Devon Alexander understands who Juan Urango is. What’s he’s hoping is that he also understands what he isn’t.
Alexander willingly admits Urango is the toughest opponent he has ever faced. On this he and the people insisting Urango’s resume and experience will count for something when the two of them meet to unify the junior welterweight title have no dispute. The dispute comes over what that will mean when they step into the Mohegan Sun Arena on March 6 to settle all disputes between them.
“He would be,’’ the undefeated WBC 140 pound champion said this week when asked if Urango was the best fighter he’s faced in 19 professional go-rounds. “I mean, the way people talk, he would be, you know? I take nothing from him. He’s a two-time world champion and I take nothing, nothing, from that. It’s just time for me. It’s my time to come in the boxing scene and make a name for myself. It’s just the wrong fight for him right now.’’
Naturally Urango, the IBF belt holder, disagrees, believing that his advantage over the slick boxing Alexander is not only his experience against higher level competition but also his proven punching power. Urango is 22-2-1 with 17 knockouts for a reason and he would argue part of the reason is those two losses came only against fighters superior to Alexander – then 140-pound champion Ricky Hatton and bigger WBC welterweight champion Andre Berto. That he took both the distance before losing speaks to him, if not quite to Alexander.
Alexander, not surprisingly, looks at the same set of facts and comes to a different conclusion about Urango. Or, more importantly, to what those facts may mean to him.
“When I fought Junior Witter some said, ‘He’s too young, he’s inexperienced,’’’ Alexander (19-0, 12 KO) recalled. “Junior Witter fought some of the best guys out there at 140 and now they’re saying the same things about Urango.
“I’ve been bred to do this. I’ve been brought up to do this. You know what I mean? Me and my coach (trainer Kevin Cunningham) been working at this since I was seven years old in my old gym. So this right here is just another stepping stone for me to become the greatest in the game. I’m not worried about his experience. Of course he’s going to come brawling but I’m not worrying about that. I’m going to be ready for whatever he brings.’’
What Urango brings is unusual strength for a 140-pounder plus pure punching power and a pressuring style that will either play to the strengths of Alexander’s speed advantage or make him wither on the vine until Urango catches up to him.
If the latter happens, who knows what might follow? Most people with an opinion have concluded what would follow would be bad for Alexander’s synapses. What he’s concluded is, well, let’s see.
“I think the power is not an issue because I’ve got power too,’’ Alexander said. “Everybody’s overlooking that like I’ve got feather fists. That’s not the case.
“Everybody’s talking about his power and that’s okay but I’ve got speed. I’ve got slickness. I’ve been around slickness my whole life (most of which was spent boxing with his former stablemate Cory Spinks), so I’m just going to add that to my power.’’
Power, to be fair, is not what you think about when discussing Alexander. Even as a top amateur coming out of Cunningham’s St. Louis gym, Alexander was considered the consummate boxer, a fighter who relied on movement, hand speed and quickness.
Those things have followed him into the professional ranks and quickly up the ladder to a world title won by taking a troubled Witter apart. Now in his first title defense, he brings those same skills to Connecticut on March 6 to duel with Urango and prove his point that just because you’ve lost to a higher class of boxer doesn’t mean you have gained an advantage from it.
“Devon’s been an elite fighter at every level that he’s competed at,’’ Cunningham said. ‘One thing that Devon has is skills and skills is what pays the bills. That’s what’s gonna be the difference in this fight on March 6th.
“Devon has boatloads of experience. He was one of the best amateurs in the world. He fought over 300 amateur fights. He’s got 19 pro fights and I always overmatched him coming up. He’s always fought guys with lots of wins, lots of experience, former champions. So he’s been prepared for this moment the whole time.
“We know that Juan Urango is one of the strongest, if not the strongest, junior welterweights in the division. He’s probably – he’s definitely – the biggest junior welterweight in the world. So we know he’s strong, he’s tough and he can take a punch and all of that so we’re prepared to dish it out.
“Whatever he can take, we’re prepared to dish it out. We’re prepared to give it to him all night.’’
That is likely what it will take to beat back Urango but to do it will take not only physical control but also maintaining a mental control in the ring that can be affected by an opponent’s resiliency. For the inexperienced, a guy like Urango can wear you down not only by the way he fights but simply by refusing to buckle under assault, leaving you with a vague feeling you’re losing even when you’re winning.
The 23-year-old Alexander claims to understand this but he will not know for sure until the night comes and the punches are landing and Juan Urango is looking back at him with sleepy eyes and no apparent acknowledgement that he’s just been assaulted.
Only then will the boxing world learn what kind of fighter Devon Alexander really is. If he’s the goods, if he’s what Cunningham and promoter Don King and the city of St. Louis believe he is, he’ll have the skills to combat the problem that is Juan Urango.
If he doesn’t the boxing world will soon know that as well but Alexander firmly believes he already knows. For him, he insists, this test will be no different than all the others that proceeded it. It will be a test he can pass.
“This is boxing,’’ Alexander said. “You’re going to fight guys that are older than you. That got more experience than you and that’s going to be probably better than you. But it goes back to when I was in the old gym when I was seven years old. Since then I’ve been fighting (older) guys. If I was seven, I’d be fighting guys that was nine. If I was nine, I was fighting guys that was 13 and so forth.
“So it doesn’t matter who I fight. I’m gonna be prepared. It doesn’t matter who I fight or the experience or whatever they got going for they self or whatever niche they got – power, speed – it doesn’t matter. We’re gonna be able to handle whatever they bring to the table.’’
What Juan Urango brings is trouble. What Devon Alexander says about that is simple – no problem.