Welterweight titlist Randall Bailey and Devon Alexander were one week away from their Sept. 8 Showtime main event in Las Vegas when Bailey hurt his back training and had to postpone the bout.
There wasn't enough time to find a replacement to face Alexander, who didn't want one anyway. He wanted to challenge for Bailey's 147-pound world title -- a vacant belt won in spectacular fashion, a one-punch knockout in the 11th round against Mike Jones in June -- so the bout was delayed to give Bailey time to heal.
The fight will now take place six weeks later than originally intended -- on Saturday night (Showtime Extreme, 7 p.m. ET/PT; Showtime, 8 p.m. ET/PT) as the inaugural boxing card at the new Barclays Center, which opened last month in Brooklyn, N.Y., and is the home of the NBA's Brooklyn Nets.
"I'm definitely excited to be coming to Brooklyn," said Alexander, a former unified junior welterweight titlist who moved up in weight in February and outpointed slugger Marcos Maidana. "I was ready [six] weeks ago to get this fight on, but I'm definitely still ready and ready to become three-time world champion."
Bailey said his back is feeling good now and that he is ready to fight.
"It just required a lot of rest. I had to sit out and just take the medicine that they had prescribed for me and just relax for a couple of weeks," said Bailey, whose devastating right hand makes him perhaps the best pure puncher in boxing and earned him "KO King" as a nickname. "When you're in a fight, whatever you hurt you've still got to go on. But just in this situation it didn't make sense for me to go into a fight injured."
There hasn't been a world title bout in Brooklyn since Aug. 5, 1931, when Maxie Rosenbloom outpointed Jimmy Slattery in a 15-round bout at Ebbets Field -- which no longer exists -- to retain the light heavyweight championship.
In addition to Bailey-Alexander, there are three other world title bouts on the card, in which Showtime has invested more than $4 million: unified junior welterweight titlist Danny Garcia (24-0, 15 KOs) of Philadelphia will make his second defense, a rematch, against former four-division titleholder Erik Morales (52-8, 36 KOs) of Mexico in the main event; welterweight titlist Paulie Malignaggi (31-4, 7 KOs) of Brooklyn will make his first defense against Mexico's Pablo Cesar Cano (25-1-1, 19 KOs) in the co-feature; and middleweight titleholder Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam (27-0, 17 KOs) of France will make his American debut in his first defense against New Yorker "Kid Chocolate" Peter Quillin (27-0, 20 KOs).
Although Alexander, a laid-back guy, took the delay in stride, his trainer and manager -- the excitable Kevin Cunningham -- wasn't so calm. Cunningham accused Bailey of faking the injury because he was out of shape, which annoyed Bailey.
"Kevin Cunningham is crazy," Bailey said. "He's not going to get hit, and that's why he's been talking so much smack. I'm glad Cunningham has pumped me up, because when I hit this kid, just touch him, he's going to know he's in big trouble."
Cunningham didn't back down from the accusation when he and Bailey joined a teleconference to promote the fight.
"The fight was scheduled for Sept. 8. On that Monday [Sept. 10], he's on Twitter talking about he's in the gym working hard and he's feeling good," Cunningham said. "So, I mean, he needs to get it together, bro. I mean, if you were injured, you're injured. Stuff happens, but if you're on Twitter talking about you're in the gym working hard on Monday, the Monday following the fight [date], I mean, were you on bed rest for two weeks or were you in the gym like you tweeted? You tell me."
Bailey brushed off the accusation.
"Kevin must have eyes everywhere because he just knows so much," Bailey said. "He just knows everything. You can't tell Kevin anything. Kevin is like a cartoon in his own show."
Cunningham continued: "Nothing that comes out of Randall's mouth has facts to it. He just says things, so basically it's part of the hype. But come Saturday night, he's going to realize that he's in with an elite fighter. And we all know Randall Bailey can punch. But we also know that Randall Bailey knows how to lose because he's lost seven times. And every time he steps in the ring with an elite fighter, he gets nailed. I'm speaking facts, and this dude is just talking out the side of his neck."
Throughout the promotion -- both before the postponed Sept. 8 fight and since it was rescheduled -- Alexander (23-1, 13 KOs), 25, of St. Louis, has watched with bemusement as Miami's Bailey (43-7, 37 KOs), who turned 38 during the delay, and Cunningham have gone back and forth trash-talking each other.
"It definitely is funny," Alexander said. "But my coach, he definitely knows what he's doing, and I'm definitely with him 100 percent. So it's definitely entertaining. You've got to entertain people; you've got to make people want to see the fight. My coach, he did a great job promoting the fight. People want to see the fight now because of the trash-talking."
Alexander has always been content to let Cunningham do most of the talking, but he promises to back it up in the fight.
"Me and my coach have a beautiful relationship, and whatever my coach says goes for me too," said Alexander, who has been trained by Cunningham since he was a young boy. "My coach knows what he says and he knows what he's doing, so whatever he says I'm right behind him.
"For me, I will talk, but the point is, me and Bailey are getting in the ring and these hands will do the talking."
Bailey is an older fighter who did something quite unusual in boxing by going a decade between title reigns. He first won a junior welterweight belt in 1999 and, after two defenses, lost it in 2000. In 2002, he had a taste of a title, the interim variety, but lost it in his first defense later that year. Although three of his seven losses have come by knockout -- each in a title fight -- Bailey is indisputably one of the great punchers in boxing.
He is always dangerous. Even though he was way behind Jones on the scorecards in their June bout, Bailey got the knockout to position himself for a career-high payday of $500,000 to face Alexander, who will earn $600,000.
"Randall is a hard puncher. He can end a fight with just one punch from either hand," promoter Lou DiBella said. "I don't think there's anyone in the sport who is a more devastating puncher.
"Devon Alexander is a terrific young boxer. He probably will at some point in the fight be ahead in rounds, but if Randall lands one punch, then he retains his belt, and I think that's what brings this fight so much excitement and so much interest."
Said Bailey: "I think the power I was born with. I've been throwing my right hand since I was, like 15, 16 years old, and I mean diligently practicing on it since then. I don't care what you do -- you're going to get hit with it. It's just what you're going to do after you get hit with it."
The one big difference between the Bailey of yesteryear and today is that he is extremely stingy with his punches, even though it takes only one for him to knock an opponent out. He was being outclassed by the more active Jones but dropped him in the 10th round with one punch and landed one more in the 11th for the win. They were essentially the only two punches of consequence Bailey landed in the entire bout.
"[Jones was] very hard to reach," Bailey said. "Devon is smaller than me. He's not going to be hard for me to find. And this is what they don't understand."
Alexander, whose speed and boxing ability are superior to Bailey's, said he has no plans to be a KO victim.
"I plan my boxing career on not to get hit often," he said. "This is boxing; you're going to get hit. But [my plan is] not to get hit as often."
Alexander's plan is also not to talk too much. He leaves that part of the job to Cunningham.