PONTIAC, Mich. – Timothy Bradley won the big fight, even if the fight didn’t play big.
Bradley defeated Devon Alexander by a unanimous technical decision Saturday night when their highly anticipated junior welterweight bout, which was a dud from an action standpoint, ended in the 10th round as a result of the one offensive tactic in which both men engaged often and willingly: a head butt.
The fight was stopped at 1:59 of the 10th round after the last such head butt, which was ruled accidental by referee Frank Garza, left Alexander unable to continue.
The butting started early, and Alexander was cut over the right eye by the first nasty clash of heads. By the eighth round, the head clashes had grown rampant.
By rule, the partial 10th round was scored, and Bradley was judged the winner.
Duane Ford had it 97-93, Tom Miller had it 96-95, and Omar Mintun scored it 98-93, as Bradley added the World Boxing Council 140-pound title, which he previously held, to the World Boxing Organization crown he already had.
“If that’s the best in the world, that’s weak,” said Bradley (27-0, 11 knockouts).
Alexander (21-1, 13 KOs) countered that even if Bradley feels that way, they may not have seen the last of each other.
“There is a rematch clause in the contract,” Alexander said. “I want a rematch with Timmy Bradley.”
Bradley has a history of clashing heads in fights, including a no-contest with Nate Campbell in 2009, when their fight was stopped in the third round after a similar infraction.
That wasn’t good enough for Kevin Cunningham, Alexander’s trainer, who criticized referee Frank Garza for not taking a more proactive approach to disciplining Bradley.
“I told the referee before the fight that Timmy’s last six opponents have been cut by head butts,” Cunningham said. “I told him, I told him, I told him.”
Garza stopped the fight on the advice of ringside physician Dr. Peter Samet.
Samet said he asked Alexander three times to open his eye after the last head butt. He said the fighter could not do so.
“He literally could not open his eye,” Samet said of Alexander. “It was more than a cut. I was worried that it was a nerve and that his eye was paralyzed.”
Alexander said he couldn’t see after the fight-ending sequence.
“He’s got a big head,” Alexander said. “He came at me full force. My eye was burning. I could not see.”
Bradley blamed Alexander for refusing to engage in the fight. Alexander spent several rounds boxing on the perimeter, while Bradley stalked, then leaping inside offensively.
“He jumped in,” Bradley said. “He just didn’t want to get hit with the big shot.”
There were no knockdowns and neither fighter was hurt by a punch.
Alexander weighed the class limit of 140 pounds, while Bradley weighed 139½.
Bradley-Alexander was the first unification fight between undefeated Americans since Mike Tyson beat Tony Tucker in 1987. While the nature of the victory might not please many, it did set up Bradley for a fight against a major opponent.
Bradley, 27, said he immediately is focused on Amir Khan but most wants to fight Manny Pacquiao, who has a May date with Shane Mosley.
“I’m looking for the fights that fight fans want,” Bradley said.
Bradley said he expects the 23-year-old Alexander to win a championship again, but not at his expense.
“Give Alexander time and he’ll box you to pieces,” Bradley said. “I didn’t give him that time.”
HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg said earlier Saturday that the winner of the fight had options that could lead him in “a number of directions.”
“Obviously, Amir Khan is out there,” Greenburg said. “I think the winner of this fight would be well-positioned to be an opponent for Floyd Mayweather down the road. So this is a star-power fight. Whoever emerges from this fight is a legitimate presence, not only at 140 pounds, but probably 147.”