Devon Alexander may be the best junior welterweight in the world. But the young titlist wont know for sure until he steps in the ring with his fellow youthful belt-holders Amir Khan and Timothy Bradley, who hold the other two titles in the division. Alexanders first step towards unification is this Saturday when he defends his WBC and IBF titles against top contender Andriy Kotelnik. A spectacular win and many believe HBO will put Alexander and Bradley in the ring in January 2011.
Devon Alexander says hes ready for the task. Read his thoughts on Don King, Cory Spinks, dealing with fame and his junior welterweight rivals.
AllHipHop.com: Thanks for making time I know the schedule is tight moving into Saturdays fight. The bout with Andriy Kotelnik is a good fight, but obviously not the belt unifying contest you are looking for. How have you been able to stay focused knowing that bigger fights are on the horizon?
Devon Alexander: Well, every fight I get in the ring with is important. Its always one more step towards me becoming a superstar in the game. So I take every fight seriously; the guy could have 20 losses. This is a solid fight, no pushover. Kotelnik is going to be ready and thats why we went to camp for seven weeks.
AllHipHop.com: For casual fans let everyone know what goes into your training regimen.
Alexander: Mondays is sparring days and we spar 10 rounds and do drills on the bag afterward. Tuesday we go to Mount Charleston and run four miles, which is the equivalent of running 10 miles flat ground since we going up and elevating. The air is thinner and you got to push yourself because youve never going in a straight line. Its a monster camp and were ready.
AllHipHop.com: Whats the strategy for Kotelnik? Hes very crafty and smart defensively.
Alexander: Well we know he likes to keep his hands up. We know anytime we shoot and turn our feet and sit there, hes gonna try and get off his punches. We have a monster plan for that. Were not going to be there for him to even get set to get anything off. Thats the only way he would be able to. We have a game plan to throw a lot of punches.
AllHipHop.com: You have a team handling the business side, but how active are you in those affairs? Do you look into what your team has mapped out or do you just focus on fighting?
Alexander: I pretty much focus on fighting, but if its something I dont want to do Ill definitely say so. I look at things and make the final decision, but other than that I let them do what they do in preparing strategies.
AllHipHop.com: I know Floyd Mayweather was looking at you as a sparring partner if the Pacquiao negotiations came off. Did you guys ever get a chance to spar?
Alexander: No, but I was very hype about it. I wish we would have. That would have been a lot of exposure and cameras around to let people know a new champion was on the rise. Everything happens for a reason, though.
AllHipHop.com: Cory Spinks has been a mentor to you throughout your career. Talk about the biggest lessons youve learned from him.
Alexander: When Cory first started off he was southpaw and so was I. I was with him in the amateurs and when he first turned pro with Top Rank. I was observing how he threw and slipped punches. The first best thing was I used to go a lot of his fights and observe the pro ranks. And the second was when he became undisputed [Writers Note: Cory Spinks became the undisputed welterweight champion in 2003 by defeating Ricardo Mayorga]. I saw that and it helped me a lot to know I can do it. I had the same coach, camp and regimen. I knew if I worked twice as hard I could be in the same position he was.
He taught me to stay focused, relaxed and have fun in the ring. He does have fun in there. Ive been doing this since I was seven. Theres no pressure, just a bigger stage being on HBO.
AllHipHop.com: The fights in your hometown of St. Louis. Cory Spinks had a big homecoming there for his 2005 rematch with Zab Judah. I remember the big entrance he had with Nelly but he ended up losing by KO. A lot of people get distracted fighting at home preparing all those theatrics. Are you planning to go the same route or go for something more subdued?
Alexander: Were not going to have anything extravagant. Were going to do the same visual entrance. We may add a little spice to it, but thats it. At home you do want to give your fans a good time for supporting you. We are going to have a good outfit and a little bit of everything. Its a good card all around so well have a lot of action-packed stuff.
AllHipHop.com: Don King is a polarizing figure in boxing. What has been your interaction with him so far in your career?
Alexander: What Ive learned is that people go by what they hear and what they havent actually experienced yet. I was the same way. But when youre with a person you realize theyre not what people portray them as when they demonize them. Hes a good man, a passionate guy about the sport. Hes here to get paid and get money, thats the name of the game. People get it misconstrued but he does care about the fighter and the fighters safety. He tries to get the best opportunities to come his fighters way. All the things that are said are just not true. Don Kings a legendary promoter, Hall of Fame and a good man.
AllHipHop.com: Your name is starting to get out there, and you know that can strain relationships with friends and family. What have been your experiences with that?
Alexander: Thats where Cory came in. He taught ne to keep the snakes out. Its just in me. Im a family man and have five people around me. My big brother is my assistant coach, my chiropractor is my ex-school teacher whos like a father figure, and Kevin Cunningham is my trainer and like a brother. I have people around who care about me and have done everything for me. Thats how Im going to keep it.
I grew up in a big 13 family room house. I love my family and what I do. But Id rather stick with my sisters and brothers than bring somebody in from outside. I keep it simple.
AllHipHop.com: Regarding your trainer Kevin Cunningham, what do you think is the biggest misconception people have about him?
Alexander: They might see him as just a feisty trainer that dont take no stuff, which he dont but theres a reason for it. He has a good heart and if he says hes going to do something, he does it 100% with all his heart. Hes a hard worker. They say hes kind of mean, but after hes done with that hell buy you a steak or a hamburger and laugh about it. Good man.
AllHipHop.com: Youve been pretty dominant but have been in there with some wily veterans. Who would you rate to date as your toughest opponent regarding making adjustments?
Alexander: I would say Junior Witter was. I wouldnt say he was the most gifted fighter, but he was the weirdest. You had to make sure you werent hit with punches you didnt see. He tries to fight like Prince Naseem. I had to relax more and really come up with a game plan to keep him off his game plan because the whole fight he tries to keep you off. With all that crazy stuff he tries Junior Witter is the toughest.
(Alexander-Witter Highlights Start at 3:15 Mark)
AllHipHop.com: I know Don King and [Timothy Bradley] promoter Gary Shaw were trying to get together a 140 pound tournament. The rumor was Golden boy refused but did you personally here any other reason why it didnt come off like the Super Six for the super-middleweights?
Alexander: I dont know what happened to it. Its a good thing to have and talk about, but other than that I really dont care. At the end of the day after the talking and bickering, the best will prevail in the division. The best will show everyone in the next couple of years. You cant duck and dodge a certain person forever. In the end the best will be the best.
AllHipHop.com: Building on that do you see yourself at junior welterweight for at least the next few years?
Alexander: Yeah, Im pretty settled at 140 and making it pretty easy. But Im only 23 and I will grow so Im willing to move up to 147 eventually. But right now Im very comfortable.
AllHipHop.com: You have the WBC and IBF belts so youre halfway to unification. How do you think the other champions Amir Khan and Timothy Bradley did in their recent bouts against Paulie Malignaggi and Carlos Abregu?
Alexander: I mean Bradley had a walking duck. The guy he fought wasnt even that crafty and he lasted 12 rounds with the guy. I dont see why he didnt even try to put it on him more. The guy he fought was just raggedy. I dont see why he didnt just totally dominate him but the guy was in the fight a little bit.
Amir Khan with Malignaggi, they knew what they were doing when they cherry-picked him. They want to protect Amir Khans chin. They knew he would be way too much for Malignaggi. Amir Khan, he has a lot of flaws too. He has a good jab but hes nothing special; hes a solid fighter just like the rest of them. Everyone in this division, they have skills but I dont see anything special that they have thats any threat [to me].
AllHipHop.com: Before we close any final thoughts to put out there for the fans?
Alexander: I want to thank AllHipHop.com for having me on. Its the first time, the first of many times! I want to thank all my supporters out there, and tune in August 7 for a spectacular performance.
Ismael AbduSalaam is a freelance journalist and senior staff writer at AllHipHop.com. His work can also been seen daily at Beats, Boxing and Mayhem.
Devon Alexander vs. Andriy Kotelnik takes place this Saturday August 7 on HBO at 10PM. The undercard features Glen Johnson vs. Tavoris Cloud.