Lee Purdy gets the chance of a lifetime against Devon Alexander this Saturday night, when the Essex puncher aims to take the American’s world welterweight crown after receiving the shot in unexpected circumstances. Purdy got the call-up after Kell Brook withdrew from the IBF title bout through injury, but he may need a bigger slice of luck at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, entering the famed gambling resort as a huge underdog.
Should the 25-year-old have his hand raised at the end of this transatlantic tussle, it would perhaps be the biggest upset by a British fighter on American shores since Lloyd Honeyghan beat Donald Currie in 1986. Sure, Alexander isn’t the unbeaten, undisputed, pound-for-pound superstar that Currie was or at least seemed back then. But let’s be honest, Purdys no Honeyghan either and whilst he’s an honest pro who shines on the domestic scene, all the evidence would point to him being in way over his head here.
Purdy (20-3-1, 13 KO’s) began his professional career with no amateur experience, but with his hard-hitting, high-pressure style fought his way to a British title in 2011. He’s coming off a run of four stoppage victories including a ninth round TKO of Mexican Cosme Rivera in his last outing, following the collapse of a scheduled fight with Carson Jones, he of Kell Brook-gutchecking fame.
The fight with Jones was a chance for Purdy to make a name for himself on the world stage and the fact that it fell-through no doubt contributed to what some felt was a flat performance against Rivera. But boxing’s a funny old game and up popped the impromptu world title shot with Alexander. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that Purdy couldn’t turn down, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready or capable.
As his alias would suggest, ‘lights out’ has some dynamite in his fists but his performances on the domestic stage have also highlighted his limitations. Defeats to Peter McDonagh, Colin Lynes and Denton Vassell may reflect his true level as apart from a faded Rivera, he hasn’t really beaten anyone of note when you consider his record in world level context.
Alexander (24-1, 13 KO’s) may have a similar looking record to Purdy’s, but it’s littered with names that are recognisable on the world scene. A two-weight world champion, the St. Louis native has victories over DeMarcus Corley, Junior Witter, Juan Urango, Andreas Kotelnik, Marcos Maidana and Randall Bailey, plus the official recognition for his rather dubious decision win over Lucas Matthysse.
The Argentine had Devon down in that fight and appeared to land the harder shots throughout, but two of the three judges in Alexander’s home state of Missouri saw the ten round encounter his way. Disregarding the controversy over the decision however what’s relevant here is that Alexander survived the best shots from a guy like Matthysse and likewise with Maidana and Bailey, which further dilutes Purdy’s puncher’s chance.
He may not have the most entertaining style but Alexander is a world-class operator. A slick, skilled, southpaw with excellent footwork and a fast, accurate puncher, he’s also defensively sound with a good chin and will be a conundrum for Purdy to solve. The Essex man has been outboxed and has struggled with opponents who possess good feet and fast hands in the past. Those 11-1 odds you can get on Purdy might be worse value than they appear.
Yet this is boxing, a sport where Buster Douglas can beat Mike Tyson and once punch can change a fight, regardless of how many rounds he finds himself behind on the scorecards. Purdy has never been stopped and Alexander’s essentially a safety first fighter, possibly content to record a wide decision win. Purdy does have that puncher’s chance as long as he’s in there and will be going all-out to seize his opportunity.
There’s also the small matter of heart and what could happen if Alexander loses focus, something that could easily happen in a fight that he’s expected to win comfortably. Alexander’s heart was called into question when he fought Timothy Bradley, who handed him his only career loss after Devon looked for a way out in the tenth and lost on a technical decision.
Lee Purdy has heart and whilst the odds may be against him, he can beat Devon Alexander. It may unlikely, but stranger things have happened, particularly in Atlantic City.