Alexander headlines triple-header in St. Louis
Devon Alexander has always been talented beyond his years, which
is why his trainer had to forge the date on his birth certificate
several years ago so that he could fight in a local Golden Gloves
”You had to be 17,” recalled Kevin Cunningham, a former police
officer who helped to lift Alexander from the rough neighborhoods
of North St. Louis to boxing stardom. Alexander was only 16 back
then, but Cunningham knew he was talented enough to compete.
”That’s why I did it,” Cunningham said.
Alexander easily worked his way through a more experienced field
on the way to the title, and he hasn’t stopped winning since. The
reigning WBC and IBF junior welterweight champion will defend his
belts against former champion Andriy Kotelnik on Saturday night in
a title triple-header at the Scottrade Center in Alexander’s home
Also on the Don King-promoted card, IBF junior middleweight
champ Cory Spinks takes on Cornelius Bundrage, and IBF light
heavyweight champion Tavoris Cloud defends his title against former
champion Glen Johnson.
The headliner, though, is the 23-year-old Alexander.
He began boxing at 7 years old and still has a picture of
himself holding up the Silver Gloves championship belt he won three
years later. In the photo are two other boys trained by Cunningham
who won titles at the event – Quintin Gray and Willie Ross.
Gray is serving a life sentence for murder and Ross is dead.
That’s life on the streets in North St. Louis, where Cunningham
began training Alexander and about 30 other boys in a basement gym.
Cunningham estimates that only nine have survived the drugs and
gang wars that have crippled the neighborhood.
”We had a disciplined family and that helped the most. It made
me stay focused,” Alexander said. ”Could’ve been me. I just
didn’t want to go down that path.”
Alexander’s older brother, Vaughn, was once considered the more
talented fighter in the family. He’s now serving 18 years in prison
for armed robbery.
Alexander credits his mother, Sharon, along with Cunningham with
keeping him on the right path. Cunningham figures he watched over
Alexander at least six days a week during the past 16 years.
Sharon, with 13 various family members living under her roof during
Devon’s formative years, also steered the boy away from
”You can’t stop fate, and I think I’m fated to be the best in
the boxing game,” he said.
Alexander (20-0, 13 KOs) will be a heavy favorite against
Kotelnik (31-3-1, 13 KOs), a highly regarded fighter who gets a
chance to regain a title after losing the WBA version of the
140-pound belt in a lopsided decision against Amir Khan in July
Coincidentally, a victory over Kotelnik could propel Alexander
into a big-money showdown with Khan, or perhaps fellow titleholder
Timothy Bradley. Alexander is coming off an impressive eighth-round
knockout of Juan Urango in March that has solidified his place in
one of boxing’s hottest divisions, and either of those two fights
would generate massive interest.
”Biggest fight of my life and I’m ready,” Alexander said. ”I
Kotelnik realizes that he’s stepping into a pro-Alexander
environment on Saturday night, just like he was stepping into a
pro-Khan crowd when we fought in Manchester, England, but the
potentially hostile environment doesn’t concern him.
”I came here without worrying about my opponent’s home town,”
Kotelnik said through an interpreter. ”I won’t make any
predictions but I’m here to go the distance. This fight is going to
be endless. It will be a long night.”
It certainly will be for fans in the Scottrade Center.
Leading off the title triple-header, Spinks (37-5, 11 KOs) makes
his long overdue defense against Cornelius Bundrage (29-4, 17 KOs)
in his first fight since winning his vacant junior middleweight
title in the same building in April 2009.
Spinks is also from St. Louis and figures to have the hometown
crowd on his side, too.
The main undercard bout, which will be televised live on HBO
along with the main event, pits Cloud (20-0, 18 KOs) against the
41-year-old Johnson (50-13-2, 34 KOs) in just his third fight in
the past three years.
”There is not much in there in boxing,” Johnson said. ”I
mean, there’s a left hand and a right hand and, hey, I’ve seen it
thrown every different kind of way throughout my career. So,
certainly, there won’t be nothing I haven’t seen before.”