by Cliff Rold
If there is more action Saturday night on HBO (9 PM EST/6 PM PST) in the first round than there was in twelve rounds last weekend, would anyone be surprised?
James Kirkland always brings it. Canelo Alvarez will be waiting.
This is the sort of fight always easy to anticipate. It could end early or become a dogged war. Either way, fans will know they saw two young, hungry fighters still trying to prove something. For Kirkland, it could be a last chance to stay in the thick of things.
For Alvarez, it could be the critical step on the road to a showdown with Middleweight Champion Miguel Cotto.
Let’s go the report card.
Previous Titles: WBC Super Welterweight (2011-13, 6 Defenses); WBA/Ring Jr. Middleweight (2013)
Weight: 154.5 lbs.
Hails from: Juanacatlán, Sinaloa, Mexico
Record: 44-1-1, 31 KO
Record in Major Title Fights: 7-1, 4 KO
Rankings: #1 (BoxingScene, TBRB, Ring, ESPN, BoxRec)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 8 (Miguel Vazquez SD4, UD10; Carlos Baldomir KO6; Lovemore N’dou UD12; Kermit Cintron TKO5; Shane Mosley UD12; Austin Trout UD12; Floyd Mayweather L12; Erislandy Lara SD12)
Title/Previous Titles: None
Weight: 154.5 lbs.
Hails from: Austin, Texas
Record: 32-1, 28 KO, 1 KOBY
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 1 (Carlos Molina DQ10)
Pre-Fight: Speed –Alvarez B; Kirkland B
Pre-Fight: Power – Alvarez B+; Kirkland A
Pre-Fight: Defense – Alvarez B; Kirkland B-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Alvarez B+; Kirkland B+
Kirkland doesn’t necessarily have a great chin. He does have a scary one. Here’s why: it gets better as he warms up.
There are fighters who, for whatever reason, are vulnerable early but seem to take punches well the deeper a fight goes. In Kirkland’s case, it makes sense. He puts so much pressure, and has such heavy hands, foes can’t get the same leverage in later rounds that they do early.
Alvarez has a tool to counter the attack and that’s his jab. Alvarez has a good, hard jab. It sets up the rest of his game. He hides the right well off of it and goes to the body in combination. Will the southpaw stance of Kirkland mess with his timing? It did against Erislandy Lara but that’s such a different style match it’s hard to draw much from it.
Both men move there head more than they get credit for. Kirkland sometimes gets nailed early but when he’s on the attack and in rhythm he can be hard to find. If this fight comes down to stamina, Kirkland’s state will be a huge issue. When he’s fully trained, he’s a whirlwind who seems almost incapable of taking a breath.
When he’s not: Nobuhiro Ishida happened.
Kirkland’s first round loss to Ishida still stands out like a sore thumb. He’s been hit by harder punchers. That was a case where he wasn’t prepared the way he should be.
Based on weigh-in photos, and the magnitude of this stadium event, Kirkland appears to have brought his best game. What will that game look like? He’s fought only once since March 2013. Will he be rusty?
And can he hurt Alvarez? While the popular battler has stepped up his competition in a big way in recent fights, we’ve still not seen him with a big time puncher at his natural weigh class. That changes Saturday.
If Kirkland can avoid being stopped early, he has the stamina, volume, and power to scare the hell out of Alvarez. Will his inactivity be a factor? It’s possible. His chin is also an issue. Alvarez isn’t a one-punch killer but he can definitely hurt a man. He’s more precise, and more steady, than Kirkland, but he’s also show some fatigue issues. The thinking here is he can land what he needs before Kirkland gets on a roll, resulting in Alvarez by stoppage in the first half of the fight
Report Card and Staff Picks 2015: 30-7 (Including Staff Pick for Uchiyama-Chuwatana)
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]