Devon Alexander hasn’t been seen in a pro boxing ring in over two years.
On October 14, 2015, Alexander was matched with Aron Martinez, a rugged, hard-fighting fringe contender, who was coming off of a debated and spirited loss four months prior against Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero.
In fact, Martinez had lost three of his last four, also dropping a fight to Josesito Lopez in 2014, and one to Jessie Vargas in 2012. He was a guy that matchmakers and promoters knew would put up a fight, but in the end, would likely be a level below their “world class” fighters, even if those fighters were themselves trying to come back from a defeat, as was the case for Alexander.
Alexander, then 28, was a former 140- and 147-pound titleholder. He’d been in premium boxing main events. In 2009, he defeated Junior Witter to win the vacant WBC junior welterweight title, his first world championship. In 2012, he took the IBF welterweight title from Randall Bailey.
Along the way, he’d beaten Lucas Matthysse and Marcos Maidana, the latter quite convincingly. He’d shared the ring with — and come up short against — Timothy Bradley Jr, Shawn Porter, and most recently, Amir Khan.
Porter and Khan had handed Alexander two losses in his prior three fights, with a victory over rough-and-tumble scrapper Jesus Soto Karass between them. He wasn’t exactly on fire, his career momentum wasn’t good.
But he was supposed to beat Aron Martinez.
And then he didn’t.
In an ESPN-televised Premier Boxing Champions main event, the 33-year-old blue collar fighter baited the more athletically gifted Alexander into something of a brawl, making the St. Louis native fight his fight, which was all wrong for Alexander.
Devon tried to grapple with Martinez. He tried to dissuade Martinez from working in close. It didn’t work. Martinez just kept grinding, banging away on the inside. He wore Devon Alexander down — wore him out.
By the middle of the fight, it was a lost cause. Aron Martinez had beaten Devon Alexander in the game of chess. All that was left was finding out if the judges were going to be fair, never a given in boxing.
Martinez, reported as up to a 50-to-1 underdog, got the decision. He got it unanimously. It was the right thing, and it was a huge blow to Devon Alexander’s career prospects.
Boxing fans and media are often criticized for writing off fighters after losses. But there was a clear difference in losing to fighters like Bradley, Porter, and Khan, and then losing to Aron Martinez. It was supposed to be a “get-well” fight for Alexander, facing an always tough but not particularly dangerous opponent.
There has been barely a whisper of news about Devon Alexander in two years.
On Tuesday, he makes a relatively quiet return to action, headlining a PBC on FS1 card from Saint Petersburg, Florida. He’ll face Walter Castillo, a 29-year-old Nicaraguan who is 1-2-1 in his last four fights, and hasn’t fought since July 2016, when he was stopped in seven by Sergey Lipinets, recent winner of the IBF junior welterweight title.
Castillo (26-4-1, 19 KO) has been chosen because he should lose. There’s really no secret about the way things work in boxing, especially in cases like this one.
Alexander (26-4, 14 KO) is someone his promoters will want to get back on track. He’s someone with a little name value still, and if he can win a fight or two or three, you can plug him into a world title bout, either as a legitimate contender, or as, quite frankly, a fighter past his best days, but one who can be promoted as a Former Two-Division World Champion, making him sound every bit a danger in the press releases.
It’s hard to know what to expect of Alexander, now 30, as he returns to action. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen him in the ring, and the last time we did, he suffered the worst loss of his pro career. He’s lost three of his last four fights. He hasn’t won a fight in over three years. He hasn’t beaten a serious contender in over five.
The Haymon banner hangs over the welterweight division. Devon Alexander wants back in. Walter Castillo is the first test. Pass that one, and maybe there’s another. Or maybe he’ll be thrown into a fight with one of the bigger dogs — Haymon has Keith Thurman, Errol Spence Jr, Danny Garcia, and Shawn Porter in his stable, among others.
Where Devon Alexander’s career goes from here remains to be seen. One gets the feeling that expectations from fans are pretty low, and, frankly, rightfully so. But boxing history is filled with inspiring comeback stories, and “Alexander the Great” is going to try to be the next one.