The former two-division world champion is now training under Roy Jones Jr. and is excited to unveil his new style against Ivan Redkach in their welterweight showdown Saturday night on FS1.
Roy Jones Jr. said it would be “the best comeback story in a long time.”
Devon Alexander, Jones’ new protégé, said “it will have to make it to HBO,” meaning it would be worthy of a documentary. And they might be right.
Alexander was once a bright young star, having won three major titles in two divisions by the age of 25. He started his career with a record of 25-1 – including victories over prime versions of Lucas Matthysse and Marcos Maidana, as well as a close setback against Tim Bradley – and it seemed the best was yet to come.
Alas, his career and life spiraled downward at that point. He is only 2-4-1 since his peak period, a decline that transformed him into a has-been in the public eye.
What went wrong?
Alexander became addicted to painkillers following surgery to remove a blood clot from his nose in 2012, shortly after his near-shutout victory over Maidana. He simply couldn’t battle both his dependence and his opponents and maintain the level of excellence he had exhibited earlier in his career.
Alexander acknowledged the addiction but said he didn’t want to discuss it in detail. However, he described his unfortunate journey to the Associated Press last year.
“Every doctor prescribes pain medication, and this was my first time taking anything, any medicine, and I don't drink or smoke,” Alexander told the AP before his split-decision loss to Andre Berto in April of last year. “A couple weeks after surgery I found myself taking the medicine when I didn't need to, and it gradually got worse. I was taking it again and again. Before you knew it, I was skipping the gym. After a year and a half of it – I am a private person, anyone in boxing will tell you I am – it was very difficult to tell anyone.”
He went on: “Everyone looked at me as there is no way Devon would do that. But I had done it. It turned my life upside down.”
Alexander continued to box during the early stages of his struggle but not up to his standards. He lost three out of four fights between 2013 and 2015, unanimous decisions against Shawn Porter (who took his IBF welterweight title), Amir Khan and Aaron Martinez.
That’s when he decided to leave boxing temporarily to solve his problem. He was away for two years and, he said, that did the trick. With help, he said, he was able to beat his addiction.
Alexander returned with a unanimous-decision victory over journeyman Walter Castillo in November 2017 but then learned how difficult it is to reclaim past form, as he drew with Victor Ortiz the following February and lost a close decision to Berto.
“ When I’m happy, I’m at my best. ” Former Two-Division World Champion - Devon Alexander
Alexander, who is only 32 now, said he felt fine physically but wasn’t where he needed to be psychologically. He needed a change.
The respected trainer Kevin Cunningham had been Alexander’s mentor since he started boxing as a child and guided him to his greatest successes but, Alexander said, he was no longer growing as a fighter. That impacted his confidence and in turn his performances.
“You know, with boxing, a lot of it’s mental,” he said. “What someone is feeding you, what you’re hearing is important. I think I could beat both (Ortiz and Berto) easily but mentally I wasn’t 100 percent.”
Enter Roy Jones.
Alexander came up with the idea of contacting Jones in part because of the future Hall of Famer and television analyst’s commentary during Alexander’s fights on HBO. He would listen to Jones on videos and think, “Yeah, that’s right.” As Jones put it, “He knew I understood him from a distance.”
That and the fact they have similar tools – quickness and elusiveness, among them – led Alexander to reach out to his new coach.
“I always thought he was a great fighter,” Jones said. “Sometimes a great fighter, if he’s not careful, becomes stagnant. You sometimes have to make changes in your career so that doesn’t happen. Every fighter goes through that. You need to change to grow.
“What were my first impressions? I was highly impressed with his speed. I forgot how fast he is. But you have to ease your way back no matter how good you are. Then you can get back to where you want to be.”
Of course, Alexander wants to be where he was between 2009 and 2012, his peak years. And he feels he’s now on track to get there.
“It feels good,” Alexander said. “I’m happy. That’s the main thing. I’m happy with where I am at this point of my career. I’ve gotten back to having fun and working hard at the same time. When I’m happy, I’m at my best. That’s a recipe for success. I think it’s reasonable to doubt me after what I’ve been through. I can’t blame anyone for that. It’s up to me to change that, to get the nasty taste out of people’s mouths.
“Roy is bringing out the best in me. And I’m just soaking it in. He’s not trying to change me, to give me his DNA. He’s trying to enhance my DNA, what I bring to the fight game. I’m excited to get in there and show what I can do.”
Jones, 50, also is enjoying the process. He announced his retirement in February but still embraces a challenge. He was asked whether he’s excited about his latest project.
“I sure am,” he said. “I love being against all odds, when people doubt me. That makes me feel good, doing something unexpected. Devon Alexander is going to surprise lot of people.”
For a closer look at Devon Alexander, check out his fighter page.