After Devon Alexander outpointed Randall Bailey to win a welterweight world title 14 months ago, he figured to be involved in major fights in 2013.
After all, Alexander had claimed a title in a deep weight class where his promoter, Golden Boy, is stocked with many attractive opponents. Even Alexander's mandatory challenger, England's Kell Brook, loomed as a significant fight. But the year has not quite gone the way Alexander thought it would.
He was supposed to face Brook in May, but Brook withdrew a month before the fight after suffering a stress fracture in his leg. So instead of facing the highly regarded Brook, Alexander instead wound up facing another Brit, the obscure Lee Purdy, who failed to make weight and then got hammered for seven rounds before his corner threw in the towel.
To top it off, Alexander, a southpaw, broke his left hand hitting Purdy on top of the head in the first round, forcing him into an extended layoff.
At least when he returned, however, Alexander was supposed to be in a fight even bigger than one with Brook would have been -- a showdown with former unified junior welterweight titlist Amir Khan, also from England.
Both sides had agreed to take the fight, and Golden Boy promoter Richard Schaefer, confident it would be finalized, said time and again he was just finishing the deal. And then Khan bailed out. Most believe it is because he's going to get a shot at pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather on May 3, and he didn't want to risk what would obviously be a career payday by fighting Alexander, who would have been the favorite.
Alexander was again left without a major fight and was matched with Shawn Porter, a rising contender but nowhere the name of a Brook or Khan.
So instead of headlining a card against Khan, Alexander will instead make his second title defense when he meets Porter in the co-feature on Saturday night (Showtime, 8 ET) at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., where former welterweight titleholders Paulie Malignaggi (32-5, 7 KOs) and Zab Judah (42-8, 29 KOs) take center stage in an all-Brooklyn turf war.
Some fighters might mope around after having two major fights fall through. Some might throw blame around to their promoter or manager. But not Alexander. He's taken the unfortunate situation with his two fights this year and vowed to make the best of things.
"Of course I want the big names," Alexander said. "I want the big wins so I can get the notoriety that I want. Kell Brook fell through and the Amir Khan fight fell through, which both would have been great wins for me. But everything happens for a reason.
"I'm just a fighter. If the fighters don't want to get in the ring with me, what can I do? The only thing I can do is trust in my team to give me the best opponent, the best things that I need at the time. You know, I leave it up to my team. If Shawn Porter is going to be the next victim, that's going to be it. So, hey, what can I do?"
There are also two other title bouts on the card as interim junior middleweight titlist Erislandy Lara (18-1-2, 12 KOs) faces former world titleholder Austin Trout (26-1, 14 KOs) and super middleweight titlist Sakio Bika (32-5-2, 21 KOs) defends against mandatory challenger Anthony Dirrell (26-0, 22 KOs).
Alexander was disappointed that both the Brook and Khan fights did not come off. In Brook's case, injuries happen. But Khan took him to the brink of signing a contract and then pulled out of negotiations. Still, Alexander didn't get too worked up when discussing what happened.
"There are a lot of rumors out there about why Khan pulled it out or why this, why that," Alexander said. "But I can't speak on that. I wanted to fight because I know that fight would have given another rise that I needed. I'm one of the best welterweights in the division and it didn't happen.
"So, who knows what he's thinking, what his team is doing. I don't know. I think that based on if I was the best risk, that I was too much right now for him or whatever. I don't know, but I was ready to fight him [on Saturday], but he pulled out, so it didn't happen."
That left Alexander (25-1, 14 KOs) to face fellow 26-year-old Porter (22-0-1, 14 KOs), whom he once outpointed in an amateur fight in the late 1990s when they were 8 or 9 years old. While Alexander, of St. Louis, would have preferred a higher-profile opponent, Porter, of Akron, Ohio, was thrilled to get the opportunity to challenge for a world title once Khan turned his back on the fight.
"Just a lot of enthusiasm," Porter said. "When I saw that Amir Khan was talking about fighting Devon, I kind of said, 'OK, well maybe we'll get one of those two after that fight.' When Amir stepped down it was like, 'OK, it's got to be me.' And so you're waiting by the phone, waiting on it to be you and then finally it's you.
"So, just a lot of excitement built up inside my body and I can't wait to let it out. I'm going to be ready. I'm going to be ready mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, all the way. I'm a well-rounded fighter. I've got way more to bring to the ring than Devon thinks and I'm going to show him that."
Porter is coming off a clear 10-round unanimous decision win against former lightweight titlist Julio Diaz on Sept. 12, a victory that set the record straight after their split draw last December. Porter also gained valuable experience as a sparring partner for Manny Pacquiao -- a southpaw like Alexander -- during his training camps to prepare for fights with Miguel Cotto and Shane Mosley.
Porter believes that experience will help him against Alexander, a former junior welterweight titlist before moving up in weight after a technical decision loss in a unification bout with Timothy Bradley Jr. in 2011.
"I've got a lot of rounds under my belt with Manny Pacquiao and a lot of experience, but I think more than anything it just makes me comfortable again fighting a southpaw with some quick hands and some quick feet," Porter said. "It's nothing that I haven't seen before, nothing that I've never been in the ring with.
"So I think I'll be bringing a little bit more to the ring than Devon will in terms of experience against the fight style that I'm up against. Manny Pacquiao is arguably one of the best of our time, and I've gone toe-to-toe with him. I backed him up, I made him really fight me."
Alexander said whatever Porter brings to the ring, it won't be enough to beat him. He called Porter's skills "limited."
"I believe in my skills. You've got to believe in yourself, believe in your skills," Alexander said.
"As far as sparring with Pacquiao, I'm not a sparring partner. I don't go around sparring with people. I don't have that mentality. When you go around sparring other fighters, you get that sparring mentality, right? You know, I need to take off, I need to let him beat me; I don't have that. I'm not a sparring partner.
"You can have all the spirit and sparring and this and that, but this is fighting. When you get in the ring it's about skill. So, I'm getting better and better. He's going to see it."
Alexander expects to beat Porter and then hopes to finally move on to the high-profile title defense that eluded him this year.
"After this fight, we can expect bigger and better things," Alexander said. "I'll be a major player at 147. Whoever steps up to the plate next, I'll fight them too. Whichever fight is available after this, that's the one I'm taking."