Question: What is the most beautiful 11-letter word for boxing fans?
That rare treat is in store Saturday night when IBF champion Juan Urango and WBC kingpin Devon Alexander meet to merge half of the "major" 140-pound belts. Better yet, this encounter provides a pleasing mesh of styles between the compact, hard-charging Urango and the fleet-footed stylist Alexander, who is a surprising 4-1 favorite.
The CompuBox numbers not only will detail their recent successes but also why they achieved it and what they'll need to do to emerge with a second belt around their waists.
High-Octane Output: The typical junior welterweight averages 61 punches per round but in recent fights both men exceeded that benchmark - sometimes by a healthy margin. Urango unleashed 71.8 in winning the IBF belt a second time against Herman Ngoudjo, 63 in his most recent victory against Randall Bailey and 61.8 in losing to WBC welterweight champion Andre Berto. So even in defeat, Urango is active. Meanwhile, Alexander fired 78.8 in decisioning Miguel Callist and 73.3 in stopping Jesus "Chuy" Rodriguez. But when he met the herky-jerky Junior Witter that output plunged to 54.9. Given Urango's aggression, expect both men to maintain an active pace.
The Range Game: Neither man enjoys success with the jab but for different reasons. For the short-armed Urango the jab is a range finder rather than a table-setter. Urango landed a combined 11 percent of his 17.7 jabs per round against Bailey, Berto and Ngoudjo and that punch constituted just 27 percent of his total offense. Conversely, Alexander has an active jab - 36.7 per round against Callist, Rodriguez and Witter - but he often falls short with it. Against Rodriguez and Witter he threw 33.6 but landed just 10.2 percent of them. As a result, he connected on 30.5 percent of his power shots. This aspect is particularly crucial because the jab makes up 52 percent of Alexander's offense and if that weapon isn't working, nothing else will.
Each has the ability to jab effectively, however. In rounds 5-12 against Callist, Alexander exceeded double-digit connects five times and his power connects surged to 39 percent in that eight-round span. Against Bailey, Urango reached or exceeded five connected jabs four times (peaking at 12 in round six) and in those rounds his power accuracy was a robust 47.5 percent as opposed to the 38 percent in rounds where he had four or fewer jab connects. Therefore, the man who establishes his preferred distance will enhance his chances for victory.
Body work: Urango is among the sport's best body punchers and the effects against Bailey were graphic. Ninety-six of Urango's 188 power connects were to the flanks and they led to two knockdowns in the ninth and a third in the 10th. If Urango gains a foothold inside the fight is all but over. To avoid that, Alexander must stick accurately and move smartly.
Prediction: This one will go plenty of rounds. Four of Alexander's last six fights have gone eight rounds or longer and he went the full 12 with two of his three best opponents (Callist and DeMarcus Corley). Urango's last three fights went 35 of the scheduled 36 rounds. While Urango is more seasoned, he can be neutralized by speed and movement as Berto and Naoufel Ben Rabah proved. Alexander, however, lacks the height and reach to take full advantage, for his build (5-7, 71-inch reach) is identical to Urango's. Therefore, intangibles will tip the scale, the biggest of which is experience against world-class opposition. Without a partisan St. Louis crowd to verbally lift Alexander, Urango, in an upset special, will capture a neutral-ground unanimous decision.