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King laying waste to Alexander's career

Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Posted by Dan Rafael

Promoter Don King apparently doesn't know what he has in Devon Alexander, so I hope he is paying attention.

Alexander is a 21-year-old junior welterweight prospect with boxing gifts, a charming personality, a flashy style and a hometown in St. Louis looking for its next boxing star.

In other words, he's about as interesting and marketable a young fighter as exists in American boxing. There is nothing not to like about Alexander, who doesn't make trouble. Instead, he goes to the gym with trainer and manager Kevin Cunningham and works hard while awaiting his next fight.

But that fight just doesn't come.

Although Alexander (15-0, 8 KOs), who was a standout amateur, is every bit as talented as some of the more well-known up-and-comers in the 140-pound division, emerging talents such as Victor Ortiz, Lamont Peterson and Mike Alvarado, he hasn't fought since March.

The big difference between those fighters and Alexander is that they receive attention from their promoters and have been regularly appearing on television, which is the key to becoming a star.

Ortiz is preparing to fight on Dec. 6 on the undercard of the year's biggest fight, Oscar De La Hoya vs. Manny Pacquiao; Peterson is set to fight on Top Rank's Nov. 1 pay-per-view card and Alvarado just headlined on Telefutura last week in front of a raucous hometown crowd in Denver.

Alexander, meanwhile, has nothing scheduled and can't even get a return call from King.

In fact, Alexander has had only two fights this year, which is preposterous considering he is healthy and ready to go -- and has been for months.

It might not sound like a big deal to some, but remember, this is how Alexander is supposed to make a living, and King is preventing that.

Alexander fought in January on the HBO PPV undercard of the Roy Jones-Felix Trinidad fight. It was just Alexander's second televised fight, but he looked good winning a lopsided unanimous decision against former titleholder DeMarcus "Chop Chop" Corley in a solid step-up fight. It looked like it might be a breakout year for Alexander.

But in March, Alexander was relegated to an untelevised bout against Miguel Callist, a former title challenger whom he destroyed in winning a 12-round decision.

Since then, nothing.

It's almost criminal that he hasn't fought since March, but for no apparent reason, King has put him on ice. And it's not as though Cunningham and Alexander are driving a hard bargain in terms of his purses either. Just pay him his minimum and put him on, Cunningham said.

There is no way a young fighter -- and at 21, Alexander is just a baby, but even babies need to eat -- can properly develop. He should be fighting much more often, which is what he'd like to do.

Cunningham and Alexander are loyal guys, but they are understandably frustrated and angry with King, and recently sent him a legal notice advising him of their displeasure.

"Devon is extremely frustrated right now," Cunningham said. "For a kid of this caliber to sit around for seven months and still, at this point, doesn't know when he is possibly getting in the ring is crazy. This is how the kid makes his living. We've just had our attorney to contact Don and put him on notice that they need to get Devon a fight or ASAP or release him. The attorney is reviewing our promotional agreement."

Cunningham said it is not as though he or Alexander are turning fights down. They can't even get an offer.

"Devon isn't turning down nothing but his collar," Cunningham said. "We've called them and begged for fights, and they continuously tell us they'll put us on this date or that date. They just never call us back and confirm anything. They just leave us hanging. I cannot sit back and let Don King ruin my kid's career. I refuse to do that."

Despite the inactivity, Alexander, who has about a year left on his deal with King, has moved to No. 1 in the WBC's rankings, meaning he'll eventually be a mandatory challenger for titleholder Tim Bradley, another young fighter who has been kept busy and on television by co-promoters Gary Shaw and Thompson Boxing.

The nice ranking is not good enough for Cunningham and Alexander, nor should it be. After all, you can't buy groceries or pay the light bill with a No. 1 WBC ranking.

"Yeah, he's moving through the rankings, and we appreciate all of that, but what good is it to be ranked No. 1 and inactive? Should he just jump in the ring with a champion after being out for a year? That's crazy. This kid should be active. He gets better with each fight. Devon has been in the gym practically every day since June, but I made him take the last couple of weeks off because we're not getting any fights and I can't overcook him or burn him out. Devon is motivated and loves to train, but we need a date."

It's all fallen on King's deaf ears.

"I can't even get my promoter to return my call," Cunningham said.

And it's not like King's stable is overflowing with talent. In fact, it's as bare as it's ever been, so he could use a potential attraction such as Alexander. The defections from his company are mounting, most notably lightweight titleholder Nate Campbell last week and Juan Diaz earlier this year. King has cut staff and payroll in recent months and doesn't seem all that interested in promoting anymore.

It's too bad, because Cunningham believes St. Louis, where Cory Spinks drew big crowds on King promotions in recent years, is ready to embrace Alexander.

"This city is ready to get behind this kid," he said. "Everyone asks me when is this kid fighting again? All he does is focus on boxing. It's his livelihood and now he is being denied an opportunity to make a living."

So what is King's reaction to all of this?

Not much.

Through spokesman Alan Hopper, King offered only this one-line statement: "I love Kevin, and I love Devon Alexander 'The Great,' too."

OK, Don, that's nice.

Now, how about showing some of that love?
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