Pair of former welterweight world champions are facing a must-win situation to secure 147-pound relevancy when they meet in the main of event of PBC on FOX tomorrow night in New York.
Once considered elite-level welterweights, Devon Alexander and Andre Berto were brought down by injuries, health issues, and personal setbacks. Their individual battles to re-establish themselves as elite players in the white-hot 147-pound division have now led to a crossing of paths and a true “do or die” showdown.
The former world champions meet tomorrow night in a primetime contest of dire importance on a FOX and FOX Deportes-televised card (7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT) from NYCB LIVE, formerly the Nassau Coliseum, in Uniondale, New York.
Alexander (27-4-1, 14 KOs) is coming off a controversial draw with Victor Ortiz in February that many felt should’ve gone his way and a unanimous decision win over Walter Castillo three months before that.
Prior to the Castillo bout, though, Alexander battled an addiction to painkillers that saw the talented southpaw lose 25 months to inactivity. In the two years prior to his layoff and rehabilitation, the former two-division world champ had lost three of four.
The Alexander who returned last November against Castillo, however, looked refreshed and renewed, fighting like the Alexander who had beaten the likes of Junior Witter, Lucas Matthysse, and Marcos Maidana.
When playing at full capacity, the St. Louis native is a nightmare of an opponent with a skillful defense and a quick, efficient offense.
The 31-year-old has the tools to fight at a distance, but is at his best when sitting in the pocket, using angles to make opponents miss and setting subtle traps to draw foes off balance. Alexander also utilizes a sharp jab as a positioning tool to set up fast, accurate follow-ups.
The main criticism regarding the former welterweight and junior welterweight titlist is that he sometimes gets caught up in his own cuteness and does just enough to win rounds when he could push to completely close the show.
But Alexander knows the importance of this upcoming clash and realizes that if he’s going to get to the top again, he can’t hold back.
“This fight can catapult us to a world title shot and that’s my goal…and that’s what I’m focusing on,” Alexander said. “I’m hungry. I just turned 31…and I feel refreshed, I feel vibrant, and I just want to show people that I’m still one of the elite welterweights in the division.”
“ This fight can catapult us to a world title shot and that’s my goal. I’m hungry. I just want to show people that I’m still one of the elite welterweights in the division. ” Former two-division Champion Devon Alexander
Berto (31-5, 24 KOs), meanwhile, is in the exact same place as Alexander, working towards getting back to the top and fully aware of the fact that time is not on his side. He’s also conscious of the fact that his opponent on Saturday will be competing under similar pressure.
“I believe that Devon Alexander is going to be at his best,” Berto said. “I know Kevin Cunningham [Alexander’s trainer]. He’s a great coach…He’s going to let him know that this is a do-or-die opportunity for him…So it’s going to be up to Devon if he’s going to rise up to the occasion, and the same thing on my end…I need to come out with a win.”
The 34-year-old Floridian and former two-time welterweight champ is a bull of a fighter, gifted with all-around good physical tools.
In recent years, a nagging shoulder injury and problems with his liver and kidneys have hampered his ability to fight at a consistent level. But with a nearly 16-month layoff since his last fight, Berto insists that he’s well-rested and 100-percent healthy.
A Berto firing on all cylinders has a thudding jab, fast hands, and a propensity for delivering good action fights with his aggressive mindset and willingness to go to war.
Coming up as a welterweight in the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao era, Berto suffered through some unfair disregard in his prime, but his resume is solid with entertaining wins over Luis Collazo, Carlos Quintana, and Josesito Lopez.
Berto also doesn’t go down easy, as evidenced by his all-out Fight of the Year war with Victor Ortiz in 2011 (later avenged via fourth-round TKO), and his valiant losing efforts, battling through injury against Robert Guerrero and Jesus Soto Karass.
In his most recent fights, Berto’s TKO of Ortiz is sandwiched between a decision loss to Mayweather in 2015 and a stoppage loss to Shawn Porter in a headbutt-heavy brawl back in April of last year.
If Berto is to be successful against Alexander, he’ll need to be healthy and sharp, imposing his physicality on Alexander while avoiding the traps set to disrupt his timing and positioning. His brutal right uppercut—maybe the strongest punch in his arsenal—will be the best weapon against his southpaw opponent.
Alexander, on the other hand, will have to be his usual self in dealing with a fighter like Berto who is carrying a real chip on his shoulder. He will need to put doubt in Berto’s mind by using angles and utilizing the jab to keep him from getting full leverage on his punches.
Simply put—in a bout between veterans whose dreams of career rebirth end with a loss, the battle to impose one’s will on the other should be monumental. Do or die.
For a complete look at Berto vs Alexander, check out our fight page.