Devon Alexander: ‘A lot of people didn’t make it out but I did’
Trainer Kevin Cunningham may have saved Devon Alexander’s life.
Cunningham was a former narcotics detective who was working as a patrolman monitoring local elementary schools when he recruited Alexander and 29 other children into boxing.
Back then, Cunningham was offering an abandoned police station and former shooting range turned recreation center as a respite from the crack-fueled neighborhood run by notorious street gangs the Crips and the Bloods.
“Where I grew up was pretty rough,” said Alexander, 27, who was among 13 children born to Sharon Alexander in an embattled section of St. Louis, Mo., called Hyde Park.
“I grew up down in North St. Louis, with gangs, drugs, fighting. I made it my point to continue to stay in the gym, go to school, graduate and to become something in life.”
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Alexander’s mother reluctantly allowed her son to begin boxing for Cunningham at the age of seven, a decision that has amounted to a rags-to-riches story.
“Most of the people around me wasn’t becoming anything,” said Alexander. “A lot of people didn’t make it out but I did.”
A two-division titlist, Alexander (26-2, 14 knockouts) will face Amir Khan (29-3, 19 KOs) in a clash of former titleholders as the Dec. 13 headliner to a Showtime-televised quadrupleheader at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Alexander never will forget his roots nor will he take for granted the grueling training atmosphere which kept him away from the streets and pushed him toward pugilistic stardom.
“I would rather be here because this is where champions are made,” said Alexander, referring to his training facility. “The sweat smell, the smell of leather, the dirty ring and the dirty floor. I came from nothing to something. I didn’t have any status or anything to become champion.”
Having faced seven current or past world titleholders in his previous nine fights, in his last fight in June, Alexander scored a unanimous decision victory over Jesus Soto Karass. Alexander’s run includes decision victories over two of Argentina’s most devastating punchers, Marcos Maidana and Lucas Matthysse.
Alexander’s only losses were decisions to two-division titleholder Timothy Bradley as 140-pounders in January 2011 and former IBF titleholder Shawn Porter last December. Bradley added Alexander’s WBC title to the WBO belt he already owned and Porter took Alexander’s IBF title.
“I’m my own worst critic,” said Alexander. “Each fight that I have, I study myself and I go back and I see what I could have done.”
In his last fight in May, Khan, 27,scored a one-sided unanimous decision over former welterweight titleholder Luis Collazo, whom he floored three times.
Khan had been out of the ring for more than a year prior to the Collazo fight, last being in action for a unanimous decision over two-time lightweight titleholder Julio Diaz in April 2013. Khan struggled over the course of his previous six fights, going 4-2 with two knockouts.
“It’s going to be an exciting fight. You have two guys who are determined not to lose and who are determined to go to the next level,” said Alexander, a southpaw.
“I’m a throwback fighter. I’ll fight anybody. This is just another fight that I’ve got to get past to solidify myself and to get to where I want to be, which is one of the top fighters, pound-for-pound, and into the Hall of Fame.”
FORMER OLYMPIC SILVER MEDALIST ROCKY JUAREZ TO RETURNS IN JANUARY
Featherweights Rocky Juarez (30-10-1, 21 KOs) of Houston and Robinson Castellanos (20-10, 13 KOs) of Mexico will fight on Jan. 26 on a “Golden Boy Live!” card from the Cowboys Dance Hall in San Antonio, Texas on Fox Sports 1 and Fox Deportes, Golden Boy Promotions has announced.
An Olympic silver medalist in 2000 and former title challenger, Juarez, 34, ended a nearly two-year ring absence with a unanimous decision over Rene Alvarado in May.
Juarez had previously been in action for an eighth-round knockout of Antonio Escalante in October 2012, ending a run of 0-6-1 that included both a draw and a unanimous decision loss to former featherweight titleholder Chris John as well as a unanimous decision loss to former-130-pound beltholder Jorge Linares.
Juarez also has suffered defeats to two future Hall-of-Famers, a split and unanimous decision to Marco Antonio Barrera and a unanimous decision to Juan Manuel Marquez.
Castellanos, 32, scored a shocking fifth-round knockout over previously unbeaten Ronny Rios in October, dropping Rios in the second round.
Prior to Rios, Castellanos had suffered a ninth-round stoppage loss to Alvarado in April that ended his run of 11 consecutive wins, seven by way of knockout.
“It is not often that two veteran gladiators face off with one final title shot likely up for grabs,” said Oscar De La Hoya, founder and president of Golden Boy.
“This is the last shot for two battle-tested fighters and fans in San Antonio will get to witness firsthand what these boxing lions will do to make it back to the top.”
Note: Golden Boy quotes from a release.