by B.A. Cass
After taking twenty-five months off and going through rehab for opioid addiction, the former two-division champion Devon Alexander dominated Walter Castillo over ten rounds, proving that he deserves to fight the best talent in his division.
Photo Credit: Douglas DeFelice / Premier Boxing Champions
The first round was slow but somehow still exciting. That’s because it was highly entertaining to watch the skilled and intelligent Devon Alexander expertly control the pace. Both fighters employed the jab. But it was Alexander who was waiting for Castillo, appraising him. Towards the end of the round, Alexander caught Castillo with a sharp left. It got Castillo’s attention.
During the second round, Alexander remained patient, sharp, and calculated. He was able to slip and back away from most of Castillo’s punches. And then Alexander landed a brutal combination—jab, uppercut, right—knocking Castillo flat on his ass.
Castillo tried to get back control during the third round, but all he managed to do was get his opponent in a clinch. The referee had to remind Castillo not to hold down Alexander’s head.
Frustrated, Castillo started the fourth round by apparently trying to give his opponent a noogie. He also hit Alexander in the face with his elbow. The referee caught this and informed Castillo that, if he did it again, he would deduct two points. Seconds later, the referee had to remind Castillo to avoid low blows. The round ended with the two fighters engaging at close distance in the center of the ring.
Castillo was busy during the fifth round, but he was not controlling the action. He caught Alexander with a straight left, which snapped Alexander’s head back. There was an accidental headbutt, and Castillo made a theatrical display of being hurt. It’s always a bad sign when a boxer starts looking for the referee’s help. “You got a bump, no cut,” the referee told Castillo, and the fight continued.
By the sixth round, the only hope Castillo had was to make the fight into a brawl. But Alexander found his distance, and Castillo started swinging—swinging wildly ad missing. Alexander’s confidence was on supreme display. He dropped his hands, hoping the aggressive and frustrated Castillo would make a wrong move.
In between the sixth and seventh rounds, Keith Thurman, who was seated in the front row, noted how great it was to see Devon Alexander back in action. “Calm and confident” is how he described Alexander’s performance.
As the seventh round commenced, Alexander began to dance around the ring. He was clearly the superior fighter. He threw punches at different angles, stifling the less dynamic Castillo.
It was during the eighth round that Castillo’s frustration reached its peak. He got Alexander into a headlock and then punched the top of his head. And then in the ninth round, Castillo used his elbow once again.
But none of these dirty tricks worked. Alexander reigned supreme during the tenth and final round, landing solid shots to the body and hardly looking fatigued.
Devon Alexander put on a beautiful performance and won by unanimous decision.
As for the fight between Miguel Cruz and David Grayton—the referee certainly had his hands full with these two boxers.
Early in the fight, Cruz nearly knocked down Grayton, but Grayton tackled Cruz, and both went down. By doing so, he avoided being given a count. Grayton continually employed his most powerful shot—the “accidental” headbutt. As a result, by the fifth round, there was a substantial cut about Cruz’s right eye and his left eye was visibly swollen.
It was a dynamic fight. One moment, the fighters were engaging in a battle of jabs and in the next they got were tangled up, both unleashing vicious body shots and uppercuts. The referee had to repeatedly—almost exhaustively—stop them from clinching and wrestling.
During the sixth round, Cruz scored a knockdown by way of a jab and by putting a bit of downward pressure on a doubled-over Grayton’s head.
But Grayton endured. In fact, he didn’t even seem fazed. He came back from the knockdown and forced Cruz to fight at close range, landing a beautiful jab to the face.
Grayton began the seventh round looking focused and immediately landed a series of fast combinations. They two fighters slugged it out on the ropes. If you had just tuned in, you would have never known that Grayton had just been knocked down. Grayton looked eager, pleased to be fighting. Cruz seemed to be tiring.
There was a bit more wrestling in the eighth round. Grayton focused on the body. Once again, he headbutted Cruz, causing a cut to open up above the right eye. Blood streamed down the right side of his face.
Grayton came on strong in the night round, landing a sharp 1-2 to the face. But Cruz countered with a strong straight right hand. Cruz ended the round strong, landing a big right.
During the first thirty seconds of the tenth round, Cruz seemed to be wasting time. He was noticeably tired. He forced Grayton into a clinch and then stood there, his arms limp as he used his body weight to push Grayton against the ropes. Cruz later slipped because of a foot tangle. But he emerged feeling strong, and the two engaged in a battle of jabs before slugging it out until the sound of the bell.
It was a close, well-matched fight, but even so, it was no surprise that Cruz won. Even though he looked worse for the wear, the damaged he sustained was mostly due to Grayton’s consistent use of the headbutt. Still, it was an entertaining fight. Grayton lost, but he wasn’t truly defeated. I’ll be interested to see both boxers fight again.
Follow B.A. Cass on Twitter @WiththePunch