Alexander doesn’t live up to hype with Kotelnik victory
Andreas Kotelnik (left) landed more than his share of hard punches during his spirited battle with Devon Alexander, including this blood spattering left hook, however the former titleholder still lost a unanimous decision in Alexander's hometown of St. Louis on Saturday. Fans can debate who deserved to win but no one can argue that Alexander failed to live up to the lofty expectations placed upon him before the fight. Photo / Naoki Fukuda
Devon Alexander may have received an early Christmas gift in his hometown of St. Louis on Saturday.
Even if the undefeated dual titleholder legitimately out-pointed Andreas Kotelnik — as the official judges and HBO’s “unofficial official” Harold Lederman contend — he certainly didn’t live up to his hype.
This is not to say that he wasn’t impressive during his hard-fought 12-round battle with the former beltholder. Alexander (21-0, 13 knockouts), who won by unanimous scores of 116-112, exhibited an incredible work rate (throwing over 1,000 punches through 12 rounds) and showed a lot of heart during the spirited fight.
The 23-year-old standout may still evolve into a special fighter. However, he’s nowhere near the elite status many fans and boxing writers bestowed upon him leading into Saturday’s HBO-televised bout against Kotelnik (31-4-1, 13 KOs).
Alexander opened as an 8-to-1 favorite over Kotelnik, who hadn’t fought since dropping a one-sided decision to Amir Khan last July. Betting money quickly boosted Alexander to a 10-to-1 favorite and on some wagering websites the St. Louis native was as high as 20-to-1 by fight week.
The New York Times did a major feature on Alexander, whose story of survival and perseverance from the mean streets of North St. Louis inspire such pieces. Every major boxing website ran a column on Alexander’s star potential.
The stage was set for the speedy southpaw to pick up the torch as the man in St. Louis. Cory Spinks, a bona fide attraction in the Midwestern city for many years, lost a 154-pound title on the undercard of Saturday’s fight, which drew more than 10,000 to the Scottrade Center.
All Alexander had to do was deliver the way he did against Juan Urango, the iron-chinned titleholder he knocked out with a single uppercut in March.
Another breath-taking performance like that one and the entire boxing world would have demanded a showdown with fellow undefeated standout Timothy Bradley.
However, Kotelnik showed us that Alexander is not ready for Bradley or stardom.
For all his desire, skill, conditioning, and physical tools, he still needs more experience before he takes on the best of the best.
Kotelnik, a 32-year-old veteran who defended his title against hard-punching Marcos Maidana before losing it to Khan, has experience and he used it well against his more athletically gifted opponent on Saturday.
The Ukrainian trumped Alexander’s speed with timing. He nullified the better athlete’s power with technique. He solved Alexander’s lateral movement and defense with intelligent pressure and combination punching. And his pacing enabled him to compete with the younger man’s excellent conditioning down the stretch of the fight.
The two were competitive through the first four rounds of the bout, but by the fifth round Alexander was huffing and puffing with a bloody nose, squinting through a cut right eye and pushing his punches instead of snapping them with his usual speed and accuracy.
Working behind a consistent and well-timed jab, Kotelnik out-landed Alexander by nearly a 3-to-1 margin in the sixth round.
By the seventh round, the counter-punching technician had become the aggressor in the fight, forcing Alexander to backpedal with effective pressure and three- and four-punch combinations that often found the mark with the final shot (usually a flush right hand).
Alexander tried his best to regain momentum in the late rounds of the bout. He came on strong in the final minutes of the eighth and 11th, but Kotelnik answered Alexander’s rally with a head-snapping combinations in the closing seconds of those rounds.
By the 12th, the hometown hero was clearly exhausted. Alexander’s legs appeared to stiffen with a minute left in the final round but the young titleholder gamely stood his ground and battled it out with the more seasoned fighter until the bell.
Alexander, who claimed cramps were responsible for the stiffness in his legs, believes his effort merited the official verdict of the fight.
“I think I did enough to win,” he said after the fight. “Kotelnik is a tough fighter, an ex-world champion. Kotelnik trained hard. Give him credit.”
Kotelnik probably will receive the credit he was denied by fans and the boxing media prior to Saturday’s fight, but the veteran believes he deserves more than that.
“I want the belt,” Kotelnik said after the fight. “I deserve it. If the fight were anywhere but here, I would be champion. That guy has something that belongs to me.”
Alexander doesn’t agree with Kotelnik’s opinion, but he’s smart and grounded enough to know that he did not deliver against the Ukrainian as he had in previous fights.
“It was an okay performance for me,” Alexander admitted. “I am my own toughest critic.”
Other critics are already popping up on message boards and boxing forums on the internet, but they need not dismiss Alexander the way they did Kotelnik last week.
He’s young and he’s got a lot to learn, but he’s willing to do so. He still has the talent and dedication to be something special. He may yet live up to his nickname “The Great.” For now, however, he’s Alexander the “Pretty Good.”