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Devon Alexander vs. Kell Brook: Will the IBF Title Fight Actually Happen?

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 20:  Randall Bailey and  Devon Alexander exchange punches during their IBF welterweight title fight at the Barclays Center on October 20, 2012 in the Brooklyn Borough of New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images for Golden Boy Promotions)
Al Bello/Getty Images
Zachary AlapiCorrespondent IJanuary 2, 2017

After wresting the IBF welterweight title from Randall Bailey over 12 uneventful rounds on the historic boxing card at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Devon Alexander, while displaying sound tactics, did little to endear himself to fight fans.

According to a report on ESPN.com’s UK outlet, Alexander's trainer, Kevin Cunningham, is already complicating the prospect of the mandatory defense owed to England’s Kell Brook. Brook became the IBF’s official challenger at 147 pounds after knocking out Hector Saldivia the same day Alexander (24-1, 13 KO) scored his victory:

However, the champion [Alexander] is not prepared to fight Brook in England, and he is even hesitant about taking on 'The Special One' in the States. Alexander's trainer, Kevin Cunningham, says there is little money to be made due to Brook's lack of reputation.

Brook’s lone appearance on American soil to date was a fifth-round technical knockout of obscure Luis Galarza at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall in December 2011. While that result hardly registers as a significant win for Brook, the Sheffield-native has scored solid victories in the UK, which should not be discounted when negotiating a fight against Alexander.

Cunningham, in this instance, seems to be of the mindset that Brook’s credibility as a title challenger has more to do with where he has fought as opposed to who he has defeated:

You'd have thought his [Brook’s] promoter would've got him over [to the U.S.] more than just the once to gain him some notoriety.

It'll have to happen [the fight] in the States. No way is Devon going to England. We have no problem taking the fight but Devon has no reason to go over there.

Alexander does have a fan base in St. Louis, but after his fight against Bailey produced minimal action—regardless of who was at fault—it would be surprising if a major network was desperate to air Alexander-Brook, especially if Brook (29-0, 19 KO) is as anonymous as Alexander's camp suggests.

 

It is also clear that Alexander has no intention of vacating his newly acquired IBF strap.

Cunningham, in the above-cited article, stated that “If Kell Brook wants it [the title] then he and his team can come and get it.”

The talk from team Alexander implies a definitive position of power in terms of negotiating. The reality, however, is that Alexander isn’t exactly in prime demand for mega-fights with the major players hovering around the welterweight division.

Imagine trying to sell an Alexander-Floyd Mayweather fight.

Alexander’s skills and pedigree have never been doubted. He is a fast, technically proficient boxer who always enters the ring in tremendous condition. A two-division champion and former unified junior welterweight titlist, Alexander, at 25, has already proven himself as a championship-caliber fighter. The fact remains that he has not captured the imagination of the broader boxing public.

Perhaps this has something to do with his underwhelming technicial decision loss in a highly publicized 140-pound unification fight against Timothy Bradley in 2011. Or maybe it was his controversial split-decision victory over Lucas Matthysse in his very next fight.

Regardless, Alexander's recent fights have lacked an explosive performance.

Given Cunningham’s statements, it is abundantly clear that a fight against Brook will have to be contested on team Alexander’s terms. The fallacy here is that those above Alexander on the welterweight marketability pecking order likely feel the same way about him.

As champion, Alexander naturally deserves financial leverage to negotiate a fight against Brook. His reluctance to travel to England is understandable, to a certain degree. The interesting caveat to this match-up is that wherever it occurs, it will be a far more significant event in the UK than in the United States.

An Alexander-Brook fight for the IBF title is intriguing and has the potential to produce excitement and displays of genuine class. Brook looked outstanding in his recent win, and part of the problem Alexander had in his last fight was that Bailey threw only 17 punches per round and landed 45 total shots, the lowest total ever for a 12-round fight in the 27-year history of CompuBox.

Given his immense talent, perhaps Alexander a skilled fighter like Brook to bring out the best in him. Maybe some thought this would be the case against Timothy Bradley when both were belt holders, but that fight ended up being a stylistic nightmare. That said, even if Alexander’s stock has stagnated, it might be premature to give up on the St. Louis-native’s prospects of having a genuine breakthrough performance.

Brook has seemingly been a contender for years, and he is certainly due to step up in competition. Hopefully he will get his chance against Alexander before pursuing the likes of a rebuilding Amir Khan or the ghost of Ricky Hatton. Unfortunately, how Alexander-Brook will get made remains a mystery.

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