ST. LOUIS – Devon Alexander's camp wasted little time in sending out the challenge.
Less than a minute after Alexander's unanimous decision victory over Andriy Kotelnik in his hometown on Saturday night, trainer Kevin Cunningham placed a T-shirt in front of the unbeaten WBC and IBF junior welterweight champion.
It read: Bradley U Next.
That would be fellow undefeated 140-pound champion Timothy Bradley.
Alexander (21-0, 13 KOs) turned in a solid, yet not outstanding effort in disposing of the pesky Kotelnik (31-4-1), who made a late charge but was unable to overcome a slow start.
All three judges scored the fight 116-112. All three had Alexander winning the first four rounds.
"It was an OK performance," Alexander said. "I think I did enough to win."
And perhaps enough to earn a meeting with Bradley (26-0), which would be the biggest fight in the career of the 23-year-old Alexander. That bout could take place as early as next January, according to promoter Don King.
Alexander, a southpaw, used a stick-and-jab method to rack up points early in the fight. He was the more active fighter and held a 1,113-763 advantage in punches thrown during the 12-round affair.
"I trained for 12 rounds and got the victory," Alexander said. "That is what I came here to do."
Kotelnik, 31, opened a cut above Alexander's right eye in the fifth round. The cut opened further in the 10th, forcing Alexander to hang on down the stretch while cramping up in the final round.
"It was my first cut, but I fought through it like a world champion," Alexander said.
Kotelnik, a silver medalist at the 2000 Olympics, won three of the last four rounds on one judge's card and two of the last four on the other two. But it wasn't enough to overcome Alexander's strong start.
Kotelnik felt the judges were influenced by the pro-Alexander crowd of 9,117.
"I want the belt, I deserve it," Kotelnik said through an interpreter. "If the fight happened anywhere but here, I would be the champion. I have no words to describe what happened. That guy has something that belongs to me."
Earlier, IBF light heavyweight champion Tavoris Cloud successfully defended his crown with a hard-earned unanimous decision over veteran Glen Johnson.
Alexander grew up in the rough Hyde Park neighborhood of North St. Louis. Cunningham took him under his wing at age 7 and kept Alexander focused and away from the drugs and gangs that took away many close to Alexander, including his brother Vaughn, who is serving an 18-year jail sentence for armed robbery.
Alexander was never involved in a street brawl as a youth, although he saw plenty of them. Instead, he saved his fighting for the ring.
"I kept focused and stayed on the right path," he said.
Alexander, an amateur Golden Gloves standout, jumped into the limelight with an eighth-round knockout of Juan Urango in March and solidified his reputation as an up-and-coming fighter with the gutsy win on Saturday.
Cloud (21-0), 28, from Tallahassee, Fla., used his strength to wear down the 41-year-old Johnson (50-14-2), who was born in Jamaica. All three judges scored the fight 116-112.
In a preliminary bout, Cornelius Bundrage recorded a technical knockout of IBF junior middleweight champion Cory Spinks 1:28 into the fourth round. Bundrage (30-4), the mandatory challenger, knocked Spinks into the ropes and referee Mark Nelson stopped the fight before completing the count. Bundrage has 18 knockouts. Spinks is 37-6.