- Kieran Mulvaney, Boxing
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A little more than a year ago, Devon Alexander was preparing for what had been one of the more anticipated bouts in boxing: a junior welterweight championship scrap against fellow 140-pound titlist Timothy Bradley. Alexander had burst onto the radar screen of most fight fans with an impressive title-winning stoppage of Britain's Junior Witter in August 2009, followed by a positively eye-popping stoppage of the normally sturdy Juan Urango the following March. But his next outing, a decision win over Andriy Kotelnik, was underwhelming, and when the fight with Bradley arrived, it was a stinker that ended in a technical decision loss for the St. Louis fighter.
Alexander sought to regroup against Argentina's Lucas Matthyse, but instead found himself knocked down and under pressure before digging out a controversial split-decision win. So now Alexander (22-1, 13 KOs) finds himself in a position occupied by so many fighters before him: having to prove to a suddenly skeptical public that he still belongs in the spotlight. That effort begins Saturday in St. Louis, against Matthyse's countryman Marcos Maidana (31-2, 28 KOs), in both fighters' first appearance at welterweight.
A week out from the fight, ESPN.com asked Alexander how his preparation was proceeding and what was on his mind in advance of his clash with the power-punching Maidana.
The obvious question to begin with: How's training? How are you feeling?
I feel good. I feel great. It's a new weight class, a new environment, a new promotional situation. I feel good.
What was behind the move up to 147 pounds? You're just more comfortable at the higher weight? Or were you having a hard time making 140?
One-forty was getting harder for me to make, especially last time out. I had to drain out, lose a lot of water weight, a lot of muscle. I'm growing. I'm a man now, and it's more comfortable for me to be at 147, to be able to eat better, not have to drain myself so much.
You're best known for your boxing ability rather than your punching power, notwithstanding the knockout of Urango. But do you believe the extra weight will enable you to sit down on your punches more and deliver them with more authority?
Definitely. I've been in strength training for a few months now. He's definitely going to feel my power. It's called war, and we're going to battle. It's going to be a great fight.
You're back in the Scottrade Center, in your hometown. You've fought there several times before; is it like a second home for you at this point?
I love fighting at Scottrade. It's a home [away] from home for me. There are going to be a lot of fans for me there -- not all of them cheering for me; there'll be some boos in the crowd, too. But those who aren't fans of Devon Alexander, I'll hopefully make them fans by the end of the night.
What's the story behind the Maidana camp reportedly insisting on a PED test, according to some because they had heard rumors you have been using steroids?
I'm not sure what all that was about. They might be getting nervous, or maybe they'd heard rumors about me taking it to my sparring partners. Who knows? I was laughing at first, because anybody who knows Devon Alexander knows how clean I am. It was kind of funny, but insulting at the same time.
But you're not doing blood tests? Just urinalysis?
Yeah, I think they're going to take a sample after the weigh-in and then again right after the fight.
Given the criticism you've received after your past couple of outings, how important is a good performance for you on Saturday night?
It's very important. People forget how good I am. People forget about how good I looked when I stopped Urango and Witter, and even before that. One or two bad performances -- and I was only at 65 percent, struggling to make 140 -- and people write you off. I'm at 147 now, my legs are back, I'm going to put on a great show.
It's a classic clash of styles: You're the boxer, and he's a flat-out brawler with a heck of a punch.
Definitely. I know what he's going to do. There's no mystery about it. He's going to come forward and do his thing. I just think that what I'm going to do is better.
The man you faced last year, Timothy Bradley Jr., now has a very high-profile fight against Manny Pacquiao on June 9. Do you look at that and wonder what could have been?
I'm a firm believer that God does things for a reason. I think it taught me a lot, going through 140, and now moving into a different weight class. This is a new stage and a new opportunity for me, and I'm going to make the most of it, and if I do, the good opportunities, the big fights, will come.
Kieran Mulvaney covers boxing for ESPN.com and Reuters.