One little space between two words can make all the difference.
The January 29 junior welterweight showdown between Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander is being promoted as "The Super Fight." When the words "super" and "fight" sidle up alongside one another to form "superfight," the result is a term unique to the sport of boxing that describes matches between two top-of-the-line stars, like Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Marvin Hagler or Oscar De La Hoya vs. Felix Trinidad.
Bradley, Alexander, and everyone involved with putting "The Super Fight" together know it's not a superfight. But it very well could be a super ... (pause) ... fight.
And if indeed that's what it is, then it could propel the winner into a superfight - no space between the words - someday soon.
On the surface, what's at stake in this battle of unbeaten beltholders is simple: the winner claims the top spot in the talent-laden 140-pound division. Currently, most experts place Bradley in that position while ranking Alexander either second or third (directly above or below Amir Khan), but the current order is based on speculation, not concrete proof of who can beat whom. Bradley vs. Alexander will offer proof.
And as the first high-profile boxing match of 2011, smartly positioned on the slow sports weekend between the NFL conference title games and the Super Bowl, it will offer the winner an opportunity to begin crossing that bridge from "boxing star" to "boxing superstar" and from "mainstream nobody" to "mainstream somebody."
There are three key questions that will determine how far across that bridge he travels: (1) Will the fight be thrilling enough to generate a reverberating buzz that spreads from hardcore fight fans who watch live to casual fans who are inspired to catch a replay? (2) Will the winner's performance be impressive enough to land him on everybody's pound-for-pound list? (3) Will the winner find his name mentioned as a likely future opponent for Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather?
It won't be easy to check all three boxes, but if the answers do indeed come back yes, yes, and yes, then Bradley vs. Alexander will have been much more than just a fight to determine who's the current king at 140.
For his part, Bradley is being very careful not to get caught looking ahead and insists his next step if he defeats Alexander is to clean out junior welterweight by taking on Khan.
"I'm not even thinking about it," said Bradley, 26-0 (11), when asked for his thoughts on moving up to 147 and facing one of the two biggest names in boxing. "There is so much business to take care of at 140 before I would think about the Pacquiaos and the Mayweathers, which I would like to do. Each weight class needs one king, and that's what we are going to do at 140."