by Peter Lim
Junior middleweight James Kirkland, 30-1 (27 KOs), takes on Carlos Molina, 19-4-2 (6 KOs), on the undercard of Erik Morales' WBC super lightweight defense against Danny Garcia at the Reliant Arena in Houston on Jan 28. The card, staged by Golden Boy Promotions, will be aired on HBO.
After suffering a shocking, triple-knockdown TKO defeat in the first round to unheralded Nobuhiro Ishida, 24-6 (9 KOs), in April, Kirkland emphatically resuscitated his career with a life-and-death 6th-round TKO of Alfredo Angulo, 20-2 (17 KOs), last month.
Although Kirkland, 27, appears to be the overwhelming favorite on paper at first glance, a closer look at Molina's record narrows the odds. A spoiler and perhaps a late bloomer, Molina, 28, tenaciously upset former two two-time welterweight titleholder Kermit Cintron and fought previously-undefeated Cuban Erislandy Lara to a controversial draw earlier this year.
Molina also remains the only blemish on Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.'s record, holding the reigning and undefeated WBC middleweight titlist to a six-round draw in 2005. His four losses - all against undefeated fighters - appears to have been the result of mismanagement earlier in his career. He hasn't lost a fight in almost five years.
"What happened with (Molina) and other opponents has nothing to do with me," Kirkland told The Houston Chronicle at a recent press conference. "I don't look at the people he's fought and upset. I look at what I have to do and stick to it."
Despite his 90 percent knockout ratio, Kirkland said he refuses to succumb to any expectation to be the first fighter to stop Molina. He will resolutely abide by the round-by-round game plan devised by his trainer Anne Wolfe, he said.
"Look at all my fights," Kirkland said. "I don't try to hurt people or knock them out. It just comes that way."
Molina, of Chicago by way of Mexico, was not available for retort at the Houston press conference.