Former two-division world champion meets Nicaraguan slugger Walter Castillo tonight in welterweight showdown on FS1.
After dropping three of his last four fights and being out of action for a little more than two years, it would be easy to assume that former junior welterweight and welterweight champion Devon Alexander is finished, washed-up, over-the-hill. It would also be an uninformed assumption.
And he is out to prove the skeptics wrong Tuesday night when he faces Walter Castillo in St. Petersburg, Florida in a 10-round welterweight match on PBC on FS1 “Toe-To-Toe Tuesdays’’ at 7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT.
“I can’t blame [critics] because what they were seeing is what they were seeing,” Alexander said. “They didn’t know what was going on with me, so I can’t blame nobody for what they are thinking because at the end of the day I have to get the job done.”
The 30-year-old Alexander (26-4-0 with 14 KOs) hasn’t displayed the power, speed, agility and overall boxing skills inside the ring that once placed him among the sport’s most-exciting champions since he defeated Marcos Maidana by a lopsided unanimous decision in February 2015.
Interestingly, Alexander has never taken an illicit drug. He’s never even had a beer. Sadly, however, drugs would play a role in Alexander’s recent career performance. The ex-champ began taking the prescription drug Tramadol to relieve excruciating pain in his nose that he experienced after the Maidana victory — an injury that was originally caused by a head-butt Alexander took during a pre-fight sparring session.
Despite constant questioning before the bout by longtime trainer Kevin Cunningham regarding his overall wellbeing, Alexander claimed he was OK. After the fight, however, the swelling and pain increased, forcing Cunningham to have Alexander examined by several top-level doctors. They found blood clotting in Alexander’s nose.
Tramadol was prescribed, which quickly reduced the pain and swelling. But Tramadol is an opioid and highly addictive. Alexander, who loved being pain-free continued taking the drug. He kept this information to himself, unaware that he’d become addicted to the drug.
But a highly-respected, highly-skilled trainer like Cunningham noticed a drop off in Alexander’s performance during training camps. Whenever Cunningham asked his fighter if something was bothering him, Alexander responded negatively.
“ My back is against the wall, so I have to go out with both guns blazing and show them that I’m still who I was a few years ago when I beat Maidana and all those other top fighters. ” Former World Campion Devon Alexander
After Maidana, Alexander would win his next two fights—even claiming the 147-pound title by unanimous decision over Randall Bailey in October 2012 and defending it several months later by retiring Lee Purdy in seven.
Despite those victories, Cunningham didn’t see the speed, power or overall boxing skills that made Alexander an elite welterweight. The sluggishness continued and Alexander would lose three of his next four, including his title belt to Shawn Porter.
But it would be Alexander’s loss to Aaron Martinez that proved to be the final straw for Cunningham.
“When he lost that last fight to Martinez, I told him: ‘Until I find out what’s what the hell is going on with you, you’ll never get back in the ring. I won’t be in the corner if you get back in the ring,’” Cunningham said. “You won’t go back to the ring with me.”
A few months after receiving Cunningham’s stern warning, Alexander called his trainer/friend and revealed his addiction to the painkiller. Cunningham took immediate action: getting Alexander in a rehabilitation program that the former champ totally committed to. After many months of rehab, Alexander’s body is now opioid-free. And it’s noticeable in the gym.
“He’s looking like that guy [who was once the world champion],” Cunningham said. “And I wouldn’t say that if it wasn’t the case.”
The skills are back, the sluggishness is gone and expectations are extremely high. But Castillo (26-4-1, 19 KOs) is no cupcake. He is the type of fighter who is also looking to get his career back on the right track, after a mark of 1-2-1 in his four most recent outings.
The stakes, however, are much higher for Alexander.
He must show that he’s completely back to being one of boxing’s best in its deepest division. His showdown with Castillo is, without doubt, the biggest of his career: win in spectacular fashion or retirement will be on the table for discussion.
“This is the most important fight of my career,” Alexander said. “This is a defining moment [in] my career. My back is against the wall, so I have to go out with both guns blazing and show them that I’m still who I was a few years ago when I beat Maidana and all those other top fighters. That’s all I’m focused on. This fight means everything.”
For a complete look at Alexander vs Castillo, visit our fight page