Former World Champ Devon Alexander victorious in long-awaited ring return

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Former two-division world champion Devon Alexander might not have gotten the KO he wanted in his first bout back in 25 months, but he did score an early knockdown on his way to unanimous decision victory over Walter Castillo—which also offered him the opportunity to call out the division's best.

Considering all that he’s overcome and the amount of time he’s been away from the ring, Devon Alexander was awfully critical of his comeback performance following a 25-month absence.

The former two-division world champion was nearly flawless in a dominant 10-round unanimous decision win over Walter Castillo in their Premier Boxing Champions on FS1 headlining bout Tuesday evening at The Coliseum in St. Petersburg, Florida. Scores were 100-89 (twice) and 96-93 for Alexander, who posted his first victory since beating Jesus Soto Karass more than three years ago.

“It feels good to return,” Alexander told FS1’s Jordan Hardy following his victory. “I have to thank God. He sent me through a journey I didn’t know I was supposed to go to. I’m thankful.”

The journey on which he embarked was a years-long opioid addiction dating back to his 2012 win over the now-retired Marcos Maidana. A life spent on the sidelines appeared to be in the cards for Alexander before coming clean to his longtime head trainer and father figure Kevin Cunningham upon setting the stage for his comeback.

Alexander, who is still just 30 years old. came out strong from the opening bell. Having followed his trainer to his new West Palm Beach training headquarters, the southpaw was physically stronger both in appearance and execution. His underrated punching power was evident in round two, when a right uppercut, straight left combination deposited Castillo onto the canvas for the bout’s lone knockdown.

Despite the early surge and a solid boxing effort over the long haul, the St. Louis native insists there is far more work to be done.

“My coach was telling me to pick it up,” Alexander said of the between-round advice from the always direct Cunningham. “Rust got to me a little bit being out for (25 months). By round eight, I was picking up, but it’s only a 10 rd fight, Overall I give myself a C-minus.”

Frustration was evident in Castillo, who two years ago was one win away from contending for a world title but has since fallen on hard times. A draw to Keita Obara put his title aspirations on hold, and he’s only fought once since then—a fourth-round knockout loss to Sergey Lipinets (now a world champion) last summer.

The 29-year old from Nicaragua came in well-intended but was outmatched across the board. Efforts to assert himself had a negative effect, as he was warned by referee Frank Santore for an intentional foul after grabbing Alexander in a headlock and punching atop his head.

“I’ll fight anybody. Keith Thurman, Errol Spence. I’ll fight anybody. Whoever my coach say, bring it on.” Former World Campion Devon Alexander

It only added to what was a struggling night at the office for Castillo, who managed to win some rounds late in the fight only after a win was well out of reach.

“He kept moving side to side and didn’t really stay in there and fight,” said Castillo, who is now 0-2-1 in his last three starts as he falls to 26-5-1 (19KOs). “I wanted him to run less but I just kept coming forward trying to throw punches. I got dazed a little from the knockdown but nothing bad. That was more about his speed.”

The foregone conclusion was a testament to Alexander’s consistency over the 10-round affair in his first fight since a shocking points loss to Aron Martinez in Oct. ’15. It marked his second straight defeat and thoughts of retirement as he battled drug addiction and health issues.

Now drug and injury-free, the reborn welterweight hopeful is eager to return a lot sooner than 25 months from now.

“I’m going to talk to my coach Kevin, but I’d like to fight as soon as possible,” insists Alexander (27-4, 14KOs), who has held titles at super lightweight and welterweight. “I’m on a journey.”

To where that journey leads remains to be seen. It could very well result in a title shot at some point in 2018 assuming all goes well. One such interested observer was ringside in the form of local hero and unbeaten, unified welterweight champion Keith Thurman. The undefeated fighting pride of Clearwater, Florida—who trains out of Dan Birmingham’s facility in St. Petersburg—acknowledged his plans for a title defense in the first quarter of 2018.

A title fight isn’t likely that soon for Alexander, but one such champion he’d definitely like to add to his wish list for the year ahead.

“What do he got that I ain’t got,” Alexander rhetorically asked. "I got skills, I got power—as you can see in the beginning of the fight—I got power.

“I’ll fight anybody. Keith Thurman, Errol Spence. I’ll fight anybody. Whoever my coach say, bring it on.”

Cruz stays perfect with UD win over Grayton

It could even be another welterweight contender on the PBC circuit for his next fight. One such candidate could be Lake Mary (FL) rising prospect Miguel Cruz, who retained his perfect record following a hard-fought 10-round win over David Grayton.

Scores for the televised opener were 96-93 across the board for Cruz, who scored a 6th round knockdown of D.C.’s Grayton to help seal the win. The Florida-based Puerto Rican was forced to brave a cut over his right eyebrow which came from an accidental clash of heads, as well as a relentless effort from his visiting foe.

Grayton (15-2-1, 11 KOs) was forced to settle for a highly questionable draw verdict versus Kermit Cintron in his opponent’s Reading, Penn. hometown this past March. With that in mind, the 30-year old southpaw knew not to expect any favors from the judges in fighting a regional favorite. Try as he might, he came up just short on the cards and is now winless in his last two starts.

Meanwhile, Cruz (17-0, 11 KOs) wraps up a 4-0 campaign in 2017 that also includes a pair of wins over the previously unbeaten Alex Martin.

For a complete look at Alexander vs Castillo, visit our fight page

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