Top former amateurs are expected to make it in the professional ranks. We see it so often than we almost take it for granted that World Amateur Champions and Olympic champions will, one day, win professional world titles.
Of course things don't always go the way we expect. Audley Harrison is a great example of a former amateur who failed to reach the expected heights as a professional, Yan Barthelemi is another and this weekend we saw Alexander Alekseev (24-3-1, 20) joining that list of high profile "flops".
Alekseev, a Russian who was a repeated medal winner in the unpaid ranks, took on Cuba's enigmatic Yoan Pablo Hernandez (28-1, 14) for the IBF Cruiserweight title that Hernandez was defending for the third time. Funnily despite Hernandez not looking like a champion at times he was in total control of Alekseev who looked out of his depth and fragile through out.
The fight started with Alekseev using his jab well, unfortunately that was all he seemed to have, a sharp jab. Hernandez walked through them whilst landing his own much more eye catching shots to both head and body. Despite Alekseev throwing a lot, it took just one punch, late in the round, to decide the rounds winner as Alekseev was sent to the canvas for the first time in the bout.
Although Alekseev was able to get up from the knockdown it was obvious that he wasn't able to take the full blooded shots that Hernandez was able to land. Hernandez, whilst not having the record of a puncher, does hit hard and Alekseev found that out the hard way.
Through rounds 2,3 and 4 the power of Hernandez wasn't landing cleanly enough to send Alekseev over again though in round 5 the champion managed to connect again with a bomb which really seemed to not just Alekseev but really shake him. Hernandez did go for the finish but his lack of finishing skills were shown up as Alekseev saw out the bell.
Having gotten himself well in to the lead Hernandez then began to fall asleep at times. The Cuban, whose talent is obvious, seemed happy to know that he could land a bomb at any time and relied on this mentally as he took rounds off, fought in very short bursts and relaxed.
By round 10 to appeared that Hernandez had began to be clawed back. He was still in the lead but Alekseev was beginning to make things interesting just due to the fact Hernandez was being that lazy. Suddenly however things were over, a single right hand sent Alekseev down for the third time in the bout and this time the referee stopped the fight, a right decision looking at Alekseev who was in no fit state to continue even if he had gotten back to his feet.
Hernandez, who is regarded by some as the top Cruiserweight in the world, won here comfortably in all honesty but again left me feeling like he's not that good. Physically he has it all, speed, timing, power, size but mentally there is something not there and his finishing seems awful. He has the power to put people away with single shots but if he's forced to take it to a standing opponent out he seems to lack the ability to connect cleanly. A big issue if he faces someone like Lebedev, Huck, Jones, Afolabi or even Drozd.
For Alekseev this is probably the end of his world title dreams. He's been shown, once again, to lack a world class chin and he's also shown that he lacks the skills needed to avoid being tagged on the chin. A shame given his amateur credentials but at the end of the day it is a flaw that he's failed to find a way to defend.