|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY December 08, 2011||
ALEXANDER DOESN'T WANT TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY
About four years ago Max Alexander was a young and undefeated boxer out of Camden, NJ who was a mainstay on many Philly cards at venues like the Blue Horizon and the National Guard Armory. He was a light-heavyweight in those days and although it was clear that his career was not exactly in the fast lane, he always impressed me as a young fighter with the skills, moves, and personality to become a real prospect one day. But just when he appeared to be on the brink of getting noticed, the southpaw stylist dropped off the boxing map.
Recently however, the 30-year old boxer stormed back into the boxing headlines when it was announced that former champ, future Hall of Famer, and current delusional, Roy Jones Jr. had plucked the former Camden fighter for his latest comeback attempt.
It was an offer that Max Alexander could not refuse.
"It's an amazing opportunity for me", Alexander said recently from his Raleigh, North Carolina home just before heading off to the gym. Max and his young family have relocated to Raleigh from Camden. "It's like hitting the lottery. They pull your name out of a hat."
But Alexander didn't mean the kind of lottery that allows you to retire on the spot.
"It's not my biggest payday. It's not as much as you might think. But this is not about the money", said Alexander.
No. Alexander is interested in fighting the great Roy Jones Jr. for reasons other than the cash. He sees Jones as the gateway to getting his career back on track and the 10-round fight as his ticket into the history books.
"I can be the person to retire Roy Jones Jr.", Max said.
When Alexander talks about the upcoming fight, he sounds like a guy eager to prove himself, like someone who has reached a dead end in the sport and who suddenly sees a way back to the days when he was a guy who was going somewhere.
Back in the opening Act of his ring career, between 2004 and 2007, when Alexander was fighting regularly and building a nice 14-0-1 record in Philadelphia, where he fought all but two of his first fifteen bouts, he was a boxer who was developing a fan base and eyeing what looked like a bright future.
In those early days of a boxer's career, dreams of title shots and lucrative paydays are as big a part of the experience as heavy bags and jump ropes. They have to be, to keep a young man going to the gym every day. As long as Alexander kept winning it seemed he could catch someone's eye and get the chance to prove himself.
In those days Alexander wasn't what you would call a crowd-pleaser. Max always seemed to marching to a different drummer and fighting only for his own kicks. So boxing power-brokers weren't exactly knocking down his door. But he had the goods.
Back then, Max would twitch his shoulder or cock his head a millimeter or two, and make his opponent miss by a mile. As soon as it would happen, he'd let a little smile smear across his face. Sometimes the smile was big - if the opponent missed by enough. He was subtle. Often the crowd missed these little moments of glory. That was the beauty of Max Alexander in the ring.
I never saw a crowd go crazy with excitement at one of his fights, unless you count that weird 10-second Saturday night when Marty Lindquist ran out as the bell for the opening round sounded and cold-cocked Max before he could get out of his corner. The crowd went nuts that night but mostly out of confusion. The fight was recorded as a "No Contest", and Alexander shutout Lindquist over eight rounds in their rematch a few months later.
In 2007 with just 15 fights under his belt, Alexander was selected to compete in the cult boxing TV series "The Contender". Finally it seemed that Max might get noticed. He certainly had the look and the personality for television. The problem was that he would have to compete as a super middleweight. Always more of a cruiserweight even then, Alexander knew that the difficulties making the light-heavy limit of 175 pounds would be nothing compared to getting down to 168 for the series.
"I had to kill myself", he said about losing the weight.
Max lost his first fight on the show to a far more experience Sam Soliman and followed it up with another Contender loss against Brian Vera. The weight loss weakened Alexander, but still he held his own in both fights. However, it was the beginning of a career skid.
He came back as a cruiserweight and tried to get things going again. Call it Act Two.
Alexander returned in 2008 for a 12-rounder against Rob Calloway for the WBC Continental Americas belt. The bout went the distance and Alexander had to settle for a split decision draw in Calloway's hometown of Saint Joseph, MO. Max called it a moral victory.
"When you get a draw in his hometown, you know you really won", Alexander said.
Suddenly the fighter had two losses and two draws on his record, but as it turned out, they provided some surprising opportunities.
"Once you get some losses, your phone begins to ring", he said.
In his next three fights, he hit the road as an "opponent". First, he dropped a controversial 10-round decision Ali Ismailov in Russia.
"I beat the brakes off this guy. The crowd even threw stuff into the ring. It was unreal", Alexander remembered.
Next up was a 2009 trip to Germany to face Alexander Alexeev, who beat Alexander over ten rounds.
"That's the only guy who beat me cleanly", Alexander said.
Finally Alexander stamped his passport in New Zealand for a six rounder with Moyoyo Menash, who took another questionable verdict.
Alexander said of the bout, "It was another bad decision, but what are you going to do?"
That fight on October 3, 2009 was Alexander's last. He remained idle until the recent call for the fight with Jones.
Luckily he had been training for another bout, from which his opponent pulled out. So when he got the call for Jones, he felt he was already ahead of the game.
"I had a chance to train for Roy Jones. Usually I take fights with no notice and have to do the best I can. But I've had three months to train for this one. It's going to be a great fight", he said.
Alexander sees the timing of the fight as perfect, although he would have liked the chance to fight the all-timer back when he was considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
"It was kind of a dream of mine growing up. I still think highly of him. For Roy to know my name and for him to be staring me down, is amazing. Unfortunately I didn't get to fight Roy when I was doing all this winning. But when I was undefeated, I couldn't buy a fight", Alexander said.
"I guess some things had to turn bad for me for something positive to come out of it", Max said.
But will it be hard for the relatively inexperienced boxer (14-5-2 / 2 KO) to fight an even diminished Jones (54-8 / 40 KO)?
"Roy will perform as good as he has. I will perform better than I ever have. He'll be fast. He'll always be fast. He could be 50 and he'd still be fast. But he's a person just like me", Alexander said.
What if it is a great night for Alexander and he finds himself in the ring with an old man who isn't even a shadow of his former self? Will he have trouble lowering the boom on Jones?
"No. Because I know that Roy wouldn't hesitate to do it to me", Max said. "I wouldn't hesitate one second."
The fight should be interesting not only as a measure of what Roy Jones has left, but also as a test of what Max Alexander can do with a real opportunity.
"Maybe he thinks he's the same Roy Jones. But I don't think he's taking this fight seriously and training 100%. He's traveling, doing TV (for HBO broadcasts). And let's be honest, how can he take me seriously? He didn't train his hardest for undefeated Danny Green, or B-Hop, or that guy in Russia (Denis Lebedev)."
"I've lost my last five fights. How can he get himself up for that?"
Alexander will find out in two more days. His third Act is about to begin.
And what would a win over Jones do for him?
"A big fight will come. Roy Jones is still Roy Jones. If beating him doesn't do it, nothing will. I have nothing to lose."
Nothing to lose except his promising future. But it feels like that was lost a long time ago. That's the way boxing works. It eats a young fighter's promise and moves onto the next meal. But fighters sometimes find themselves in a position to reclaim their dream. It doesn't happen every day, but it does happen. A win over Roy Jones will do a lot to soothe the frustration Alexander has felt over the past few years. And even more, a win on Saturday should earn him a chance to prove himself and make some real money. And then, people will take him seriously.
Roy Jones vs. Max Alexander goes down at the Atlanta Civic Center, Saturday, December 10, and will be broadcast live on the Internet Pay-Per-View (7-10 PM) at USTREAM.com for $9.99. The ten round cruiserweight bout will be for the UBO Intercontinental Cruiserweight Title.