A HUGE fight for Mexican and American boxing when Saul Canelo Alvarez takes on James Mandingo Warrior Kirkland May 9th at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Tex, home of the Astros. The park has a retractable roof, so it may or may not be “outdoors” depending on the weather, but with an expected full house of over 40,000 fans, for sure it’s the kind of fresh, mega event that boxing desperately needs.
In a sad note for US boxing, it will be the non-Mexican looking Mexican Saul “Canelo” Alvarez who is the star and the fight favorite, not to mention the screaming favorite of the predominate Mexican heritage fans in attendance. The puzzled 31 year old Kirkland will be the more powerful, aggressive fighter looking to put even more screams on young Canelo and his fans as his formidable 32-1, 28 KO record suggests. He was offered this fight back in 2013, but priced himself out with an outrageous $3 million purse demand, ultimately being bounced out of Golden Boy Promotions for his insolence. He will be making considerably less than his previous expectations, that is a certainty, but this fight is for more than just money now.
Kirkland originally started his career as a young, irresistible, knockout phenom and was quickly snatched up by Golden Boy who did a great job with his development. Unfortunately Kirkland repeatedly ran afoul of the law and served time on 2 separate occasions which greatly infringed on that development. He skipped last year, 2014, entirely, apparently upset over piddling fights and purses offered to him by his new promoter and Floyd Mayweather rival, 50 cent. Now he’ll need to knock off ring rust with his work cut out for him to win this bout since the amazingly young 24 year old Canelo is more skilled and experienced. He may also possess as much power as Kirkland, in short a bad set of counter combinations coming the defensively lax Kirkland’s way.
The fight will be held at a 155 lb contract weight that both will seriously struggle to make. Canelo looked half dried out, dead and buried, turning a scary hue of blue at his 152 lb catchweight weighin against Floyd Mayweather. He’s since been trying to hang on to the fringes of the 154 division in a series of 155 lb catchweight bouts just in case Mayweather comes calling again this year. Canelo was also willing to fight new 160 lb champ Miguel Cotto with a signed contract earlier this year, but Cotto was too busy changing up his promotional agreements with Top Rank to take that fight, so enter Kirkland as Plan B. Certainly the bulky Kirkland also needs to move up to 160, but he has always been too involved in negative outside influences to properly develop his career which has been something of a mishmash of weights. All I know is these guys are playing with the the worst kind of fire trying to make these unnatural weights as are many other fighters. Canelo will likely be over 170 come fight night, and Kirkland might be 180 or over.
Mainly this looks to finally be a great fight for the fans after Canelo consecutively took on 3 straight American stinker/spoiler styles to very little acclaim and credit. He needs an all action fight as he works his way back into a desolate boxing landscape at Golden Boy Promotions after their acrimonious divorce from Al Haymon. Haymon also took most of the GBP fighters with him in the swindle of the new boxing century that is still being played out. Oscar de la Hoya did win a private settlement against former honcho Richard Schaefer who engineered those deals, but, it’s not clear if De La Hoya can shake his substance abuse problems to resurrect what used to be an up and coming promotional juggernaut. A big Canelo win would be a much needed jumpstart to what looks to a slow year for them.
And speaking of, Mr. cent’s promotional debut was highly welcomed by boxing and fans as much needed new promotional blood, yet since has been slowly circling the drain as his biggest stars fizzled. A big Kirkland win gives both a monumental kick upstairs for bigger fights, so this opportunity is like manna raining from the heavens for them.
It’s a certainty that nobody has yet seen the best possible Kirkland, but if he does show up well trained with some new skills and wrinkles, will it be enough?
Not many know or remember that the teen aged Canelo more than held his own in many spirited sparring sessions against the best middleweight fighter today, Gennedy Golovkin. Yes, that Triple G, mi compadres, is some serious experience under the worst kind of punching pressure. Kirkland also looks impossibly strong at his best, his best fights being his last two against Mexican Carlos Molina and American Glen Tapia. The light swatting Molina put him in one hell of a fight where Kirkland injured an arm that had to undergo surgery afterwards, yet still managed to brutalize Molina with some big shots at the end that sent Molina’s manager scrambling into the ring to save his fighter. Kirkland didn’t get enough credit for the incredible heart he showed with that fight, and now his stellar knockout of Tapia last year is long forgotten in a “what have you done lately” world of boxing.
Kirkland is also a lefty, one of the modern explosion of southpaw contenders and champs that far outweighs their prevalence in the general population. Lefties have proven tough to beat overall and few fighters like to fight them, not even lefties themselves like to fight each other. Erislandy Lara and Austin Trout are recent southpaws that Canelo beat, but they were faint hearted spoiler types that have little relevance in preparation for the bludgeoning, bluntforce aggression of Kirkland. Canelo, started his career as a 15 year old against stronger, more mature fighters, so this is nothing really new for him. All he really needs is to be in good fight shape with decent sparring as Kirkland will put him through his paces for sure.
Regardless, Canelo said the Kirkland fight is on, and so it shall be as a rare treat for the fans. Stay tuned for the rock’em, sock’em finale.