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HBO Boxing Preview: Morales vs. Garcia; Kirkland vs. Molina

By: William Holmes

On Saturday night, HBO will be competing with the NBC Sports Network for the eyes of boxing fans across the country, and HBO surely brings a solid card that will cause many fans to watch. The main event will feature a common theme on HBO non-PPV bouts, a popular but fading veteran in Erik Morales facing off against a rising and high potential prospect in Danny Garcia. The other televised bout will feature two of the top ranked fighters in the junior middleweight division, James Kirkland and Carlos Molina, with the winner surely deserving of a junior middleweight title shot.

An in-depth preview of both bouts follows below:

James Kirkland (30-1) vs. Carlos Molina (19-4-2); Junior Middleweight

James Kirkland is an all action fighter with considerable power in his hands. He was once known more for his 18 month prison stint than for his potential as a boxer, but started to regain his boxing fame once he began competing on the professional circuit again. He fought as an amateur and had a record of 134-12, but was never a Golden Gloves champion. Similar to Manny Pacquiao and Freddie Roach, the relationship that Kirkland has with trainer Ann Wolfe has been well documented and has helped his rise in popularity.

Kirkland turned pro in 2001, had a two-and-a-half year hiatus from boxing from 2003 to 2005 due to an armed robbery conviction, was convicted of the illegal possession of a firearm in 2009 and sentenced to two years in jail. If Kirkland would have stayed out of trouble, he might have been a legitimate champion by now. 27 of Kirkland’s 30 victories have come by KO or TKO: this is extremely impressive, the type of numbers that could make Kirkland a major, major, star in this sport.

Kirkland has consistently fought and defeated quality opposition, with Alfredo Angulo, Joel Julio, and Brian Vera on his list of defeated foes. He did suffer a shocking upset defeat to Nobuhiro Ishida in April of 2011, but when you fight as aggressively as Kirkland does, trading power shots with your opponents, upsets are bound to happen.

Standing across from Kirkland on Saturday will be Carlos Molina.

Molina’s record at first glance is not impressive: he suffered three defeats in a row from 2006-2007. He fought Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. twice, with the first fight being a controversial draw and the second a tough majority decision loss. He also lost another controversial draw to Mike Alvarado in 2007. He fought Erislandy Lara, the man who many thought defeated Paul Williams despite the judges’ awarding of the fight to Williams, to a draw in 2011. Molina’s biggest victory to date was a minor upset over former title contender Kermit Cintron in July of 2011. Molina has fought some tough competition, but seems to be on the losing end of a lot of controversial decisions.

Of Molina’s 19 victories, only 6 have come by KO. However, Molina has never been stopped, and all of his losses have went to the judges’ scorecards. Kirkland is going to be the favorite on Saturday, and the most interesting component of this bout will be Molina’s chin facing off against Kirkland’s power.

Erik Morales (52-7) vs. Danny Garcia (22-0); WBC Junior Welterweight Title

It’s a strange feeling when I see a boxer who I previously saw on an undercard, feeling back then that he had a legitimate chance at becoming a future champion, now fighting on an HBO card for a legitimate title.

Danny Garcia first came into my mind when I saw him fight on a Bernard Hopkins undercard at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He blasted his opponent with two knockdowns in the first two rounds before scoring a second round knockout.

Since then, he has been able to remain undefeated scoring victories over less than impressive competition. He defeated Nate Campbell when the latter man was way past his prime in 2011, and scored a split decision victory over the always tough Kendall Holt. When Garcia beat Campbell, Campbell had lost four of his previous five bouts. When he beat Holt, Holt had lost two of his previous four bouts. Morales will be Garcia’s biggest challenge to date.

Danny Garcia was the 2006 US National Champion as an amateur, and made his professional debut in 2007. Garcia is a technically skilled boxer with average punching power. Of his 22 victories, only 14 have come way by KO or TKO. This will be Garcia’s first time fighting as the main event on a major card.

There is no question that Erik Morales is a Hall of Fame boxer. He has fought in some memorable wars, but one has to wonder if Father Time will finally catch up with Morales. He has experienced a surprising resurgence in his career since coming back from retirement, and has fought a lot of the biggest names in boxing in the lighter weight classes. Junior Jones, Wayne McCullough, Marco Antonio Barrera, Kevin Kelley, In Jin Chi, Paulie Ayala, Manny Pacquiao, Zahir Raheem, and Marcos Maidana are some of the high level caliber opponents that Morales has faced.

Morales fought most of his career as a featherweight, and came back as a professional in 2010 as an overblown and out of shape welterweight. However, Morales was able to shed a few pounds and make the junior welterweight limit, and turned heads when he fought Maidana in April of 2011. Maidana entered that fight as a heavy favorite, and most experts gave Morales little to no chance. However, Morales showed the heart and fortitude that made him famous and lost a close decision.

His performance that night earned him the right to challenge for the WBC Junior Welterweight Title against then undefeated Pablo Cesar Cano. Cano might have won the first two rounds, but Morales cruised from then on and completely shut both of Cano’s eyes. Cano’s corner wisely decided to stop the bout in the tenth round.

Morales is a technically skilled boxer with tremendous heart, but I still feel he is fighting a weight class or two too high. He has 36 KOs or TKOs on his resume, but the power that he displayed as a featherweight hasn’t been showcased since he’s fought as a welterweight and a junior welterweight.

The biggest question that will be determined on Saturday: will Morales heart and veteran experience be enough to overcome the youthfulness, aggression and athleticism of his much younger opponent? The longer the fight goes, the better Morales’ chances will be. However, Garcia should be the victor, and an impressive victory over a future, but faded, Hall of Famer will enhance his visibility in the sport.


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