At Least Devon Alexander Has YouTube; “Jersey Joe” Didn’t

This past weekend I watched a crossroads welterweight bout between former two-division champ Devon Alexander 27-4-1 (14) and former WBC welterweight title holder Victor Ortiz 32-6-3 (25). Alexander was inactive for 25 months due to his struggle to overcome his addiction to opioid painkillers before coming back to defeat Walter Castillo via a 10-round unanimous decision last November. A win over Ortiz would put him in line for a title eliminator later this year, if not a title shot, depending on how good he looked. As for Ortiz, he was 3-4 in his last seven fights entering the Alexander bout and was stopped in all four of his losses. And yet, despite suffering some terrible defeats where his heart and commitment to boxing were called into question, he still gets rewarded with high profile bouts. I don’t know if his looks and personality come into play or if it’s the unknown factor of what he might do to get out of a fight?

When the fight, which was actually pretty action-packed, was over, I had no doubt in my mind Alexander won it going away, 116-112. The only saving grace for Ortiz was that in a few tight spots when Alexander was on the verge of seizing total control, he didn’t fold like a cheap suit in a hurricane. In other words he did just enough to dissuade Devon from really leaning on him and pressing for the stoppage. However, judges Levi Martinez and Glen Crocker saw it 114-114 and judge Don Griffin scored it an outrageous 115-113 for Ortiz. No, it’s not the worst decision I’ve seen in the last 12 months, but it’s bad enough because the rightful winner was cheated out of a clear victory.

For at least eight and perhaps nine of the 12 rounds, Alexander boxed smart. He used the ring going both ways and picked his spots to get off with his jab and three and four punch combinations of crisp hooks and uppercuts. He exhibited the greater ring generalship in neutralizing Ortiz’s attempt to fight aggressively, and he landed the cleaner punches in nearly all the exchanges. Yes, Ortiz picked it up during the last third of the bout but even in a few of his best rounds down the stretch he only managed to lose them closer than he did the first seven or eight. Granted, neither fighter, especially Alexander, was ever in trouble but that doesn’t mean the fight was evenly contested. Alexander, who has fought hard both in and out of the ring, was robbed of the win he surely earned, and the horrible decision should be getting more attention. (Maybe with so many bad decisions lately fans are becoming complacent towards them.)

Some have suggested the draw was a positive in that both fighters will land bigger fights and possibly a title opportunity. Yes, that’ll probably be the net result, but it’s not right. Ortiz was soundly out-boxed for no less than two thirds of a 36-minute fight.  It’s easy to say that’s boxing and both of their careers are extended by the draw, something I could live with if the fight was really close and there was a case for both sides. But that isn’t the case here. There was a clear winner and by him not getting the “W” on his record it might as well be a loss.

Imagine years down the road when Devon Alexander is long retired and is discussing his career with family and friends too young to have seen the fight or understand what was going on at the time. When the Ortiz fight comes up, Alexander will say, as many fighters in his position have before, “Oh, I beat Victor Ortiz that night but I was robbed of the win. Ortiz was a good looking guy and carried the perception of being an action fighter and he was afforded many gifts and opportunities most fighters don’t get because he was good for ratings. He was a part-time actor and keeping him relevant in boxing was good for business.”

Until a few years ago Alexander would’ve looked like any other fighter trying to explain why there’s a “D” or an “L” on his record instead of a “W.” Today Devon has an advantage over fighters of earlier eras such as Jersey Joe Walcott. In his first fight with Joe Louis in 1947, Walcott lost a 15-round split decision in a fight that virtually everyone thought he won. Even Louis thought Walcott won and left the ring before the official decision was announced because he was so disillusioned by his performance. Called back to the ring, he was subjected to booing once the decision was announced. However, those who hadn’t seen the fight were left to reading newspapers to learn what transpired and who won.

With the advance of technology, those who don’t catch a big fight can catch it after the fact on YouTube where it will be forever. Those that didn’t see Alexander-Ortiz live can check it out on YouTube and see that Alexander won it going away. Yes, it goes into the record books as a draw, but the viewing audience and the YouTube audience (meaning those who will watch it when Devon Alexander shows it to his grandkids) are all going to see through the faux decision.

Promoters and those who wield the real power in boxing should start thinking about the fact that the boxing viewing public knows a lot more than they did during Walcott or Ali’s time about the true winner of a fight, and now through technology, the evidence will be on view almost immediately and stay on view forever.

Scoring a fight, as much as some observers and historians like to make it, isn’t rocket science. I don’t know what the answer is to rid boxing of bad decisions, but when everyone agrees that a decision is bad, it usually is. For the next week the Alexander-Ortiz bout will be re-watched thousands of times and then written about – and every conclusion will render the same verdict, namely that Devon Alexander beat Victor Ortiz and all three judges got it wrong and only they know the real reason why.

Photo credit: Juan Yepez / Premier Boxing Champions

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