Scott Alexander couldn’t say no.
The veteran heavyweight had just 10 days notice for a 10-round fight against a skilled, experienced opponent who has fought a significantly higher level of opposition than him. When that call came to battle Travis Kaufman, however, Alexander didn’t hesitate to accept it.
Chances to fight in the main event of a nationally televised card don’t come often, particularly for largely unknown boxers not connected to the sport’s power brokers. Alexander (14-2-2, 8 KOs), who grew up in South Central Los Angeles, and Kauffman (31-2, 23 KOs, 1 NC), of Reading, Pennsylvania, will headline a tripleheader presented by Premier Boxing Champions on FS1 and FOX Deportes on Sunday night from Pioneer Event Center in Lancaster, California (8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT).
“You can’t turn down no TV main event, PBC and everything,” Alexander said. “There’s no pressure on me. This is the fight game. When I started boxing, with me having no amateur experience, I never thought of myself being a Floyd Mayweather, going 100-0. I thought of myself as a champion who’s gonna learn every lesson from whether it’s a loss or a draw or whatever. Every time you step in the ring, you learn from it. I’ll be one of those guys who’s gonna write my own path. I never turned down any fight.”
As abnormal as it is to take this type of fight on less than two weeks’ notice, nothing about Alexander’s life in boxing has been conventional.
Alexander was a fifth-year senior at Southern California’s Rancho Verde High School 10 years ago, when his football coach, Pete Duffy, told him about “All-American Heavyweights.”
“ Every time you step in the ring, you learn from it. I’ll be one of those guys who’s gonna write my own path. I never turned down any fight. ” Scott Alexander
That well-funded program, developed by late television executive Michael King, aimed to turn athletes from other sports into boxers. Former IBF heavyweight champion Charles Martin and contender Dominic Breazeale are among the alums from the defunct venture that was based in Carson, California.
Alexander was a promising defensive end, but he had attended eight high schools in the Los Angeles area and would’ve had to go to junior college to have a shot at earning a scholarship. He was homeless temporarily during the summer before his senior year, had moved around a lot and thus jumped at the opportunity to become part of King’s program.
The 29-year-old Alexander credits “All-American Heavyweights” for helping save his life.
“Who knows what would’ve happened to me without that?” Alexander said. “After they took football from me, I don’t know what the next move was. As a result of your upbringing and your surroundings, you might end up doing some bad things that your parents try to keep you out of. That boxing program definitely gave me something else to kind of push for.”
The 6-feet-3, 230-pound Alexander made his pro debut in June 2009, without having had a single amateur fight. He had moved on from “All-American Heavyweights” by the end of 2010.
Seven-and-a-half years later learning on the job has left Alexander with unanimous-decision defeats on his record to LaRon Mitchell (16-0, 14 KOs) and Rodney Hernandez (10-7-2, 2 KOs).
“That’s why I jumped at this at this opportunity, because it’s always experience,” Alexander said. “There’s absolutely no pressure on me. I see myself being able to compete with the guys at the top level. The circumstances, of course, I would like to be better. But I don’t feel like anybody goes into any fight feeling a hundred percent.”
While Alexander seemingly will encounter the best opponent of his career, Kauffman will end nearly a 15-month layoff Sunday night. The 32-year-old Kauffman hasn’t fought since losing a 12-round majority decision to Amir Mansour (23-2-1, 16 KOs, 1 NC) in March 2017 at Santander Arena in Reading.
“I am excited to get back in the ring,” Kauffman said. “I have not been in the ring in a year-and-a-half and I can’t wait to go in there and show that I still have a lot left. I am not going in there to win by decision. I am going in there looking to knock him out, because I am tired of leaving it up to the judges.”
“ I have not been in the ring in a year-and-a-half and I can’t wait to go in there and show that I still have a lot left. ” Travis Kauffman
Kauffman was supposed to face former light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver on Sunday night.
Alexander replaced Tarver, who’s 49 and hasn’t fought in almost three years. Tarver (31-6-1, 22 KOs, 1 NC) wasn’t cleared to box by New Jersey’s State Athletic Control Board. Tarver’s last fight was a 12-round draw with Steve Cunningham in August 2015 at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
Tarver’s trouble granted Alexander the chance he needs to change the course of his career. That’s something he very much wants for him, his wife, Fransha, their 5-year-old daughter, Kai’Lani, and their 18-month-old son, Zayden.
“I know Travis can box,” Alexander said. “He’s a veteran. He’s been around for a while. Everybody at that level can do something. He can box more than people think. I know he’s been inactive, so we’ll see. For boxers, that usually messes up timing. You get a little rusty and I think this will be a good opportunity to capitalize on that.
“It’s hard for boxers to go without fighting, just because you rely on timing a lot. Once your timing is off and you’re not in the ring, it takes a while for that to come back. Me, just coming off a fight [March 17], yeah, it wasn’t a 10-round fight, but I just got out of the ring. And I was preparing for another six-round fight at the end of the month, on the 30th. But like I said, when you get an opportunity like this, I’m jumping at it.”