FOX delivers a whole lotta comebacks
Much of boxing revolves around age-old narratives in which the comeback features prominently, as one of the sport’s favorite tropes. Tonight’s FOX telecast (7:30 p.m ET / 4:30 p.m. PT) has three interesting fights and various types of comebacks. In the main event, between Devon Alexander, 27-4-1 (14), and Andre Berto, 31-5 (24), two 30-something former champions continue comebacks to see who retains a slim chance of recapturing a title. In the opener, recently deposed IBF junior welterweight titleholder Sergey Lipinets, 13-1 (10), comes back after suffering his first loss. In the other featured fight, another former champion, Peter Quillin, 33-1-1 (23), comes back from a year-long absence, attempting to recapture relevance in a new weight class. Successful comebacks are a rarity in boxing, supplying more tragedy than triumph, but do provide fans with Shakespearean storylines.
The four main stars of this stage play, the former champions, were blessed to have won world titles but are also cursed with chasing who they once were. Only one former champion will advance to another title shot, in all probability, when Devon Alexander and Andre Berto clash in the main event. It is sure to create a sense of desperation, which may favor the harder-hitting Berto. One point of comparison between the duo is that both fought former WBC welterweight titleholder Victor Ortiz; Berto scored a fourth round knockout while Alexander was held to a dubious majority draw that most ringside observers thought Alexander won handily.
Alexander, who overcame an addiction to prescription painkillers and opioids that precipitated a run of three losses in four fights, is the slight betting favorite. The 31-year-old played on the notion that he and Berto have been eyeing each other for a decade, “I’m very excited about this fight. Berto and I have history going back to the amateurs. I know him very well but we’ve never fought. I have to show that I’m still one of the best in a stacked division. This is all business for me because, at this point in my career, I’m approaching every fight as if it’s my last. This is prime time for me.”
There is a real sense of renewal and positivity surrounding Alexander, which makes him even more aware of the potential pitfall in front of him? “Both of us need this win badly though, and I’m sure neither of us will look to take a step back. My mentality is that Berto is still the killer that he was 10 years ago. So I’m looking at him like he’s lost nothing. I’ve got one mission, and that’s to beat Berto. I’ll be technically sound, and 100 percent focused on accomplishing that task. I’m still writing my legacy, and Berto is just another steppingstone in my way.”
Unlike the Alexander camp, there is a feeling of uncertainty, if not outright trepidation, with Berto. Many see him as the more shopworn boxer. Berto lost his most recent outing, via ninth round stoppage, facing a younger mirror image in Shawn Porter, unable to handle the superior speed and movement. Berto has had a year off to study the defeat before giving in to his title aspirations one last time. However Berto’s mindset is unquestioned, and the proverbial opponent mentality has not set in, “I’ve had a lot of success with southpaws. I’m looking forward to seeing him in front of me, and capitalizing on what I’m working on now. We had a tremendous training camp for this fight. I took time to rejuvenate myself, and I’ve come back and gotten myself into great shape.”
Another boxer on the card trying to recapture past performance, and audience share, is Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin. The former WBO middleweight champion is moving up a weight class after only competing in one inconsequential fight over the last two years. Quillin has not been handed an easy entry into the super middleweight sweepstakes, as he is pitted against fellow once-beaten J’Leon Love, 24-1-1 (13). The 35-year-old Quillin cannot afford another misstep, while Love is now 30 and can no longer trade on his “potential.” Promoter Lou DiBella thinks the duo’s desperation will play out in the crowd’s favor, “They’re two fighters that know what’s at stake, and I know you’re going to see the best out of both.”
Quillin, in hindsight, believes he should have taken a step up in weight much earlier, even if it meant giving up his title voluntarily, “I thought maybe I should have went up in weight a long time ago but timing tells everything, and timing heals everything, so I guess we went to 168. At this time it’s probably the best time for me to do it. I think J’Leon is the perfect guy for me to mix it up with.” Quillin, without looking past Love, struck a note that a victory tonight is enough to merit bigger opportunities, telling the press, “I’m ready to show everyone that I still have what it takes to compete for a world title. I will be ready for a title shot after this fight.”
The former champ also made news outside the ring, taking time out from his training to host a fitness day for children at the Crestwood Day Camp, showing them various workouts and delivering a motivational speech to 200 campers. Community outreach has been part of Quillin’s personal mission since turning pro. “Being a boxer is my lifestyle, and to be able to share some of the things that made me who I am with these kids is a great joy,” said Quillin. “It’s so important to reach out to the next generation, and give them the tools to live positively. As a pro athlete I consider that part of my job, and something I take pride in doing.”
Detroit-bred J’Leon Love’s job of late is playing catch-up, given the fanfare that greeted him upon turning pro, as a Team USA alternate at the 2008 Olympics, “I’m definitely not approaching it as just the same. This is it. This is my chance to make it happen for myself, and I’m fighting with one of the elites out there. So at the end of the day, this is definitely my time to shine, and I’ll definitely do what I need to do to be at the top of the game and challenge for one of these titles.” Love understands that a loss against Quillin would seal his title fate, “This is why they call it the crossroads. We have to run into each other. I’m well-prepared. I’ve been wanting to fight Peter for a long time. You got to go out there, put it all on the line and win. Period. That’s what it takes. We’re fighters; we’re gladiators. We’re elite.”
The televised opener features another elite boxer in Sergey Lipinets; he just lost his world title in a respectable unanimous decision against undefeated pound-for-pound star and four-division champion Mikey Garcia. Unlike Quillin, Lipinets is not wasting time to start on the comeback road, that road back being against tough but eminently beatable Ecuadorian Erick Bone, 20-5 (8). The Kazakhstan-born Lipinets has not trodden the easy path, previously winning the IBF title in only his 13th bout, and immediately risked it against the best possible foe in Mikey Garcia. The 29-year-old Lipinets is testing a move up of one weight class but remains unsure as to whether he will stay at 147 pounds.
Bone is a journeyman who should not give Lipinets trouble on the offensive end, only scoring eight stoppages in 25 bouts, but is battle-tested against very good opposition. Bone went the distance against former titleholders Miguel Vazquez and Chris Algieri, while putting in five stubborn rounds against hard-hitting Shawn Porter. He and Lipinets are scheduled for 10 rounds but, given the two-hour time frame FOX allocated for this card, the executives seem sure Lipinets will end the fight before its midway point.
Other than Lipinets, it appears the sun has set on the careers of these boxers, though one final burst of light is not out of the question for tonight’s winners.