James Kirkland travels to Mexico on Saturday to face Alfredo Angulo in a make-or-break matchup for both. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
Kory Kitchen joins the Bad Left Hook staff today with a preview of Saturday night's fight between Alfredo Angulo and James Kirkland.
On January 29 of this year an epic battle took place inside of the Silverdome Arena in Detroit, Michigan. No, it wasn't Andre the Giant getting body-slammed by Hulk Hogan. No, this matchup didn't even bring in a tenth of the live crowd that WrestleMania III did. In fact, it wasn't even much of a battle.
Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander, generally regarded as the two best junior welters in the world at the time, put on what could generously be described as a ho-hum fight. Neither fighter seemed inclined to take a serious risk. Neither fighter could draw enough people to their fights to fill a decent high school gym. Neither fighter raised their stock with their performance. However, both fighters did take home healthy paychecks for their trouble.
By the time Alexander screamed, "F---! It burns!" these two men had done enough to damage their reputations and the reputation of boxing's big fights. (Maybe he was channeling some of the country grammar that fellow St. Louis native Nelly used to rap about. Maybe not.)
I give a brief recap of Bradley-Alexander because I believe it directly correlates to this weekend's matchup on HBO and boxing in general. This Saturday night will feature a matchup between two of boxing's most exciting fighters. Alfredo Angulo and James Kirkland do not know how to take a backward step, and may throw more power punches in one fight than some fighters will throw in many. To put it bluntly, this will be a war.
A few years ago Angulo was known to hardcore boxing fans as the "Next Great Mexican". Mexico's boxing history is perhaps second only to the United States in terms of talent and consistency. Mexico's boxing history is second to none when it comes to pure excitement. If you don't believe me then just go to YouTube and type in words like Morales, Barrera, Zarate, Olivares, Chavez, or Sanchez. Angulo's name was supposed to be the next in line for blood-and-guts Mexican action. However, an immigration issue kept him basically in hiding, and he seemingly never would contact his promoter, Gary Shaw, while staying in Mexico. There were rumors that the American audience may never again see him perform his craft. Just as it appeared this would be true, Golden Boy Promotions signed Angulo, and have claimed that they will have his immigration problems settled.
James Kirkland has also had his share of recent troubles, though his have also been in the ring. After stopping Joel Julio in March of 2009 Kirkland was on his way to a title shot in the junior middleweight division. The Austin, Texas prospect had turned into a legitimate contender, and had become somewhat of a staple on HBO's Boxing After Dark series. Only a month later he was arrested for possession of a firearm, and due to being in prison he was inactive for two years.
Kirkland's in-ring problems had been well-documented as well. It doesn't take Eddie Futch to be able to recognize the Texan's glaring technical flaws. However, his punch resistance, while not thought to be granite, wasn't thought to be exactly transparent either. After Kirkland was floored three times and stopped in the first round by unheralded Nobuhiro Ishida, many questioned whether he will ever live up to his initial expectations. Since the Ishida debacle, Kirkland has knocked out a pair of bums.
So, this is where we are now. Two desperate fighters that haven't looked good in a long time, and are in desperate need of a big time win. It's a fight that both men have to win, and neither man can afford to lose. This is not a major fight like Bradley-Alexander was supposed to be. But it will be a passionate war like Bradley-Alexander was supposed to be. This is the kind of fight that needs the support of boxing fans around the world. This is the kind of fight that premium networks need to be making more often.
This is the kind of fight that HBO should be promoting with their full advertising muscle. I have never understood the philosophy of doing heavy advertisements for fights featuring Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather, which are practically guaranteed to produce a million pay-per-view sales on name brand alone, but then do very little television promotion for their "regular fights". If HBO wants to build a bigger fanbase they need to promote the heck out of a fight like this because the winner is likely to score a knockout in a spectacular fight. Therefore, a casual sports fan that was flipping through the channels will see it, and will make it a point to watch these two guys fight again. Hopefully, the boxing programming is consistently strong, and then you have someone hooked for the long-term.
Last, but certainly not least, there should be a feverish crowd. Angulo is, of course, from Mexico and the fight is taking place in Cancun. With so many fights taking place within half-empty ballrooms or a 90% empty dome, it will be refreshing to see a real live crowd (gulp!).
The matchup of Alfredo Angulo and James Kirkland is proof that we don't need great fighters to have great fights. All that we need is desperate men that want to win and look good doing it. Somebody is getting knocked out.
Prediction: And that person will be Kirkland. I love to watch Kirkland fight, but I just can't see him lasting with Angulo due to his poor chin and skill set. He has reunited with Anne Wolfe, but I don't see him suddenly changing for this bout, and you can't train your chin. I see the early rounds having some horrific exchanges, and Kirkland may win a round or two because he will try to overwhelm Angulo. It says here that "Perro" will withstand his opponent's charges, and chop down Kirkland by the middle rounds. At the risk of sounding elementary, I think it basically comes down to Angulo being able to take Kirkland's punch, and Kirkland will not be able to take his.