By Sean Crose
“This is the opportunity I have been waiting for,” junior middleweight brawler James Kirkland told assembled media on Wednesday during a public workout, “and overall I am happy. I feel blessed, and I am going to go out there and make history happen.”
He has good reason to feel happy. Kirkland (32-1, 28 KOs) has delivered all but four of his victories by way of knockout. He’s come across some tough times, as well, however, leading many to feel the one time prospect was all but washed up.
Indeed, prison time and inexplicable lapses in between action in the ring gave fans the impression that Kirkland was simply going to be one of those guys who never got to prove how good he was. That’s all in the past, however.
Kirkland will be facing no less a luminary than Saul “Canelo” Alvarez on May 9th at Minute Made Park in Kirkland’s native Texas. Canelo (44-1-1, 31 KOs) is about as big a name as one can face in boxing right now aside from Mayweather and Pacquiao. And Kirkland claims he’s ready to rise to the occasion.
“Gerald Tucker, Bay Bay McClinton, Rick Morones are all on my camp,” Kirkland said. “They are working me hard, doing what it takes to win.” Kirkland was once trained by Ann Wolfe, herself a former titlist, who’s known for being big on discipline.
In fact, some might have claimed Kirkland just wouldn’t be Kirkland without Wolfe in his corner. Yet Kirkland would probably beg to differ.
“Right now,” he says of his team, “I am very happy that they are keeping me busy, motivated and are providing a tough camp for me to be ready on May 9.”
Canelo will unquestionably be ready as well, but Kirkland appears unfazed.
“I know Canelo is going to put in the work on fight night,” he said. “I want to be a step ahead of him, so if he comes to box or comes for a slug fest, I will be ready.”
Kirkland exudes confidence. “I want to fight Canelo,” Kirkland claimed, “because I know his style. You see something, you analyze it, and I feel like I can beat him.”
Kirkland’s camp oozed confidence, as well.
“We all know he can fight,” head trainer Rick Morones said. “He is not a boring fighter. We have been improving his defense, his jabs to make him a more complete fighter.” Morones, like Kirkland, relishes the opportunity to face Canelo.
“This fight will take him to the next level,” claimed Morones, “and he is very motivated. I see him in the gym every day. He has a desire and passion for the sport. “
As if to calm the nerves of iffy fans, Kirkland’s strength and conditioning trainer, Bay Bay McClinton, made it clear that this version of Team Kirkland is very effective indeed. “”I have been training him since he was 15-years-old,” McClinton said, “and he is very comfortable with his new training team.”
The bout, which will air on HBO at 10 PM on May 9th, will cost delighted subscribers nothing (that’s a far cry from the hundred or so dollars fans will have to cough up to see Mayweather-Pacquiao a week earlier). It will also be accompanied by an episode of 24/7 on the network.
“This war will be (promotional company) Golden Boy’s way of celebrating Cinco de Mayo week,” a press release reads.
Let’s hope it’s a celebration that’s as good in action as it is on paper.