alexander itself. The excitement leading up to the first big fight of 2011 was palpable. And with good reason: How often do we see two young, undefeated American champions willing to risk their titles and perfect records for divisional supremacy? But two good fighters don't always make a good fight, as Bradley's anticlimactic victory amply proved. There were no knockdowns and neither fighter was hurt by a punch. As many as six accidental head butts interrupted the action, including the 10th-round collision that prompted referee Frank Garza to summon the ringside doctor, who halted the contest when Alexander said he was unable to see. A crummy fight and a crummier ending prompted boos from the crowd of 6,247. Not boxing's best night.

2. On the bright side: the right guy won. The scorecards suggest a reasonably close fight, but Bradley was in control throughout. From the opening bell, the 27-year-old Palm Springs, Calif., native -- the No. 6 fighter in's most recent pound-for-pound ratings -- seemed more willing to commit to his punches and let his hands go. He buzzed Alexander briefly in the third and demonstrated superior ring generalship, walking down and crowding his taller opponent. Bradley fought a smart tactical fight, forcing the action on the inside and scoring with short, hard body shots. "Give Alexander time, and he will box you to pieces," Bradley said. "I didn't give him that time." It was a well-deserved victory, even if the controversial denouement robs it of some luster.

3. Alexander will face some unpleasant questions. The decisive head butt made contact on the left side of Alexander's face, but cameras showed the St. Louis product complaining to ringside doctor Peter Samet about the preexisting cut above his right eye. The incongruity made it seem like Alexander was looking for a way out, a theory compounded by his decision to waive his five-minute rest period for accidental fouls. "I asked [Alexander] to open his eye three times, but he couldn't do it," Samet explained. "I feared temporary nerve damage or temporary paralysis was preventing him from opening his eye, so I recommended to the referee that the contest be stopped." Fighters make extraordinary sacrifices to entertain us, and Alexander probably deserves the benefit of the doubt -- particularly in light of Samet's assessment -- but many viewers weren't happy with how it played out. Within a half-hour of fight's end, "Devon Alexander" was trending on Twitter both worldwide and in the United States -- and the reaction was harsh.

4. America's next superstars have a long way to go. With Bernard Hopkins and Shane Mosley squarely in their golden years and Floyd Mayweather in legal limbo, the role of next American boxing superstar is conspicuously vacant. Many thought Saturday's fight could fill the void. But while Bradley won convincingly and deserves recognition as the top dog at junior welterweight, he looked sloppy for stretches of the fight. His accuracy was dubious and his power was underwhelming; many of his hardest shots -- like a right hook to Alexander's jaw in the sixth -- barely registered. Both Bradley and Alexander (who is just 23) have a ways to go if they expect to penetrate the cultural mainstream. The good news is there's still time.

5. Bradley wants Manny Pacquiao, but he'll need to face Amir Khan first. Bradley punctuated his post-fight interview with a plea for a megafight with Manny Pacquiao, who is the lineal junior welterweight champion (though it's been nearly three years since he fought at 140). That's not going to happen anytime soon, not while Bradley is still virtually anonymous beyond hardcore fans. Ideally, Bradley builds his Q Score (and international cache) in a unification bout with WBA title-holder Amir Khan. But unfortunately for the fans, HBO can exercise a rematch clause to make Bradley-Alexander II. And while Alexander expressed interest in a second shot at Bradley, it's a fight no one beyond St. Louis city limits wants to see.