For more than two decades the junior welterweights have been among boxing's top weight classes in depth and quality matches. That trend continues Saturday when WBA titlist Marcos Maidana meets former WBC/IBF belt-holder Devon Alexander in an intriguing boxer-slugger encounter. Alexander is an 8-5 favorite.
Alexander is eager for redemption after back-to-back-to-back struggles against Andriy Kotelnik, Timothy Bradley and Lucas Matthysse while Maidana seeks a dominant performance following his unexpectedly competitive war against Erik Morales and his compelling loss to Amir Khan. Which man will succeed in his quest? Their CompuBox pasts offer the following nuggets:
Alexander's Magic Number: Every time "Alexander the Great" surpasses 20 percent jab accuracy, the rest of his game elevates.
His three best performances were against DeMarcus Corley (W 12), Miguel Calllist (W 12) and Juan Urango (KO 8) and the common denominator was hard and accurate jabs that slam through the target instead of merely reaching the gloves.
Against Corley Alexander landed 20.4 percent of his jabs, complimenting his 33.3 percent overall accuracy and 42.1 percent power punch marksmanship. He out-landed his fellow southpaw 271-126 (overall), 67-64 (jabs) and 204-62 (power) en route to a 118-109 (twice), 116-111 decision.
The pattern repeated against Callist as his 20.3 percent jab accuracy led to 28.5 percent overall and 37.4 percent power accuracy as well as connect bulges of 270-106 (overall), 100-51 (jabs) and 170-55 (power).
Against Urango, his 26.8 percent jab connect rate propelled Alexander to 32.6 percent overall and 44.8 percent power accuracy, connect leads of 173-127 (overall) and 96-12 (jab) as well as the most impressive one-punch KO of his career.
But when Alexander's jab falls below 20 percent -- as was the case in each of his last three fights -- the rest of his game suffers. In his last three fights Alexander landed 10.8 percent of his jabs, which led to a 20.8 overall connect rate (a 33.3 percent decline) and 30.9 percent power accuracy (23.9 percent lower). Kotelnik, Bradley and Matthysse landed a combined 5.7 percentage points higher overall (26.5-20.8), 12.6 points more in jabs (23.4-10.8) and 2.5 points less in power shots (30.9-28.4) as opposed to Alexander landing 9.3 points more overall (31.2-21.9), 6.8 more points in jabs (22.3-15.5) and 12.3 more points in power shots (40.6-28.3) when his jab rate is above 20 percent.
Maidana Better Against Lefties?: Southpaws flummox most right-handers but Maidana's numbers -- at least in terms of accuracy -- are better against left-handers.
In seven CompuBox-tracked fights against orthodox fighters Maidana averaged 79.4 punches per round (24.1 percent above the 60.3 junior welterweight norm) and landed 24.9 percent of his overall punches, 14.1 percent of his jabs and 30.6 percent of his power shots. Defensively Maidana is underwater, for his opponents landed 8.8 percentage points higher in overall punches (33.7), 12.8 points more in jabs (26.9) and 7.2 points more in power shots (37.8). Still, he wins most of the time due to his enormous pressure and power.
But in three fights against southpaws -- Victor Ortiz, DeMarcus Corley and Miguel Callist -- Maidana does better. While his average output dropped to 69.6, his overall accuracy surged to 29.2 percent (a 14.8 percent rise), his jab rate dropped to 9.0 (a 36.2 percent drop) but his power accuracy rose to 36.3 percent (a 15.7 percent increase). On defense Maidana is struck by 29.1 percent of his opponents' punches -- a 4.6 percentage point improvement -- and he actually enjoys a plus-0.1 rating (29.2-29.1). His left-handed rivals landed 2.5 percentage points more jabs (11.5-9.0) and 1.8 percentage points more power shots (38.1-36.3), but that's much better than the big gulfs he experienced against orthodox fighters.
Prediction: Alexander hasn't been great lately and one wonders if he has the physical strength to survive Maidana's enormous pressure. If Alexander's jab is working he improves his chances for an upset, but even that won't be enough. Maidana by late-round TKO.