One of the talking heads on TV mentions that Romney is in for a "slugfest" with Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. Another adds that primary season will leave the former Massachusetts governor "bloodied" by the time the general election rolls around.

Alexander laughs out loud when he hears these metaphors. What do these politicians and journalists in designer suits know about slugfests and getting bloodied?

What do they know about getting in a ring with a relentless Argentine scrapper with hammers for hands who has knocked out 28 of the 33 men he has fought and wants to beat you unconscious and pound your career into oblivion?

Jennifer Silverberg
Jennifer Silverberg

It's about a week before the fight. Devon Alexander wakes up at 6 a.m., throws on his sweats and runs five-and-a-half miles.

Tension between the fighters has been growing. A few days earlier the Maidana camp threw out allegations about Alexander taking performance-enhancing drugs.

"There are heavy rumors out there about possible use of PEDs," Maidana's advisor Sebastian Contursi emailed Tim Lueckenhoff, the executive director of the Missouri Office of Athletics. "What could be better to throw those rumors away in the most transparent fashion than performing a drug test before and after the fight?"

Cunningham was incredulous and pissed. He emailed Lueckenhoff, "Devon will take any test, anytime."

Alexander laughed it off. But it's personal now.

After the run Alexander stretches and completes a circuit of pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups and resistance-band strength work. Then he eats breakfast.

There are now rumblings that the winner of Alexander v. Maidana might just get a mega-fight shot against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the fall. Nobody is talking about what happens to the loser. Alexander certainly isn't. Asked what will become of him if Maidana's punches prove to be too much, Alexander jabs back with unwavering confidence.

"A lot of guys hit hard," he says. "But I hit hard, too."

The fighter is back at the gym by 12:45 p.m. for three hours of shadow boxing and heavy bags and sparring. Then dinner. Then another workout at 7 p.m. and lights out by 10. Rinse and repeat.

The routine has consumed his life for nearly twenty years. So long that it is the stretches in between, the protracted days without the urgency and pressure of a looming fight, that feel peculiar.

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