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Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Devon Alexander to battle Kell Brook

By Dan Rafael
ESPN.com

Devon Alexander won a welterweight title on Oct. 20, just hours after Kell Brook won a title eliminator in his hometown of Sheffield, England, to become the mandatory challenger. Now, they will face each other.

Alexander, a former unified junior welterweight titlist, will make the first defense of his 147-pound belt against Brook on Jan. 19 in the main event of Showtime's first major fight major card of 2013. The site has not been determined, but it is likely to take place in Las Vegas, Brook promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sport told ESPN.com.

Hearn said that contractually the fight could not take place in Missouri, the home state of St. Louis native Alexander.

Devon Alexander
Devon Alexander will make his first title defense of his 147-pound belt against England's Kell Brook on Jan. 19.

Hearn said he and Alexander promoter Golden Boy have reached an agreement rather than pushing the fight to a purse bid and they are "just tying things up."

"We made a number of significant offers to Golden Boy and (Alexander adviser) Al Haymon, well in excess of seven figures, to try and bring the fight to the U.K., but Devon had no interest in traveling," Hearn said. "We were at a 75-25 disadvantage in any potential purse bid and when we received the final offer from Golden Boy, we were all happy.

"If we won a purse bid and Devon vacated, we had all the potential to become a paper champion and that's not what Kell Brook is all about. To become great and make a statement, there is no better way than travel to a champion's country and rip the belt from him. Kell has the opportunity to make a huge statement in the 147-pound division."

Kevin Cunningham, Alexander's trainer and manager, said they had no intention of going to England for the fight.

"There's no reason to have to leave the country to fight a guy who no one in America has ever heard of," Cunningham said. "That was not going to happen. I'm just happy that I have a team and a promoter that was willing to step up and make this thing happen in the States and now we're just going to work to make sure this title stays in the States.

"Devon should be fighting someone with a bigger name than Kell Brook, but since he's the mandatory, we'll defend the title against the mandatory. But I don't see anything special about Kell Brook."

Power-punching interim junior welterweight titlist Lucas Matthysse (32-2, 30 KOs) of Argentina is likely to appear on the undercard in a fight that would be part of Showtime's broadcast.

The 25-year-old Alexander (24-1, 13 KOs) outpointed Randall Bailey on the opening card at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., last month to win the belt, but the dreadful fight drew sustained booing from the crowd because it lacked any semblance of action.

After the fight, Alexander sheepishly said he understood the booing but that he had to fight cautiously because of Bailey's tremendous punching power, although Bailey did virtually nothing the entire fight.

Alexander said he aims to make a more exciting fight with Brook.

"I definitely want to be a crowd pleaser," said Alexander, who began training for the fight in St. Louis last week. "Those fans are who's buying a ticket or a subscription to HBO or Showtime. I want to be a person they want to see, so I definitely dread those types of performances. I want to be exciting and the crowd to be into it and cheering. This is entertainment. The Bailey fight was not what I would have liked to be it. I'm planning to be more engaged and throwing more punches. We will definitely be more exciting this fight."

Cunningham promised that Alexander would press the action against Brook.

"I guarantee you that," he said. "I'm telling you this so they can read this and know that Devon is going to press the action. He's coming to bring it to Kell Brook. Devon will fight this fight as if he is the challenger and is coming to take Kell Brook's title. That's the mission we're on for this fight.

"Bailey is the biggest puncher in the sport basically and he wouldn't engage with Devon. He wouldn't open up. I can't have my fighter trying to make something happen when I know we're dealing with a guy who can clip you win one shot. We did what we had to do to get the victory. Some will say you have to make fights exciting. I say sometimes you gotta be smart. Bailey is the kind of person that if you make a mistake, you won't have a title to defend against Kell Brook. He will fight Brook with smart aggression. We're not working on winning the fight, we're working on winning the fight in impressive fashion. They're getting themselves into something they've never seen before."

Before Brook became the mandatory challenger, Alexander said he never heard of him.

"When I first heard about the fight, I didn't know who he was," Alexander said. "A lot of people were on my Twitter saying, 'Kell Brook is coming for you.' I was like what? Who is he? As a boxing fan and a fighter, I went on YouTube and watched him. To me he's a basic fighter, nothing special about him.

"He's a strong, solid fighter but hasn't fought a guy as talented as me or anyone that has my kind of skills. He is in trouble. He is definitely in a for a rude awakening. He better know what he's doing in there. This is my time and I feel it. I'm looking for a big splash in 2013 and to start it off with Kell Brook."

Brook (29-0, 19 KOs), 26, owns wins against former welterweight title challengers Michael Jennings and Rafal Jackiewicz, faded former junior welterweight titlist Lovemore N'Dou and Matthew Hatton (Ricky Hatton's younger brother).

He made his push to the mandatory shot over the past five months. In July, he had a significant struggle with American journeyman Carson Jones, whom he beat on a majority decision in a semi-final eliminator. That set up last month's final eliminator with Argentina's Hector Saldivia, who lived up to his reputation of not being unable to take a punch. Brook dropped him twice, including knocking him out with a jab in the third round.

"We have worked hard of the last 15 months, since we signed Brook, to get in the mandatory position," Hearn said. "We have had six fights, starting in a 1,400-seat leisure center to the last three being in Sheffield Arena with crowds of up to 10,000. We even fit in his U.S. debut on the (Andre Ward-Carl Froch) undercard (in December). He has had the big nights, the bright lights and now he is ready. Alexander is a great fighter and is certainly Kell's toughest test yet, but he has done his apprenticeship and now it's time."

Cunningham is not impressed, however.

"He's nothing special," Cunningham said. "I don't see an extremely fast guy or a guy with one-punch power. He's a decent, basic boxer. Just look at Devon's resume and tell me where Kell Brook stacks up. He has never faced anybody in the league of a Marcos Maidana, Lucas Matthysse, Tim Bradley.

"(Hearn has) done a good job building him up, putting him in with soft touches. They bring in a journeyman opponent in Carson Jones and it was life and death for Brook. Then, on Oct. 20, we both fight the same day. The difference is that Devon was fighting a former world champion known to be the biggest puncher in boxing and Brook fought a guy he knocked out with a backhand flick jab, and now he thinks he's ready for Devon Alexander? These guys are pipe dreaming."

Hearn said he expects a contingent of more than 1,000 fans to make the trek from England to America to support Brook, which excited Alexander.

"I know he'll bring some fans over here, so I'm excited about that," Alexander said. "That gets me pumped up. I'm glad they're coming to support him so it will be even sweeter when I beat him."