Texas slugger James Kirkland's past is, we can hope, in the past. The popular Kirkland makes his return to televised boxing on Friday, when he faces Jhon Berrio on Solo Boxeo Tecate.
Kirkland (26-0, 23 KO) was well on his way to becoming a major star after showing his vicious, straight-ahead, breakneck style against the likes of Brian Vera, Joel Julio, Eromosele Albert and others. But in April 2009, a month after beating Julio on HBO and on the verge of breaking out as a real star, Kirkland was arrested in Austin, Texas, on charges of carrying a firearm, a violation of his probation from a 2003 armed robbery. In September 2009, he was sentenced to two years in prison.
At this point, Kirkland has lost about four and a half years of his career. His 2003 conviction left him out of the sport for about two and a half years, while the 2009 conviction kept him out from March 2009 until this month. On March 5 of this year, Kirkland returned to the ring on the off-TV undercard of the Alvarez-Hatton show in Anaheim. The 26-year-old Texan, now firmly in the Golden Boy camp and managed by Cameron Dunkin, stopped Ahsandi Gibbs in just 34 seconds.
Clearly, by taking another fight less than two weeks later, James is ready to fight. Berrio (15-8, 11 KO) is an extremely limited with some pop, last seen in November when he was thrashed by Peter Manfredo Jr. in Rhode Island. It's really nothing more than another tune-up fight for Kirkland, but it's good to see him active and working his way back to 154 pounds.
In the other fight on the show, lightweight prospect Luis Ramos Jr. (17-0, 8 KO) stays busy against Jose Hernandez (10-4-1, 4 KO). Don't be put off by Hernandez's record, though -- he's a better fighter than the W-L count makes it appear, and has pushed other prospects in the past. He gave Matt Remillard 10 good rounds, took Michael Perez eight rounds and lost a split decision, and in his last fight drew Mickey Bey Jr. on the Donaire-Montiel card. Sharif Bogere did stop him in three, but more often than not he gives guys a workout with his active style.