Want to defend boxing? Look no further than Devon Alexander
One doesn’t have to look hard to find the many failings and vulgarities inherent in a vocation in which one’s goal is to beat another human unconscious, or, at the least, to beat him up so badly that by the end he wishes he hadn’t been awake for all of it.
Recently, an acquaintance made that very observation, more or less, when we were stuck together in one of those situations in which adult people who have nothing in common must smile and pretend to like one another because their children happen to attend the same elementary school.
With his capped teeth, hair parted on the side and BMW polo shirt, he asked what I do for a living.
“I’m an endocrinologist,” I lied, because what the hell.
Before he could ask any follow-up questions, I added, “And a boxing writer.”
He screwed up his face. “Boxing? That’s awfully brutal, isn’t it?”
“Yeah,” I said. “It is.”
He kind of shook his head and started a conversation with the poor bastard on the other side of him, and I could only imagine how exciting was the discourse that followed and almost certainly involved real estate and interest rates.
Later I thought I should have defended the fight game — not by denying its brutality, because it clearly is undeniable, but by advancing its skill at salvation.
I could have recited the stories of the many men the fight game has saved, the most recent of whom is Devon Alexander, who faces fellow junior welterweight belt holder Juan Urango on Saturday night on HBO.
Alexander was born and raised in St. Louis in the kind of neighborhood outsiders end up in by accident, unless they’re from the suburbs and looking to score drugs. The kind of neighborhood where at the first traffic light you make sure your doors are locked.
“I grew up in the rough side of North St. Louis, and I've done seen it all,” Alexander said recently. “I've done seen the gangs. I've done seen killings. I've done seen drugs. I've done seen it all.”
He was 7 years old and in the second grade when Kevin Cunningham, then a member of the St. Louis Police Department, opened up a boxing gym and convinced a bunch of kids to come out.
The two have been together since.
“I started off with 30 guys and they all — most of them fell astray and fell off and got into other stuff that wasn't gonna help them in the future,” Alexander said.
“I want to encourage (kids) and I want to show young kids that they can do it, I mean, no matter what the situation. I definitely wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. If I can show them that they can do it, that’s what I want to do.”
Cunningham got to the top with another St. Louis project, Cory Spinks. The two no longer work together but the parting hasn’t changed Cunningham’s outlook. Alexander is his proof, as Spinks was before him, that the ghetto doesn’t have to be a dead end.
“Regardless of the conditions in which you came up in, you don't have to be a product of your environment,” Cunningham said. “And Devon is living proof of that. He stuck with the program, stayed focused, worked hard. And, you know, that's why he's where he is today.”
The mayor of St. Louis gave Alexander a key to the city, and, according to Cunningham, the whole town is psyched for the fight, which, for reasons no sane person could fathom, is being held at an Indian casino in Connecticut.
Only in boxing.
“It's a great honor that Mayor (Francis) Slay even is mentioning my name,” Alexander said. “A kid from nothing to something and the mayor mentioning my name is a great honor. I'm just so humbled to be in this situation. And I'm gonna make the most of it and stay on top.”
Fight fans should be excited too. It’s a good match-up — the kind of fight Boxing After Dark was made for.
It’s good business all the way around.
But eventually, my acquaintance would have noted, it is likely boxing will chew up and spit out young Alexander, and Urango, too, for that matter. That’s what it does.
Bigger and better fighters than Alexander, guys named Louis and Pep and Robinson and Tyson and Ali, gave more to the game than they got out of it.
There’s the risk of dementia and other long-term health problems related to punching and getting punched over your lifetime.
Plus, Don King is Alexander’s promoter. That doesn’t mean Alexander can’t get in, get what he needs and get out before the game catches up to him like it does to most guys.
A good model would be Michael Spinks, another St. Louis product.
Boxing is Alexander’s way out. It’s been the way out for thousands and thousands just like him, going all the way back. It’s not the best way out. It’s not the only way out. It’s no sure thing and can exact a heavy price.
Is it brutal? Hell yes. But so is poverty. So is hopelessness.
Take that, Beemer boy.
Some random observations from last week:
Antonio Escalante and Miguel Roman put on such a good scrap Friday night I almost called 911 from my couch. Is it legal for two guys to hit one another on the chin 716 times in a row before either one ducks?ÔÇª
Danny Garcia is a born puncher but had his hands full against Ashley Theopane on the same Friday Night Fights card. Note to Theopane: get all the tattoos you want, Ashley is still a girl’s nameÔÇª
This just in: the $150.00 seats for the Floyd Mayweather-Shane Mosley fight in Las Vegas are located in Terminal B at Newark Airport in New Jersey. Get there early and bring your binocularsÔÇª
So Tomasz Adamek has hired Ronnie Shields to train him for Chris Arreola. Can Shields scream in Polish?ÔÇª
If it’s true that Don King demanded $4-million to let Nicolay Valuev fight Vitali Klitschko, it might be the first sign that King is finally starling to lose his marbles. After 300 some-odd years I think it’s about time, don’t you?ÔÇª
Sorry to say that Kathy Duva, Adamek’s promoter, has made my rapidly-growing Enemies List by predicting recently that Adamek and Arreola will be “giving 1,000 percent” in their fight.
1,000 percent? Really? It wasn’t bad enough when mental defectives and other assorted morons and troglodytes in sports said they had given or would give 110 percent of themselves. Then it went to 150 percent. Now, Adamek and Arreola are going to break all the records.
Other terms or phrases whose users make the afore-mentioned list: over-saturation, dial-in, dial-back or dial-up, skill-set, by-way-of (as in “by way of knockout”), and PIN number. You’re on noticeÔÇª
Pacquiao-Clottey, Mayweather-Mosley, Adamek-Arreola, Khan-Malignaggi, Berto-Quintana, Pavlik-Martinez, Vazquez-Marquez IV. Cripes, how many good fights can we stand?ÔÇª
Joshua Clottey said during a recent conference call that he doesn’t believe Manny Pacquiao takes banned substances, but if he does, he’ll have to answer to God for it. How does Clottey know God is anti-steroids? Maybe He likes a little HGH as much as the next guy. How do you think He got so big in the first place?ÔÇª
While watching Mike Jones pass a good test against Henry Bruseles, I discovered I really like watching fights that are broadcast in Spanish. Why? I haven’t a clue what’s being said so I can’t get annoyed. Look at that: Ignorance really is blissÔÇª
I haven’t seen the Omar Nino-Rodel Mayol fight yet, but reports indicate Nino knocked Mayol out while Mayol was waiting for the referee to warn Nino for a low blow. That’s called “KO 3,” boys and girls, and don’t let anyone (like the WBC) tell you otherwise.
Bill Dettloff can be reached at [email protected]. You can read his articles every month in THE RING magazine.