By Keith Idec
James Kirkland claims he couldn’t possibly take Carlos Molina lightly, not after the Ishida Nobuhiro debacle.
Kirkland knows full well that another upset loss would be difficult to overcome, especially since he is inching toward a shot at WBC 154-pound champ Saul Alvarez. He has prepared accordingly for his 10-round fight against Chicago’s Molina (19-4-2, 6 KOs) on Saturday night at Reliant Arena in Houston (HBO; 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT).
“A lot of people think I was coming in underestimating Carlos and his style, but we [haven’t] done that,” said Kirkland, of Austin, Texas. “I made that mistake [against] Ishida, but you learn from all your mistakes. I’m just staying focused.
“We’ve worked on a bunch of different things because there’s no telling what this fight can be. It can be a head-on collision, it could be a lion chasing a deer. It could be so many different things. … We never know what we’re up against. When it comes down to the fight, the first person that feels that first pop, we’ll find out what type of fight it’s going to become.”
The 28-year-old Kirkland (30-1, 27 KOs) is at least certain that Molina has never encountered an opponent like him.
“He hasn’t fought no one halfway like me, as far as [someone who’s] going to be able to impose the will, as far as cutting the [ring] off,” said Kirkland, who was knocked out in the first round by Japan’s Ishida (24-7-2, 9 KOs) on April 9 in Las Vegas. “People don’t believe I have the boxing ability. They don’t know that I can actually box. But I tell people if they put me in that position, I will box. I’m just going to have fun.”
The WBC has mandated that the winner between Kirkland, ranked No. 2 at 154 pounds, and the 15th-ranked Molina must fight top-ranked Vanes Martirosyan (32-0, 20 KOs) in his next bout in a fight to become the mandatory challenger for Mexico’s Alvarez (39-0-1, 29 KOs).
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.