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Alexander continues to mature, impress with Urango stoppage

06
Mar

Devon Alexander walks away from Juan Urango after flattening the veteran slugger in the eighth round of their title unification bout in Uncasville, Conn., on Saturday. Alexander is the first fighter to stop Urango. Photo / David Martin-Warr-Don King Productions

For five rounds Devon Alexander did exactly what most boxing insiders thought he would do against Juan Urango — outclass the heavy handed Colombian.

The gifted 23-year-old titleholder controlled the powerful but plodding fellow beltholder with a busy jab, careful footwork and accurate counter punching during the early part of their junior welterweight title unification bout on Saturday.

However, before he scored the biggest victory of his six-year pro career, Alexander├»┬┐¾s manhood was tested by Urango and questioned by the veteran├»┬┐¾s trainer.

As impressive as Alexander was, the St. Louis, Mo., product was not perfect. From the opening bell of the HBO-televised bout from Uncasville, Conn., Urango was able to time his fellow southpaw with right hooks that occasionally found the mark.

In rounds six and seven, Urango appeared to be fighting his way into the bout with his relentless pressure and wild-swinging body head combinations. Urango landed 19 of 45 power punches in the seventh round, according to CompuBox, a statistic that no doubt emboldened his trainer Pete Fernandez.

Before the start of the eighth round Fernandez told his fighter: ├»┬┐¾You are a man. He is not. He├»┬┐¾s never been in a fight like this.├»┬┐¾

You can├»┬┐¾t fault Fernandez too much for his words. He was trying to motivate his surging fighter to make up a points deficit. He may have thought Alexander was beginning to feel overwhelmed and was primed for late-round stoppage.

However, Fernandez was dead wrong about Alexander, who put a charging Urango flat on his back with a beautifully timed right uppercut that landed as the 29-year-old titleholder was winding up with a right hook. Urango got up from the knockdown and attacked again, but was deposited to the canvas again, this time courtesy of a right to the temple followed by another uppercut.

Referee Benji Esteves had seen enough even though the gallant veteran got up from the second knockdown on wobbly legs and wanted to continue.

It was probably a wise choice by Esteves. Urango has the kind of heart and toughness to keep getting up from knockdowns, but Alexander has the conviction and the dangerous blend of speed and accuracy to keep putting the older man down.

Nothing was going to deny Alexander (20-0, 13 knockouts) on Saturday.

He had never been in the kind of fight Urango (22-3-1, 17 KOs) gave him in the prize ring, but in real life he├»┬┐¾s had to survive much tougher struggles.

Boxing is dangerous but it├»┬┐¾s not as deadly as the impoverished ghetto Alexander grew up in. The mean streets of St. Louis swallowed up two older brothers Alexander followed to ex-police officer Kevin Cunningham├»┬┐¾s makeshift boxing gym. The fact that Alexander avoided their fates (Lamar is dead, Vaughn is in prison) is admirable. That he├»┬┐¾s come as far as he has in a brutally tough sport should tell fans that he├»┬┐¾s special.

Even if they doubted it during the rounds that Urango momentarily knocked Alexander back on his heels. Though Urango never seriously hurt or discouraged Alexander, his heavy right hooks sparked hard retaliatory combinations from the young gun.

The exchanges were cause for concern in Alexander├»┬┐¾s corner, where trainer and father figure Cunningham admonished him for deviating from their game plan.

Cunningham├»┬┐¾s alarm was probably accompanied by creeping skepticism in fight fans watching HBO├»┬┐¾s Boxing After Dark broadcast.

Wasn├»┬┐¾t Alexander supposed to possess the kind of amateur credentials, natural talent, and skill to avoid Urango├»┬┐¾s telegraphed power punches?

Maybe. But perhaps Urango, who took then-undefeated (41-0) Ricky Hatton and unbeaten welterweight beltholder Andre Berto the 12-round distance, isn├»┬┐¾t being given enough credit for his experience.

Fights like Saturday├»┬┐¾s are what mature promising young up-and-comers like Alexander into tomorrow├»┬┐¾s elite.

Remember, Timothy Bradley had to pick himself up off the canvas twice during his title-unification tilt with Kendall Holt last April. Bradley├»┬┐¾s narrow points victory was a growing experience that served him well in impressive outings against Nate Campbell and Lamont Peterson that have solidified his standing as the best 140-pound fighter in the game.

Bradley has looked so good lately that he├»┬┐¾s having a hard time finding a willing dance partner for a June date on Showtime. Alexander, who wanted to fight the Palm Springs, Calif., native last year, is more than willing to step up to the plate. Thanks to Saturday├»┬┐¾s fight with Urango, he├»┬┐¾s also more prepared to face Bradley.

├»┬┐¾If I can beat him, I can beat anybody,├»┬┐¾ Alexander said of Bradley.

There are other worthy challengers in the packed 140-pound division, including the winners of the Marcos Maidana-Victor Cayo, Amir Khan-Paul Malignaggi, and Victor Ortiz-Campbell fights that take place in the next two months.

Even former champ Zab Judah, who was present at Saturday├»┬┐¾s fight and issued an in-the-ring challenge to Alexander, wants to be in the mix.

However, Alexander seems more focused on the division├»┬┐¾s future than its past.

├»┬┐¾Zab is past tense,├»┬┐¾ Alexander said during his post-fight interview. ├»┬┐¾I├»┬┐¾m present tense.├»┬┐¾

And as Urango found out, he├»┬┐¾s all man.

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