Boxer Devon Alexander has a shot a GREAT-ness

Mar 2, 2010 5:00 PM
Pulling No Punches by Michael Katz |

But Urango won’t easily concede it

What’s in a nickname does not have to be very revealing. "Sugar" seems to go automatically after "Ray," but for every Robinson or Leonard there is probably a Seales.

"Popo," which is what Acelino Freitas lugged around, was Brazilian for the sound babies make when suckling.

And beware when the nickname is self-acclaimed – or conjured up by a public relations hotshot like Fahrenheit Freddie Sternburg.

Muhammad Ali called himself "The Greatest" well before he proved to be somewhat modest. Now we have someone just calling himself "Great," but while Devon Alexander may yet to have dibs on a name borrowed from antiquity, his recently celebrated 23rd birthday would indicate that there is no rush for me to agree.

Maybe the WBC junior welterweight champion would be further along on the road to acclaim but for the self-proclaimed "world’s greatest promoter," Don King, who has done a miserable job with his obviously talented boxer.

In the recent teleconference with media types, King crowed that his fighter was surrounded by greatness because while training in Las Vegas for this fight, Alexander stayed in a mansion next door to Wayne Newton’s digs. King said he brought the house "out of retirement" especially for Alexander, and no one had stayed there since Mike Tyson had moved. Greatness by osmosis – only in America.

At least King is finally providing some long needed exposure to Alexander with a 140-pound partial unification fight next Saturday against Juan (Iron Twin) Urango in the HBO main event from the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. Urango, who does have a twin brother, holds the IBF title and seems like a real live underdog here with the buyback rate of about 3-1.

The Colombian, a natural right-hander who fights from a southpaw stance, seems bigger and stronger, and has a decided edge in quality of opposition. The only losses on his 22-2-1 record were on points in title challenges, in 2007 to then prime Ricky Hatton and last year to welterweight titlist Andre Berto. Urango is a handful, but Alexander – even laying as much as 5-1 – seems to be the obvious choice even with only 19 pro fights in the book.

In his most recent start, for the vacant WBC belt, he dominated Junior Witter.

And Urango, while dangerous, could be the perfect foil, the opponent from central casting to inspire descriptions of "Alexander the Great."

He would need to do more than beat Urango, of course. But even as we bemoan boxing’s slow start to 2010 – the first quarter was crippled of course by the disintegration of the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. showdown – we can cross our fingers that a very talented 140-pound division delivers some terrific crosses.

Right now, I would put Alexander no higher than No. 3 in the division.

I think Juan Manuel Marquez, who lost over the junior welter limit to Mayweather last year, commands enough respect to rate the top spot. Tim Bradley, another talented title-holder, is at least No. 2.

But it is a division populated by Amir Khan, Britain’s latest quality export, and the one and only Ricky Hatton, who is still around – as are such interesting types as Paul Malignaggi, Juan Diaz, Nate Campbell and even Joel Casamayor.

Alexander is growing. It won’t be long before, like many of his 140-pound colleagues, that he will help flesh out the welterweight division.

He may have much to prove, but from what I’ve seen so far, he might deserve to be called "Great" even if he changed his name to Smith.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Michael Katz