By Kirk Jackson
It’s a shame that with all the hoopla that was with the event between Floyd Mayweather 48-0 (26 KO’s) and Manny Pacquiao 57-6-2 (38 KO’s), the fight between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez 44-1-1 (31 KO’s) and James Kirkland 32-1 (28 KO’s) was somewhat overlooked by a majority of the public.
But this will be an entertaining fight, for as long as it lasts. May 9th, at the Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas, could very well be hosting a potential fight of the year.
Many variables will determine how this fight will turn out, the variables of most importance include the inactivity and the preparation leading up to the fight.
Both fighters enter this bout after having long stretches of inactivity. For Alvarez, it’s roughly 10 months, while for Kirkland, it’s about a year and a half of inactivity.
The recent level of opposition favors Alvarez.
Alvarez’s last four opponents include Erislandy Lara 20-2-2 (12 KO’s), Alfredo Angulo 22-5 (18 KO’s), Floyd Mayweather 48-0 (26 KO’s) and Austin Trout 28-2 (15 KO’s). That’s somewhat a murderer’s row of junior middleweight/welterweight (Mayweather more so a welterweight) of opponents.
Kirkland has a decent resume, but has not encountered the same level of opposition.
Kirkland handed Glen Tapia 23-1 (15 KO’s) his first defeat back in December of 2013, he defeated Carlos Molina 22-6-2 (6 KO’s) and koed a fresher version of Angulo back in 2011. Kirkland is notoriously known to bang, his 84% KO percentage suggests just that.
Despite Alvarez being the younger fighter, 24 years-old compared to Kirkland who is 31 years-old, Alvarez has more fights and more experience.
Kirkland has essentially had two fights in the last three years leading up to this fight. There has been a switch of trainers, as Kirkland’s long time trainer Ann Wolfe, was again abandoned for this bout.
The last time Kirkland ditched Wolfe, he ended up getting koed by unknown Nobuhiro Ishida 27-11-2 (11 KO’s).
Former fighter from Cincinnati Gerald Tucker 5-0-1 (3 KO’s) will be the trainer in Kirkland’s corner for what is the biggest fight of his career. Although Tucker is relatively unknown, there are positives to take away from his presence in the Kirkland camp.
Tucker was undefeated as a professional and he hails from Cincinnati, a city with a long lineage of great fighters.
Another concerning issue for Kirkland however, is weight. This bout will be fought at a catch weight of 155 lbs., but as reported by ESPN’s Dan Rafael during the signing of the fight, Kirkland reportedly was over 200 lbs.
The concern is effectively losing the weight in such a short period of time, as bloating up in weight in between fights can be damaging to a fighter’s health. Ricky Hatton and Roberto Duran had similar problems.
Superior technique and punching power will win the day for Alvarez, although he has to be weary of Kirkland’s punching power and undeniable will to push through. Danger looms for Alvarez as long as Kirkland is around.
The biggest thing working in Kirkland’s favor, is his size advantage. Kirkland is one of the few opponents Alvarez has faced that is naturally the bigger man.
The southpaw effect will not play much of a factor, as Alvarez has plenty of experience facing elite southpaws (Lara, Trout).
Kirkland has the size factor and normally we could argue has the edge in stamina as well, as Alvarez has faded late in his fights. But with the long layoff and massive cutting of weight, will Kirkland have the endurance to constantly apply pressure?
Alvarez is coming off his longest layoff and suffered an ankle injury last year. Hopefully for his sake he is fully healed, because mobility and the ability to move around and escape incoming danger in spots will be a key weapon for him.
Alvarez has underrated defense, as he has shown the ability to dodge punches and press the attack methodically to breakdown his opponents.
Key punches for Alvarez will be his left hooks to the body and head and his right uppercut. Alvarez also has an awkward straight left hand that he can land as well. He landed the punch effectively against another southpaw, Austin Trout.
He can land the solid right hand lead, power punches as well.
Kirkland is a southpaw, but has a tendency to place himself in the line of fire. Due to his high tendency to get hit and his vulnerable chin, there is a great possibility he will taste the canvas in this fight.
Kirkland will be live for as long as the fight lasts, unfortunately for him, it will not be enough.
Kirkland will press forward, but Alvarez will display his boxing pedigree, attacking the body, evading danger when necessary, fighting in spots to conserve energy, letting off combinations every so often and clinically breaking down Kirkland.
There will be fireworks and intense moments of action, but Alvarez will play it safe and engage Kirkland in spots, opting to break the native Texan down, only to press for a stoppage in the later rounds.
Look for a stoppage after the mid rounds, as this is a showcase fight for Alvarez.
This is nothing more than to keep Alvarez busy and to allow him to look impressive, while hoping and waiting to lure the WBC and Lineal Middleweight Champion Miguel Cotto 39-4 (32 KO’s) for a potential blockbuster bout later this year.