Two-division titleholder Devon Alexander returns to the ring this Saturday on FS1, facing former prospect and reliable action fighter Ivan Redkach in a PBC main event from San Jacinto, California.
What’s at stake?
Well, that’s a tricky question. No belts. Redkach is moving up from 140, where he wasn’t really a contender or anything. Alexander is trying to rebuild his career after various setbacks and issues outside the ring. They both need the win to do anything at 147, but the win isn’t necessarily enough to do anything at 147, either. So what’s on the line immediately? Maybe not much, but for the loser, definitely not much.
How did Devon Alexander get here?
Alexander grew up in a rough part of St. Louis, where as a child he linked up with trainer Kevin Cunningham, who led him to a reported 300-10 record. As a senior amateur, Alexander won the 2004 US national amateur tournament at light welterweight. He made it to the finals of the 2004 Olympic trials, where he lost on tiebreaker to Rock Allen, a two-time national champion.
At the age of 17, Alexander turned pro in May 2004, and got to 13-0 against overmatched opponents before facing former titleholder DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley in Jan. 2008. Alexander routed Corley, winning a wide decision, and that put him on the path to bigger fights. In. Aug. 2009, he got his first title chance, facing Junior Witter for the vacant WBC 140-pound title. He controlled the action and won after eight rounds, when Witter retired from the fight due to a hand injury.
After successful defenses against Juan Urango and Andriy Kotelnik, Alexander was matched in what was supposed to be a Big Fight against fellow unbeaten titleholder Timothy Bradley Jr, an HBO main event that boxing fans wanted to see, the No. 1 vs No. 2 guys in the division. Promoted by a long-past-prime Don King at the run-down Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan, the fight was a dud at the gate, with about 6,000 paying to see the fight, and 1.345 million tuning in on HBO, a fine but not spectacular number.
The fight itself wound up being forgettable, too, with Bradley winning a technical decision after 10 rounds when Alexander pulled out due to a cut on his eyelid caused by one of Bradley’s trademark accidental headbutts.
From there, Alexander had to regroup. He did one more fight at 140, a controversial split decision win over Lucas Matthysse, then moved up to 147 in Feb. 2012. In what may have been a career-best performance, Alexander dominated 10 rounds against Marcos Maidana, who had beaten Victor Ortiz and given Amir Khan a good fight and would go on to defeat Adrien Broner and give Floyd Mayweather two of the rougher, tougher fights of Floyd’s career.
The win over Maidana gave Alexander a path to a title shot at welterweight, and he faced Randall Bailey, one of boxing’s great one-trick ponies of recent years. Bailey had a bomb of a right hand and little else. It wound up a really dull fight, with Alexander very aware of Bailey’s right hand, and Bailey, having basically nothing but the right hand, unable to figure out anything else to do. Alexander won a decision and became a two-weight titleholder.
Alexander made one successful defense against Lee Purdy seven months later, then dropped his title to Shawn Porter in Dec. 2013. Things sort of spiraled for Alexander in the coming years, and later on, he revealed the source of many of the issues we saw in the ring: an addiction to painkillers.
“About the Maidana fight, I became addicted — actually, it was after surgery,” Alexander said in 2018. “In the Maidana fight, my nose had a blood clot on the inside, and I beat him with a blood clot in my nose, I barely could breathe. After the Maidana fight I had surgery. When they went in there, they saw I had a blood clot, which they removed. I didn’t drink, smoke, not even take a Tylenol or Advil, nothing. After the surgery, they prescribed me some pain meds, and after a while, I was, like, ‘Wow.’ The feeling of it, I began to like.
“I found myself taking it when I didn’t need it. I honestly think they shouldn’t have prescribed a person like me, who hadn’t taken anything in their life, something so strong or something like that. I became addicted to it and was hiding for a while, until I couldn’t hide it anymore.”
After the loss to Porter, he got a win over veteran tough guy Jesus Soto Karass, then lost a wide decision to Amir Khan and a big upset against Aron Martinez.
“My reflexes, everything was just dead,” Alexander said. “I wasn’t myself. You can see that in my performances. You can see it. The Shawn Porter fight, you can see that it was kinda taking over. Definitely in the Khan and the Martinez fight, it definitely took over. I was just not myself. It had taken over my life, taken over everything.”
He was out of the ring for two years before returning in Nov. 2017, beating Walter Castillo to shake the rest. In 2018, Alexander found himself on the bum end of a pair of very questionable decisions — first, a draw against Victor Ortiz in February, then a split decision loss to Andre Berto in August.
Alexander very easily could have won both of those fights; in many opinions, including mine, he should have won those fights. If he had, we wouldn’t be talking about Alexander-Redkach on FS1. He probably would’ve been in a title fight this year.
But he’s where he is. He’s parted ways with Kevin Cunningham, who’d been with him forever, looking to get a fresh start under Roy Jones Jr, whose credentials are obviously fantastic on paper but has never had great success as a trainer. At 32, Alexander may still have a few more years left to do something at 147, bu he has to win on Saturday, no matter what.
How did Ivan Redkach get here?
Redkach, a native of Ukraine, turned pro about a decade ago, a little less, and built his name as a lightweight prospect to watch for a while. In 2014, he racked up some decent wins for level, beating Tony Luis and Sergey Gulyakevich, and he kicked off 2015 with a nice win over Yakubu Amidu.
Then Redkach met Dejan Zlaticanin, a fellow unbeaten fighter, in June 2015, and the wheels came off. Redkach went from ShoBox standout to overwhelmed opponent in the fourth round of that fight, when he was dropped and stopped. 10 months later, Redkach fought to a draw with Luis Cruz, and then he lost to Tevin Farmer. At that point, Redkach was certainly a prospect no more, and it looked like he’d met his level cap.
In 2017, he suffered two more defeats, losing to Argenis Mendez and John Molina Jr, but the latter was a real war, with both men hitting the canvas. It ended in four rounds, with Molina securing the stoppage.
Since then, Redkach has won a pair of fights over Brian Jones and Tyrone Harris, a couple of journeyman types. We know what Redkach is at age 33, but at the very least he doesn’t make for boring TV.
How do the fighters match up?
Redkach will have a couple inches of height on Alexander, 5’10½” to 5’8½”, and a couple inches in reach, too, at 71” to 69”. They’re both southpaws, so there won’t be anything there.
Résumé-wise, Alexander’s is obviously stronger, but it’s been seven years since he picked up a real high-level win, too. Does that beat the zero high-level wins that Redkach has in his career? Technically, yes, but seven years is a really, really long time.
Who’s the favorite?
As of this writing, there are no odds listed for the fight. There surely will be by Saturday, so check back that morning.
Who will win?
We won’t have staff picks for this one on Friday because we’re doing three other fights from the Joshua-Ruiz card, and, well, it’s just Alexander-Redkach. So I’ll throw a prediction out here and say that Alexander gets the duke, but Redkach makes it exciting and gives the veteran some problems here and there.
- Middleweights Hugo Centeno Jr (27-2, 14 KO) and Willie Monroe Jr (23-3, 6 KO) will meet in a 10-round fight. Like Redkach, Centeno is a former prospect who got beaten before he could really break through. He was stopped in the 10th round by Maciej Sulecki in 2016, and knocked out in two by Jermall Charlo in 2018. Those are real contenders at 160, but Centeno is 28 and past his prospect phase. This is a must-win for him. Monroe, 32, has had a couple title shots — he was demolished by Gennadiy Golovkin in 2015 and outpointed by Billy Joe Saunders in a real dull fight fetishist’s dream in 2017. We know his level. He’s crafty, he’s a southpaw, he’s got some slickness. I see this as 50-50 on paper.
- 31-year-old Nigerian heavyweight Onoriode Ehwarieme (17-0, 16 KO) makes his US debut against Rodney Moore (20-17-2, 9 KO). Originally it was going to be Rodney Hernandez. Moore is a 43-year-old Texan club fighter. Ehwarieme gets a chance to impress. He’s fought in Nigeria, Ghana, Argentina, and Indonesia. If he can catch on, he winds up in the Deontay Wilder lottery bucket at the least. Not for an immediate or even particularly soon chance, but the name goes in at least.
- Marlon Tapales (32-2, 15 KO) and Jhack Tepora (22-0, 17 KO) return on the FS2 prelims. Tapales, 27, won the WBO bantamweight title in 2016, coming back to knock out Pungluang Sor Singyu. He lost his belt on the scales before his first scheduled defense in 2017. He’ll face Roberto Castaneda (23-11-2, 16 KO). Tepora, 24, had the interim WBA featherweight title at one point and never lost it, but — well, listen, basically the less said about the WBA’s featherweight mess in the last couple years, the better. Anyway, he’s against Jose Luis Gallegos (16-6, 12 KO).