DETROIT, Mich (AP) – Boxing has taken a lot of hits, losing popularity to mixed martial arts, its alphabet soup of sanctioning bodies and inability to get the best to fight each other.
Americans Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander, the undefeated 140-pound champions, are trying to do their part to give their sport a boost.
“I do think the state of boxing right now is at a low,” Bradley said. “Until you have great fights like this in the 140 division. We are the most talented division in boxing, and we are going to bring it back just like the old days.”
Promoters Don King and Gary Shaw teamed up with HBO to put on the unification bout at the neutral site of the Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich.
The former home of the Detroit Lions and Pistons has been configured to put the ring in a corner of an end zone, putting curtains up to create a relatively intimate venue with 9,000 seats on the floor and lower bowl.
Despite the Motor City’s rich boxing history – with superstars Joe Louis and Tommy Hearns, star trainer Emanuel Steward and the famed Kronk Gym – fight fans in the area haven’t lined up to buy tickets for the chance to witness the next chapter.
“All the naysayers are going to be pleasantly surprised,” Shaw said.
Bradley (26-0, 11 knockouts) of Palm Spring, Calif, is the WBO 140-pound champion and St. Louis southpaw Alexander (21-0, 13 KOs) is the WBC’s champ.
The winner might cash in with a fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Manny Pacquiao, two superstars who have failed to figure out a way to meet in the ring.
Bradley and his trainer would welcome a fight against Amir Khan, who successfully defended his WBA 140-pound title against Marcos Maidana in December.
Alexander’s trainer, Kevin Cunningham, disagreed.
“The winner of this fight deserves a megafight,” Cunningham said. “Why should these guys fight just to get Khan. Who’s Khan? The winner should get Mayweather or Pacquiao.”
Bradley plan is to pick his spots in what’s being dubbed “The Super Fight.”
“The key is going to be smart and patient,” said Bradley’s trainer, Joel Diaz. “We don’t want to rush it and to keep composure.”
Alexander said that won’t be easy.
“I’m not going to sit back and wait on him,” he said. “I’m going to be busier than him because I’m always going to be the aggressor.”
King, who backs Alexander, said both fighters took risks with a bout they could lose in the hopes of helping their career and a beat-up sport.
“This is going to a return for glory for the American fighter,” King said. “We’re giving people what they want.”
Copyright Associated Press