Boxing gives, and boxing takes away, an axiom that is all too familiar to Devon Alexander. It was just over a year ago that Alexander was on top of the world, a title-holding junior welterweight heading into a high-profile showdown with Tim Bradley. He was young, good-looking and charismatic, with enough pop in his gloves to make network executives drool.
He was riding high.
Then, suddenly, he wasn't.
First it was the loss to Bradley, a foul-filled snoozer that exposed Alexander's inexperience. Then it was the questionable split-decision win over Lucas Matthysse, a fight that went his way, many believe, because Alexander fought in his hometown. Within a matter of months Alexander's stock plummeted faster than shares of Blockbuster.
"Rumor's out that I didn't look good my last few outings," Alexander said. "I'm aiming to make a statement."
He certainly picked the right opponent. On Saturday, Alexander (22-1) will take on Marcos Maidana (31-2) at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis (10 p.m. ET/PT, HBO). Maidana ranks as one of boxing's most entertaining fighters, with a bullish, straight-ahead style that rarely disappoints. But he is also one of the most dangerous, with relentless aggression and power in both hands.
Alexander understands all this; it's why he wanted this fight. The best way to get your respect back, Alexander reasons, is to pick a fight with the biggest and baddest guy on the block. Maidana has clobbering knockout wins over Victor Ortiz and Victor Cayo and had Amir Khan wobbled late in a 2010 points loss.
"Everybody knows Maidana's got power," Alexander said. "[But] I hit hard, too. He's not my concern. My concern is what I'm doing in the ring. That's not an issue. We all know what he's capable of doing, but I'm worrying about what I'm doing."'
A longtime junior welterweight, Alexander will move up to 147 pounds for this fight. He claims it has been a struggle to make the 140-pound limit the last few times out, a battle that sapped his energy and contributed to subpar performances.
"These last couple of fights I've been struggling and training all week just to make 140," Alexander said. "So the extra seven pounds is definitely going to have me back to the old Devon Alexander that you guys saw in my previous fights. Mentally you know you're there, physically you're going to be there, your whole body's going to be there, and not just 65 percent or 60 percent of you. I'm definitely going to be all the way there."
Alexander makes no apologies for fighting in his hometown, pointing to the diversity of the three judges -- from England, Connecticut and Puerto Rico, respectively -- and the presence of respected New York-based referee Steve Smoger in the ring as proof of a level playing field.
"I'm tired of all the speculation and all the suggestions about me fighting in my hometown," Alexander said. "It's not my fault that I'm a big draw at home; there's nowhere else to take the fight. If I'm a big draw at home then so be it. But this fight, I'm not going to leave it in the judges' hands. I'm going to win conventionally and I'm going to win by just keeping quiet about the whole situation. There's not going to be a doubt in the judges' mind, in the fans' minds, or in Marcos' mind; there's not going to be a doubt that I won the fight.
Indeed, Alexander understands the importance of this fight. As Bradley prepares to collect a $5 million-plus payday for a June fight with Manny Pacquiao, Alexander is seeking to reignite his career. He is not envious of Bradley, saying everything happens for a reason. He believes he will get his chance. It starts with Maidana, an opponent who can either propel a career or sink it even further.
"I've got my legs, I'm strong and fast," Alexander said. "I'm ready to rock and roll."