By Francisco Salazar
(HOUSTON, Tex.) - If boxing was dead after May 2, which was a narrative used over and over, Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez victory sure gave it much-needed life.
Especially with a highlight-reel knockout.
Alvarez dropped Kirkland three times in route to a action-filled third round knockout victory over James Kirkland before a vocal crowd of 31,588 at Minute Maid Park.
With the win, Alvarez improves to 45-1-1, 32 KOs, while Kirkland dropped to 32-2, 28 KOs.
The highly-anticipated bout between Alvarez and Kirkland might have been what the sport needed. Floyd Mayweather's win over Manny Pacquiao last week did little to give the sport a jolt after weeks of coverage and turned off casual fans to the sport.
Kirkland was seen as an opponent to test Alvarez. While he did suffer a first round knockout loss to Nobuhiro Ishida in April of 2011, Kirkland is a dangerous puncher, especially during the first three or four rounds of a fight.
Alvarez had not fought since July 12, when he defeated Erislandy Lara by split decision. He was supposed to fight Joshua Clottey on December 6, but withdrew from the fight in October, citing a previous ankle injury.
From the opening bell, Kirkland went straight at Alvarez, backing him up in a corner, unleashing a barrage of punches, including two left hands that Alvarez took well in the first minute of the fight.
The tide turned midway through the round when Alvarez dropped Kirkland with a lead right hand to the chin. Kirkland got up and fought back, but it looked as though he did not have his legs underneath him.
"Once I dropped him, I knew I had him," Alvarez said after the fight. "It was only a matter of time."
To his credit, Kirkland tried to fight back. He was on the offensive while Alvarez worked off the ropes. There were moments when both exchanged combinations, but Alvarez's punches seemed to have more effect on them.
Kirkland was doing well again in round three, but Alvarez dropped him a second time with a devastating right uppercut to the head. Kirkland got up and tried to fight back, but was met by a powerful and well-placed right cross by Alvarez that violently dropped to the canvas. Referee Jon Schorle immediately waved the fight over at 2:19, sending the pro-Alvarez crowd into a frenzy.
Alvarez landed 87 punches out of 150 total punches, while Kirkland landed 42 of 197.
"I'm happy with the win and the result was what I expected," said Alvarez as he was surrounded by his team. "I knew that James was a strong fighter, but he did surprise me with his aggressiveness in the first and second rounds."
There is talk of a possible fight in the fall against Miguel Cotto, who fights Daniel Geale on June 6 in New York City. Alvarez said he is willing to fight any of the top fighters at 154 or 160 pounds, including Cotto.
"I will continue to fight the best fighters. That is what I do. I fight for myself and for the fans. I'm not afraid of any fighter. He (Cotto) is a champion and the kind of fighter I want to fight."
Oscar De La Hoya, who promotes Alvarez, confirmed a Cotto fight is a possibility.
"Canelo was a star before and now he is a shooting star. What impressed me tonight about him was that Canelo kept his poise in the second round when Kirkland came out aggressively."
"There is nothing set in stone (about a Cotto fight). We have talked and negotiated, but there is nothing set in stone. There is a offer sheet, but Cotto has a fight. If Canelo and Cotto doesn't work, then we move on to plan B."
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, RingTV, and Knockout Nation. He could be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing