UK contenders, Lee Purdy and Kell Brook, know all about setbacks.
Purdy, the former British welterweight champion, had been hot on the heels of talented Oklahoma fringe contender, Carson Jones, for months but two postponements have all but killed the match up and left the Englishman devoid of a career changing opportunity.
Brook, the IBF’s top contender, has been one part of the welterweight division’s never ending story. On three occasions the long awaited clash with champion, Devon Alexander, has been called off when injury befell both fighters weeks and, on one occasion, days before the event.
Still, boxing is a funny business and in steps the perennially unfortunate Purdy to replace Brook on May 18th for a dream shot at Alexander’s crown in Atlantic City.
“I feel devastated for Kell but his time will come,” said Purdy in earnest. “He fought himself into a mandatory position whereas I haven’t even taken part in an eliminator. We haven’t spoken to this point but my heart goes out to him.”
Regardless of Purdy’s empathy for his undefeated countryman, the power puncher didn’t think twice about stepping in when the next available contender, Kevin Bizier, refused to face Alexander.
“It’s the opportunity that you dream of,” stated Purdy. “I’m fighting for a world title in America so there was no reason to hesitate and I said yes straight away.”
And what does the newly appointed challenger make of THE RING’s No. 6-rated welterweight?
“Alexander is extremely fast and he’s tricky,” Purdy told RingTV.com. “He also holds a lot which makes it difficult to catch him with clean shots but his weakness is he hasn’t been hit by me yet. He lost to Tim Bradley, who is a pressure fighter, and he doesn’t like being drawn into battle.”
Purdy clearly feels character, not skill, is the area where Alexander finds himself lacking.
“My power, my overall strength and my heart will be difficult for him to contend with. He quit against Bradley because he was taken to a tough place. My mission is to take him there again.”
Alexander is a lefty who uses his port side awkwardness to the full but Purdy also has a message for the champion on that issue.
“I’ve never lost to a southpaw,” said the Essex star. “I’ve always dealt with left handers extremely well. I move to my own left and catch them with right hands so the stance doesn’t bother me at all.”
Purdy, known as “Lights Out,” is looking to live up to his moniker. He does not see a tactical approach securing victory for him in this fight and his prediction was laced with both realism and serious intent.
“I won’t win on points over there against such a good operator but my goal is to knock him out.”
Stranger, and similar things, have happened.
Twenty six years ago Britain’s Lloyd Honeyghan ventured to Atlantic City in an unlikely bid to dethrone the best welterweight in the world, Donald Curry.
“The Ragamuffin Man,” from London, was the undefeated British, Commonwealth and European champion but Curry, a prohibitive favorite, was considered leagues above.
Honeyghan controlled the fight and forced a corner retirement at the end of six pulsating rounds.
Purdy has lost on three occasions at domestic level so he may not be Lloyd Honeyghan but that is somewhat balanced out by the fact that Alexander is not Donald Curry – at least not to this point.
“The fight means the world to me,” said Purdy. “To win a world title away from home, as a massive underdog, would be a huge achievement.”
Photos / Scott Heavey-Getty Images, THE RING
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and contributes to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing