ATLANTIC CITY - British boxers have not fared very well lately at Boardwalk Hall.
Gavin Rees' fifth-round TKO loss to WBC lightweight champion Adrien Broner three months ago was the fourth straight defeat in title fights by a Brit at the legendary arena in the last five years - following setbacks by Gary Lockett (to Kelly Pavlik), Darren Barker (to Sergio Martinez) and Carl Froch (to Andre Ward).
Lee Purdy will try to end the slump on Saturday night when he challenges IBF welterweight champ Devon Alexander in a 12-round co-feature that will also be shown on Showtime.
"(Alexander's) style doesn't impress me that much," Purdy said Thursday at Caesars Atlantic City. "I know he likes to move around a lot, but there's only one place he's going to go Saturday night and that's to the canvas."
Purdy (20-3-1, 13 KOs), a 25-year-old native of Essex, England, is trying to become the first British fighter to win a world-title fight at Boardwalk Hall since 1998, when then-WBO featherweight champion Prince Naseem Hamed defended his crown with a decision over Wayne McCullough.
He wasn't expected to get the opportunity, but was offered the chance to fight Alexander (24-1, 13 KOs) about a month ago when his stablemate, Kell Brook (29-0, 19 KOs), was forced to withdraw from the bout with a foot injury.
"Being ranked No. 4 (by the IBF), I knew my chance (to fight for a title) would be coming soon, so I was surprised that this opportunity came about," Purdy said. "I only got four weeks' notice, but I was in the gym training anyway, so there was no reason not to take the fight."
He faces a huge challenge in Alexander, a 26-year-old native of St. Louis who showed up Thursday wearing a St. Louis Cardinals hat, as did his trainer, Kevin Cunningham, and his entire entourage.
Alexander has registered three straight victories since suffering a 10th-round loss to Timothy Bradley. He won the IBF title last Oct. 20 with a 12-round decision over Randall Bailey. He began that winning streak with a split decision over current WBC junior-welterweight champ Lucas Matthysse, who is fighting IBF welterweight champ Lamont Peterson in Saturday's co-feature.
"(Purdy) is more of a brawler than anything and that means he's made to order for Devon," Cunningham said. "Everybody has a puncher's chance, but from a skill-set and experience standpoint, he's not on Devon's level."
Both fighters made their pro debuts as teenagers, but Alexander had more than 300 amateur fights. Purdy had six as an 11-year-old, then gave it up for a few years after suffering a broken arm.
He played rugby for a while, but soon found himself back in the boxing ring, where he relies on the same rugged, aggressive style.
"I know I'm an underdog, but that doesn't bother me," Purdy said. "I hope he's underestimating me because if he is, he's making a big mistake. He's going to feel my power. I'm going to take him to a place he's never been before. I've been in the trenches and I have no problem being there again. Let's see if he can handle it."
Alexander could be forgiven if he is looking past Purdy. There are a number of lucrative fights looming for him, including fights with Amir Khan and possibly Floyd Mayweather Jr.
But Alexander insisted that there is no chance he is taking Purdy lightly. Those big fights can't be made if he gets upset.
"I made that mistake once when I was an amateur," Alexander said. "I didn't really take the fight seriously because I thought I would win by first-round knockout and it wound up being a very tough fight. That taught me a lesson.
"Anybody that laces up those gloves is trying to beat me and take my belt. Lee Purdy is a good fighter and I'm going in there as if I'm about to face the pound-for-pound king."
Punchlines: Matthysse arrived in Atlantic City Thursday at 10 a.m. after flying into New York from Argentina earlier that morning. He was hoping to get to town on Monday, but was forced to get a new passport after intruders broke into his home and tore up his original, along with stealing several other items.
Today's weigh-ins for Alexander-Purdy and Peterson-Matthysse will be held in the lobby of Caesars Atlantic City and is open to the public. ... Tickets are priced from $25 to $250 and are available at Boardwalk Hall and through Ticketmaster. ... Doors to Boardwalk Hall will open at 3:30 p.m. Saturday with the first undercard fight slated to start a few minutes later. ... Showtime's coverage of the co-features will start at 9 p.m.
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