Rising star Devon Alexander (21-0-0, 13 KO) was expected by most to cruise by former champion Andriy Kotelnik this past weekend. Kotelnik (31-4-1, 13 KO) must have missed the memo however, as he turned out to be more than a minor speed bump on Alexander's road to the top of the sport.
While Alexander was able to escape with a unanimous decision victory, he was not able to duck criticism from a large portion of the boxing community, some of whom felt he received a bit of a hometown decision.
My general philosophy is that judging is best left to the judges. So considering that I'm a fan and not a professional judge, I won't question the decision. However, it is legitimate to wonder at this point if Alexander was over hyped coming into this fight.
The ultra-skilled phenom that dominated Juan Urango (22-3-1, 17 KO) back in March was nowhere to be found Saturday night. The knockout that seemed to come so effortlessly against Urango never even looked like a possibility during the tough fight he had with Kotelnik. In fact, if either fighter was ever legitimately hurt, it was probably Alexander.
Looking at the fight from a different angle though, one might want to think twice about being too hard on the kid. In this case he may have been the victim of a situation where his opponent was getting too much credit for keeping it close. It is often the case that in a fight that is closer than expected, the underdog is perceived to be winning just because he isn't badly losing.
Experienced HBO judge Harold Lederman actually had Alexander winning by an even wider margin than the official judges, stating correctly over and over that Alexander was outworking Kotelnik. While Kotelnik was more accurate, he wasn't pressing the action. Also, Kotelnik was out landed in the power punch department, relying mostly on jabs to Alexander's right eye. A semi-serious cut on that eye was ruled to be caused by a head-butt, so it is debatable how much damage Kotelnik actually did with his punches.
After the fight, Alexander called out fellow American champion Timothy Bradley. Bradley (26-0-0, 11 KO) is ranked at the top of the 140 pound division by both Boxrec and The Ring.
While some may question his readiness to deal with Bradley's ability and experience, especially after a mediocre performance against Kotelnik, the fighter he should be more worried about at this time is probably British belt holder Amir Khan.
Khan (23-1-0, 17 KO) has an upright, jabbing style that is similar in some ways to Kotelnik. However, Khan is larger and much more athletic, which implies that he likely would give Alexander even more trouble.
Khan looks especially good right now considering that he has easily beaten Kotelnik, and is coming off a more dominant performance in his last fight than either Bradley or Alexander.
At the end of the day though, Alexander did what he was supposed to do on Saturday, which was win the fight. He's still an undefeated unified champion, and he's still only 23 years old. He may not have had his best stuff against Kotelnik, but don't jump off the bandwagon just yet.