By: Robert Contreras
Trading punches. Pushing and pulling for space. Boxers give and take as they try to administer their will onto their opponent.
As so, it is difficult to escape that old dichotomy between Boxer and Puncher. And the sport returns to it in the main event of PBC’s latest broadcast on FOX Sports 1, airing from San Jacinto, California, where both Alexander, the artful stylist, and Redkach, with a firecracker in his left hand, meet in a crossroads match.
In addition, middleweights Willie Monroe Jr. and Hugo Centeno Jr. will be fighting. And it is all on FS1, where the telecast is set to begin at 8 p.m. ET.
Devon Alexander (27-5-1, 14 KO) vs. Ivan Redkach (22-4-1, 17 KO)
Alexander is a former world champion, making his mark in the light welterweight division before moving up to 147 pounds. Since a loss to Shawn Porter, he is 2-4-1 but that has not been without terrible strokes of luck.
In August 2018, Alexander was forced to settle for a split-decision loss on national television after continually beating Andre Berto to the punch. To go along with another set of inauspicious scorecards, leading to a majority-draw with Victor Ortiz, Alexander technically has not won a fight in 18 months.
With a team fronted by the legendary Roy Jones Jr., the 32-year-old southpaw has rebounded from worse. After dropping the WBO championship to Tim Bradley, back in 2011, he rebounded with four consecutive wins over some of the sport’s most intimidating hitters: Randall Bailey, Marcos Maidana and Lucas Matthysse. Never one to turn down a challenge, he has also tangled with brawlers like Aaron Martinez and Jesus Soto Karass to more slippery movers like Amir Khan.
Redkach, 33, will too find out firsthand how rough the 147-pound waters can be after turning professional nearly a decade ago at the lightweight limit and last competing at 140 pounds. In preparation for his welterweight debut, the Ukrainian-born slugger brought in the help of Shane Mosley to add some wrinkles to his game at his training camp in Los Angeles.
Since being pelted down in 2017 by John Molina Jr., Redkach has picked up back-to-back victories over journeymen. Most recently, four months ago, he dribbled Tyrone Harris up and down the canvas, knocking his opponent down three times in the opening round, en route to a first-round knockout.
Redkach needs another destructive performance like that to pave a way to a title shot. And he needs to do it quickly as he pushes his mid-30s.
The top of the welterweight division is currently in a bit of a logjam. Porter is waiting in the wings for a winner to emerge between Keith Thurman and Manny Pacquiao. And Errol Spence and Terrence Crawford continue to play a game of chicken with one another—or at least their promoters do—which gives bit players like Alexander and Redkach enough time to make their case for a title fight.
That endeavor begins this weekend.
Willie Monroe Jr. (23-3, 6 KO) vs. Hugo Centeno Jr. (27-2, 14 KO)
From opposite corners of the country, New York’s own “El Mongoose” Monroe and Centeno, from Oxnard, California, square off over the 10-round distance in the middleweight division.
Monroe, 32, has a legendary name to represent—his uncle once gave Marvin Hagler a lacing. But despite natural, supreme athleticism, he often forgets where the gas pedal is. Returning from a failed bid for the WBO middleweight title against Billy Joe Saunders in an overall lackadaisical affair, Monroe decisioned the unheralded Carlos Galvan last March and followed up that victory by undressing Argentinian banger Javier Francisco Maciel over 10 rounds.
Fighting a real puncher, Monroe arguably did not give up a single round. But the Argentinian did not force the action on Monroe, allowing the American to get off when he felt like it. It was not the best showing from Maciel but his recent melee with Artem Chebotarec only made Monroe look that much better.
This weekend represent’s Monroe’s first time competing in the west coast since facing Gennady Golovkin. In order to prove he is not just a stepping stone for the division’s biggest names, he should start with outclassing Centeno.
Centeno, though, is a large challenge—incredibly long. In fact, there is not a world-ranked middleweight taller than him. His six feet, one inches is at equal footing with Maciej Sulecki and Demetrious Andrade.
Last time out, in February, the 28-year-old Centeno was cruising to a win against Oscar Cortes. He floored Cortes in the fourth round before a headbutt ended the show early. The California resident was still awarded a technical-decision, his first win since being blown away by Jermall Charlo for the WBC middleweight crown.
The odd circumstances were all too familiar for Centeno, who back in 2013 also saw his contest against Julian Williams stopped in the fourth period from a clash of heads. Of course, Williams was clearly too much for Centeno and the stoppage only saved him further distress. That is not to say Centeno cannot dish it out.
Nearly 30 wins to his name, the highlight of Centeno’s ledger is a crushing third-round knockout of previously undefeated Immanuwel Aleem, who had significantly raised his own stock after cracking open amateur world champion Levgen Khytrov. Centeno’s length proved formidable, repeatedly finding a home for his rangy lead left hook, setting the shot up with a body jab, and eventually stretching Aleem out cold.
That brutal finish was enough to catapult Centeno into the world stage. He was quickly brought back down to earth, losing by knockout to Charlo. It was his second KO loss after Sulecki also put a dent across his chin in 2016.
Monroe is not known for having the biggest punch. So if he can get by Centeno’s long arms, the fists could be flying back and forth all night.