Former two-division world champion Devon Alexander and Ivan Redkach square off in a true crossroads welterweight battle Saturday night on FS1.
“Must win” is a boxing cliché at this point, but, sometimes, a “must win” really is a “must win.”
This Saturday, June 1, former two-division world champion Devon Alexander "The Great" (27-5-1, 14 KOs) faces the all-action Ivan "El Terrible" Redkach (22-4-1, 17 KOs) in a crucial showdown for both comeback-minded fighters.
The Premier Boxing Champions 10-round welterweight main event will be broadcast live on FS1 and FOX Deportes from Soboba Casino Resort in San Jacinto, California (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT) with a co-main event pitting Hugo Centeno Jr. against Willie Monroe Jr. in a battle of middleweight contenders.
Despite the best of intentions on his part, the comeback of former welterweight and junior welterweight titlist Alexander has been less than glorious. After a battle through painkiller addiction that saw the talented southpaw lose his professional focus and then, literally, lose 25 months of prime career time, he is only 1-1-1 in his comeback bid.
Numbers on paper can be deceiving, though.
In many eyes, Alexander deserved the decision in his last two bouts and not the split decision loss and majority draw that are on his official record against Andre Berto and Victor Ortiz.
The 32-year-old St. Louis native, however, acknowledges that taking his foot off the gas in those fights—a function of fatigue, according to him. To help with this, Alexander brought in the legendary Roy Jones Jr. as new head trainer.
"I made the change because I just felt like it was time for me to try something different,” Alexander told ESPN. “When I talked to Roy Jones Jr., a future Hall of Famer and living legend, he said he can help with my comeback. I didn't want to pass up the opportunity to see what we could do together. After speaking to him, I really felt like it was a perfect match. He truly understands what it's like for a fighter, like myself, who is making a comeback at this stage of his career."
When at his best, Alexander is, physically, very close to the complete package. He’s skillful on defense and quick and efficient on offense, employing angles and timing to both defend and attack. A counter-puncher at heart, he sets traps for opponents and is quick to take advantage of mistakes.
What has held Alexander back, though, are occasional lapses in focus and, most recently, late-fight fading that allows opposition to come back and take rounds.
The 33-year-old Redkach is hoping to take advantage of those flaws and walk away with the upset because, for him, this one is also a “must win.”
An alternate on the 2008 Ukraine Olympic boxing team, Redkach moved to Los Angeles in 2009 to take advantage of the better sparring and training available in the Latino-heavy Southern California scene and battled his way to an 18-0 record before being stopped by Dejan Zlaticanin in 2015. Since that fourth round TKO loss, the one-time lightweight top prospect has had an uneven run.
Sporting a 4-3-1 record in his subsequent eight post-Zlaticanin bouts, Redkach has been outboxed by Tevin Farmer and Argenis Mendez in 2016 and 2017, respectively, and blasted away by John Molina Jr. in a four-round Fight of the Year brawl in late 2017.
Despite the losses, the southpaw is still what he always was—a naturally aggressive fighter whose instincts are complimented by a well-rounded skill set born of extensive amateur experience. He likes to work both upstairs and downstairs, mixing things up well, and has an effective uppercut coming from both right and left sides. He’s also expressed an affinity for a “Mexican style” left hook, which he credits to his work with Leo Santa Cruz, the Santa Cruz family, and other Mexican fighters.
Redkach’s greatest weakness is an inability to dominate in any one particular style. A jack of all trades, the Ukrainian falls a bit short in punching power against heavy-handed brawlers and is not quite quick or smooth enough to outbox stylists.
The move to the easier-to-make welterweight division should do wonders for his all-around conditioning and may add some snap to his punches. In the past, Redkach acknowledged that he would have to drop as much as 30 lbs. to make weight.
Whatever the case, Redkach knows that there can be no more backward steps if he wants to reach the very top of a sport that has been his life since he was 6 years old.
"This fight is very important to me and I appreciate the opportunity to compete against a fighter like Devon Alexander," said Redkach. "I am always in the gym and ready to fight, but I am also preparing mentally for the challenge ahead and to be at my very best. Devon Alexander is a good fighter with a name people know, but after my performance on June 1, they will know me too."
Alexander-Redkach is going to come down to speed and timing and that may make Alexander’s sharpness and focus the determining factors in the bout.
Alexander will try to do what he usually does. He’ll show Redkach angles and try to counter off any mistakes. The problem will be that while Redkach can be beaten with speed and power, he just doesn’t make all that many mistakes to counter and, overall, has respectable athleticism of his own.
This means that Alexander will have to step out of his usual game and go on the attack more than usual or risk losing another close fight on the scorecards that should’ve been a decisive win. If/when Alexander opens up, Redkach has a chance to score and win rounds.
Both need to fight with urgency or face another career-stalling loss that will leave them in an even deeper hole than before with less time to climb out. This “must win” really is a “must win.”
For a closer look at Alexander-Redkach, check out our fight night page.