HBO could've ignored two of the most promising young fighters in the United States. It could've refused to air a bout between two of the four best men in one of the most stacked division in the sport. It could've just let the division, and American boxing, twist in the wind.
My brother asked me the other day, "Who's the best white American boxer?" I had to think about it long and hard. The best I could come up with was deposed middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik, who recently spent some time in rehab. But it also made me think about who's the best American boxer overall. And that came up with some guys who, like Alexander and Bradley, are talented and proven but aren't terribly thrilling to watch at times (Floyd Mayweather, Andre Ward), unless you count foreign-born boxers who moved to America, like Abner Mares or Nonito Donaire. Juan Manuel Lopez, maybe, if you expand the search beyond the states to the territories.
You can come away with another conclusion, then, from Saturday's fight: That America still produces good boxers, but very few action stars.
The action between Bradley and Alexander Saturday was mild, and what action there was ended up being frustrating. Alexander appeared reluctant to engage, and his excess of caution was largely to blame for the minimal exchanges, although Bradley's crafty and incessant head movement also had a lot to do with that. There will be valid questions about whether Alexander begged out of the fight by refusing to open his eyes at the doctor's command in the 10th, or whether, as the doctor himself asserted, he might have suffered potential nerve damage. We'd be wise to await additional word before concluding anything.
And then there was Bradley's head movement of another kind. Bradley is the sport's predominant practitioner of head butts. It is infuriating. He can act all he wants like Alexander was moving in on the final head butt, but Bradley almost seemed to wait for the moment to move in afterward and land that head butt. Bradley may have been the one landing the more telling blows and he might have been the one initiating what action there was, but that every. single. one. of his fights features him smashing his battering ram of a noggin into his opponent makes him ugly to watch and diminishes his accomplishments.
If you are deeply saddened that two of America's best hopes coming into this fight were A. cautious to a fault at best or afraid of contact at worst and B. a living, breathing, 24/7 foul machine, well then, you'd be entitled. If you think this fight between boxers from Missouri and California shouldn't have been held in Pontiac, Michigan, you're also on fair ground. If you think HBO overpaid for the bout and a potential rematch, that's a fair assessment of HBO's historical tendencies. If you have gripes about Gary Shaw and Don King sitting on their asses rather than trying to generate a real live audience, there is plenty of evidence in the remarks of both promoters. If you expected this fight might not produce much action, you had good reason. If you don't want to see a rematch, as much as Alexander wants one, you're probably like 99 out of 100 boxing fans.
But this bout had to happen, unless you think HBO should be spending all its money airing Tomasz Adamek-Kevin McBride -- a more entertaining spectacle on paper, sure, but 100 percent meaningless -- as some might have it. Sometimes, excitement doesn't transpire between the ropes or in the stands. Sometimes, the excitement is in the mere idea of two of the best fighters there are meeting in the ring, and those kind of fights need to come to fruition, too.
I'd rather see HBO spend its money on fights and fighters who are entertaining - who show heart, effort, ability. I don't much care about where they are on P4P lists. I'd watch Glen Johnson over either of these two any day. And if that makes some fighters put a bit more effort in and fight more interesting opposition in order to get an HBO payday, so much the better.
And per your last question, I guess it all depends on what you mean by 'best'. I would prefer to see Adamek-McBride over these two. If it's not exciting between the ropes, what the heck am I watching for? Just to adjust some stack rankings? I might as well be playing fantasy football then.
@Anurag That's a totally fair reply.
Sometimes less-than-thrilling boxers still become draws, too, though, like Floyd Mayweather. It's often a mystery to me how and when somebody becomes a star.
@tstarksOne of the great difficulties in boxing is that it is far more like college football than like the NBA, with managed schedules, cupcake opponents, and only a few meaningful engagements - in boxing's case, sometimes over a career. From that perspective, it is good for boxing to see a meaningful match or tournament, and I agree with you that it was good the fight was made.
That said, I felt Hopkins and Maidana went up in my estimation after their losses, while Bradley went down after his win. I'm certainly looking forward to either of their next fights more so than Bradley's next. I don't know what that means in terms of the best atheletes competing against the best or whether a fight is meaningful. but it might explain why these guys and others like them (Dawson), just don't draw.
@Anurag I'd refer you to the remarks of WILLFRANK below. I'll add another layer to it.
The Phoenix Suns for years were more fun to watch than the San Antonio Spurs. But an NBA Finals featuring the Spurs was more likely to get higher ratings than a regular season Suns game.
Why is that?
Because one of the points of sports isn't just to be exciting, although ideally it's that, too. One of the ideas is to see what happens when the best athletes compete against the other best athletes.
Maybe you lacked interest in the outcome of the NBA Finals between the Spurs and Nets. But I watched, knowing it might not be all that exciting, and often it wasn't. And I'm glad I watched it, too.
I'll watch Adamek fight just about anybody, by the way. I meant that as no slight to him. But if you're more interested in Adamek-McBride than Bradley-Alexander, you have a very different set of priorities than I do.
Can I recall or recant my story about the winner of this fight becoming a superstar?
I don't know if it was the venue, the fighters or the quality of the fight, but this bout had about as much charisma as a mausoleum in mothballs.
This fight very much was a Catch-22. On paper, it had cachet, with two unbeaten Americans that most thought had world-class skills. But the promotion, from the choice of venue to both feeble PR efforts by HBO, Shaw and King, perhaps was prophetic because neither of these guys are going to attract much of a following with the skills or performance they showed Saturday night.
Alexander either was poorly prepared for Bradley's head-first, attacking style or didn't know how to cope. Where was his jab? Where was his vaunted uppercut? Why did he try to counter Bradley's billy-goat advances almost exclusively by clinching, which left him even more vulnerable to head butts?
I just don't think Alexander is experienced or good enough to be ready for world-class prime time. He looked limited Saturday night.
Bradley is solid in nearly all facets of the game, but he's not exceptional in anything, except for inadvertently planting his dome into his opponent's eyebrow. That's not enough to beat someone like Pacquiao, Mayweather or Marquez. It might not even be enough to beat Khan, who can boast world-class hand speed in his tool box.
If Bradley and Alexander are among the three best fighters at 140 pounds, then maybe the class isn't as stacked as we thought.
Color me unimpressed.
@tstarks I'll give Bradley the benefit of the doubt. He's shorter than some of his foes, and he never stops trying to get inside.
All of Bradley's opponents by now should know that bull rushes are his staple tactic, yet no one can seem to figure out how to stop or at least parry the head games, pun intended. It's not like Bradley's head features horns or is made of tungsten. At least I don't think so.
That's the big mystery to me.
@PaulKelly You say "inadvertently."
And that is a very small amount of charisma.
Is anybody serious really arguing that the fight shouldn't have happened? What I think is slightly worrying, is that this fight has become a sort of poster child for: see SEE, boxing can still make big fights happen! when really it's just two fighters with no decent names on their resumes other than solidly B-grade fighters (Witter, Urango, Holt). That it's comes to something when this is noteworthy then we are in a pickle.
So yeah, from my perspective, the winner this weekend was Amir Khan and any other boxer hoping to improve his p4p standing. While the two of them may be in the top 5 of their division, any claim for either of them being world class seems harder to make now than it did on Friday.
Bradley seemed game, competent and ultimately limited, while Alexander was pretty dreadful: slapping and moving for much of the fight without any purpose. Add to that the Kotelnik fight (which on a rewatch looks even more of a wrong decision) and he looks a hype job. And yeah, kicking a boxer for losing a fight is one of the seven deadly sins of internet commentating, but I like to think I've escaped that by criticising the winner too [insert reductive and simplistic smiley face]
@Bigmaxy @apemantus Yeah, there were some. Writers like Steve Kim pissed all over the fight happening (although he was open to it happening somewhere down the line) and Doug Fischer weighed in here: http://www.ringtv.com/blog/2739/dougies_monday_mailbag/
As for elevating/diminishing: Neither man looked great. But I don't think that means we can dismiss what they did prior. Bradley and Alexander got to the top of the division honestly. None of them had beaten anybody world class, but they had a variety of B+ wins between them. That they're young explains the short resume and gave the fight a little bit of extra "oomph" in the sense that both had shown promise along the way to getting there.
@apemantus You bring up a good point. It's sad that only thing we have to celebrate about this past weekend is that a fight that needed to get made got made.
This was the kind of fight that was supposed to elevate both boxers, win or lose. I think the exact opposite happened. Alexander is obviously diminished by a loss in which he was thoroughly dominated, headbutts or not. And the fight was so ugly that I don't think anyone really thinks any higher of Bradley after his career-best win,
Back from beautiful Pontiac, Michigan for the fight. This was a bad night for boxing. There's a line in "Badlands" by Bruce Springsteen that kept popping into my mind: "Spend your whole life waiting for a moment that just don't come." That's what Alexander-Bradley was: a moment that never came.
I agree with a lot of what's already been said on this thread. This was a fight that needed to happen, but it almost seems appropriate that it was a terrible boxing match. The Silverdome was an awful venue. I know the published attendance figure was over 6,000; I doubt there were more than 3,500 people in that cavernous eyesore. And I wonder how many of them actually paid to get in. And I don't care how many people were there, it would have been nice to turn on the heat.
I've been to a healthy number of fights, some as a fan, some for work, and I never experienced an atmosphere this bad for any event. I've been a part of better crowds when I had to cover high school volleyball. There was absolutely no reaction when either fighter came to the ring. Part of that was a function of the lack of any jumbotron or video board in the Silverdome. Fans had no idea when the fighters were doing their ring walks, and fans and many media members were confused at the time of the stoppage. Neither fighter got any sort of pop when he was introduced, and without any sort of action or rooting interest, the crowd seemed wholly disinterested throughout the main event.
The fight itself was no better than the venue. From my vantage point, Bradley was dominant. He won all but two rounds on my card, and I'm admittedly biased; I was looking for a reason to give Devon the benefit of the doubt in some rounds. Finding that reason was another moment that never came. If there were 10 meaningful punches landed in the entire fight, Timothy Bradley owned all 10 of them. So much of the dancing and headbutting came in close quarters, where was Alexander's uppercut? You know, the punch that knocked out Juan Urango... Devon Alexander is a very good boxer; the question now becomes is he a good fighter? In a pure boxing match, Devon handles himself just fine, but against Kotelnik and again last night Devon was in a fight, and he didn't comport himself too well.
Is there a bright side to all of this? A fight that needed to get made got made. Because of that, I know there are people who watched boxing for the first time in a while last night, espcially folks here in St. Louis. Unfortunately, I wouldn't blame them for not watching again. But at least I got to see Emanuel Augustus get robbed one more time.
@Bigmaxy "I've been a part of better crowds when I had to cover high school volleyball."
Thanks from your observations from the scene.
Wow. Utterly dissapointing. Great action in spots, with a worst-case scenario ending.
Dear boxing: a race to the bottom it is
This fight was marked by good fighting by both guys in spots. In spots only though. Alexander didn't have what it takes to take over the division. That much is clear now. It looks to me as though he quit, which is sad. I'm not gonna seriously allege anything until more info is out there.
The last few rounds of the fight could have been great. That's mute I guess.
Bradley's THE MAN now, and good on him. He proved it last night. As infuriating as it is to watch him fight.
I'm looking forward to a Bradley-Khan fight. That's the one that has to happen now, and I like Khan's odds.
@The Count of Monte Fisto (boom!) I'm with you -- I have doubts about how much Alexander wanted to keep fighting.
I want to know who the best fighter in each division is. That distinction isn't determined by accumulating titles or belts--which are the product of superiority, not its signifier(see: Berto's 10 title defenses)--but by the battles waged in the ring (a ring located in the arena of public opinion). I understand that the aesthetic of these fights may leave me unsatisfied, that a definitive result may be denied both fighters and fans. But I'll take the best fighting the best whenever possible, especially in a sport without a playoff season. I don't regret watching Bradley-Alexander (though I won't revisit it) and whether I was left unsatisfied by the combat is more a commentary on my expectations and assessments of the fighters (whether accurate or influenced to error by the HBO hype-job), who were simply performing to the best of their abilities. And now we know what many thought before: Bradley is the guy to beat in the division. It's a perhaps a tenuous title, but as long as he keeps fighting elite opposition, keeps risking that title, I'll always watch. I just hope his undercards put aesthetics first.
@jet79 I'm not comfortable with the idea of public opinion deciding a champion. I think you gotta "fight the fights." That's why I like Ring's system of ranking people and filling vacancies via a #1 vs. #2 match-up.
Otherwise: Well said.
For whatever reason I didn't hate this fight as much as everyone else seems to. The end was disappointing, it wasn't poetry or an all action slugfest, but I personally didn't think it was a particularly bad fight, let alone a stinkfest. Bradley's battering ram is an issue but the same issue didn't stop Holyfield from putting together a pretty respectable, and successful, 26-year-and-counting career (OK, so like 18 of those were very respectable and successful, forget the rest).
If anyone thinks Khan is steamrolling Bradley they best hope their favorite doesn't have the same dismissive attitude. I think it will be a long, long time before anyone has an easy night in the ring with Timmy Bradley, aesthetics be damned. Khan would be a deserved favorite for his superior size and speed, but I wouldn't count out Bradley because he was in an ugly fight with a fast, talented southpaw.
@Scott_Kraus Agreed with all of what you said pretty much, and the I think the last "butt" hurt Bradley more than it hurt Alexander. I think Alexander was listening to his corner complain about the head butts and was looking for a way out.
I'm taking Bradley if he fights Khan. I think he stops him.
I agree this fight had to happen, and I'm glad it did. I tend to be sort of turned off by the hype that surrounds run of the mill shit. This was a "good" matchup, not a great one. And as WF said, a relevant one....maybe if we had a string of those we'd wind up with some actual "big" fights.
Bradley is much more a "pro," I'm not sure what we have in Alexander. Wasn't impressed vs. Witter and certainly not Kotelnik. The Urango fight was only noteworthy because of a comparison to Berto's performance agains him. Alexander doesn't seem to have a clear purpose in the ring. Crying out "HAH!" every time you throw doesn't endow your punches with any added significance, maybe in St. Louis? Bradley was getting the better of the action no matter how you slice it. But, Bradley's headbutting is BS, tired of that shit. Alexander is a southpaw..how many orthodox fighters has he fought?....how many ended as a result of a butt? That said, Alexander knew it would be a factor.......he didn't handle it well. I'm not gonna say he went fullblown "Ortiz." but I didn't like what I saw.
How funny that after all the BS cyber-psychobabble Khan "could" wind up the best of the Jr. Welters, in it's golden age. If Alexander has a clause, he has a clause....but I don't want to see these guys rematch. In fact I'm not looking forward to watching either fight next time. But, it should be Bradley/Khan next, Pacquiao isn't a realistic expectation coming off this fight for a couple reasons.
At least Alexander won that coin toss!
@JohnPaulFutbol HBO apparently has the right to decide on the rematch clause. And they ain't gonna take it. At least not anytime soon. So, your wish is granted.
Neither the deliverer nor the recipient of the head butts covered himself in glory via the act.
I said many months ago that Khan would run through either of these guys.
Is there anyone who really doubts that at this point?
Let Amir obliterate Bradley and become undisputed champion. Then Bradley and Alexander can fight their rematch if they still want to. I don't want to wait around another 6 months to see these two setlle their difference in another borefest.
@Duan I'd go with Amir over Bradley, yeah. But there's at least one person in this thread who doubts that.
After that awesome roll we were on throughout November and December, we were due for a stinker. And "stinker" may be too harsh. For all the anticipation coming into this fight, given their by now well established styles, the thought that this fight could be a disappointment from an entertainment perspective did cross my mind. Indeed, I tweeted something during the Lopez/Dallas fight on FNF that "I hope DA/Desert Storm" doesn't look like this."
Having said that, I agree 100% with the tenor of your thoughts Tim. Even if everyone knew coming in that the fight was going to be less than satisfying (which we didn't), and even if there was a reluctance on HBO's part to pay for it (which there also wasn't-- if anything they took things too far in the other direction--again), it still had to be fought. Its a divisional 1 vs. 2 (or 3) match up and they are by definition are meaningful even if the programming Dr. Frankenstein's who like to play matchmaker may disagree. Does the World Series get cancelled this year if the Phils and the "Greatest Starting Rotation ever put together" wind up facing an AL squad with few bats in the line up? Of course not. The programming/entertainment value doesn't trump the relevance. If anything we need to get back to the time when the relevance IS a good portion of the programming value-- and the only way to do so if to have the divisions mean something once again. Though this bout was unsatisfying, HBO should be given props for making this happen (even if they perhaps overpaid) and remember that looking prospectively. Let the divisions dictate the matchups--- don't force feed us with enabled "stars" you have created out of whole cloth (Berto) or otherwise hold out only for "superfights" that no one really asks for (and makes the divisions irrelevant).
Not hating, but, this fight continues the pattern for me and Desert Storm-- the more times I see him, the less enjoyable it is to watch him. The Peterson fight perhaps being the exception. Who else historically has had that same sort of aggressive style that he has while lacking much pop? And I suppose one man's "crafty head movement" is another's weaponization. Call it a hunch, but I think Maidana would give him lots of trouble--and could finish what Kendell Holt didn't. Maybe even Lucas Mathysse (unless he holds back like he did inexplicably did against Judah). I could see Tim's style perhaps posing problems for Kahn-- but I don't think that would necessarily be insurmountable. As for Alexander, its only a loss, a lesson learned (I hope) and an opportunity missed. I don't think he's going anywhere, and, the insta-critics notwithstanding, still want to see more of him. Maybe match him against Peterson.
The Ring not putting their belt on the line for the winner of this fight looks like the right call-- in hindsight. Having said that (and not to open this can of worms again), but the whole "discretion" in which fight is and isn't "belt worthy" still grates on me. Better than the trinkets, absolutely; but, like the BCS, its not "the" wholly satisfying answer either.
@WILLFRANK Yeah, the trinkets are even MORE discretionary, though. The Ring goes #1 and #2 almost every time and only occasionally makes exceptions.
Some of the head movement was crafty, on defense -- the rest, as I noted, was weaponization (to steal your word). Bradley isn't a puncher and he isn't even off the charts technically, but he won't stay off you. He gets a lot done that way.
I agree, had to happen. Shaw wants Mayweather next hahaha. Ricky Hatton would have dealt with the butts like he did with low blows, send one back. Amir Khan should start practicing now and just intentionaly headbutt Bradley right on the brow in the first round if they fight. Hard to argue it is unintentional from Bradley. Because he is never the one to come off worse and by the law of averages he should of by now.
Overpaid or not, I agree that HBO was right in showing this fight. The two fighters are top 3 in the 140 lbs. rating and we will still be speculating how they will do with each other if the fight did not happen. At least now "so called" boxing experts/analysts will scramble to reason out why the fight did not do well and did not make the grade as a great fight. Also, now it will be clearer to them why Bob Arum chooses a named fighter over a supposed to be good fighter with no audience pull to face Manny Pacquiao. Boxing is a business, too.
By the way, it did stop in the 10th by an accidental headbutt albeit with technical decision. Alexander though complained about his right eye not seeing caused by an unseen (by the referee) accidental headbutt at the end of the 3rd. :)
@JayAriYin I understand why Bob chose Mosley; I think he'd have been better off picking Marquez. Business-wise.