This is purely in the rumor stage right now, but there are real rumblings out there that James Kirkland's opponent for his February 18 return to the ring could be Delvin Rodriguez, who just defeated Pawel Wolak via wide unanimous decision on the Cotto vs Margarito card at Madison Square Garden.
Rodriguez's team hasn't made any official statements yet, and neither has Golden Boy or Kirkland. But Kirkland is being positioned as the co-feature for the Marcos Maidana vs Devon Alexander fight on HBO, and everyone's eager to get Kirkland back in the ring following his buzz-building November 5 beatdown of Alfredo Angulo in Mexico.
Personally, I absolutely love this fight, for many reasons.
James Kirkland wants to fight the best guys, and his trainer Ann Wolfe wants that for him, too. They very loudly complained about how easily they were being matched in the summer, after Kirkland's loss to Nobuhiro Ishida on April 9, and prior to his do-or-die matchup with Angulo. Kirkland did, and now he wants to keep that momentum going.
And Rodriguez, while not considered to be at the absolute top of the weight class, has two very good performances this year against Wolak. He got a draw in a fight where I thought he was a little unlucky to not get the W on July 15, and then closed the show big-time after a very good 10 rounds again on December 3.
[ Related: Rodriguez Tops Wolak in Rematch ]
Rodriguez (26-5-3, 14 KO) has never had anything handed to him in boxing. The vast majority of his losses and draws are questionable. He's a talented boxer, very tough, takes a good shot, and isn't easy for anyone.
Though Kirkland (30-1, 27 KO) is back to being thought of as a pure destroyer, I think the brakes need to be pumped there. He was knocked down early by Angulo, and though he did a fantastic job recovering and coming back to beat the living crap out of his opponent until the merciful stoppage came in the sixth round, he's still a very, very flawed fighter. He is far from unbeatable.
Guys like Brian Vera, Joel Julio, and Billy Lyell have hung around with him long enough to have had chances. They weren't good enough to capitalize on the openings. Rodriguez is good enough to do that, to make Kirkland pay for his bad defensive mistakes.
[ Related: Kirkland vs Angulo Analysis ]
It is, on paper, a very tough style matchup for Kirkland. That's the biggest reason I love the fight, even bigger than the fact I think it would be a fantastic fight and produce fireworks. Kirkland wouldn't be looking for someone tailor made for him here. James has never been afraid to fight anyone head-on, and I don't think he or Wolfe worry so much about looking bad due to an opponent's style.
It would be a risk. It would be a really good fight. And it would also be an earned return to the HBO airwaves for Rodriguez, one of boxing's hard-luck fighters who just never stops showing up. Here's hoping it gets made.