James Kirkland is ready for the shot of a lifetime against Canelo Alvarez on September 15. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
In an interview this evening with Leave it in the Ring Radio, James Kirkland spoke about his September 15 fight with Canelo Alvarez, which was made official on Thursday, sounding excited for a big opportunity, confident in his ability to pull the upset, and respectful of Canelo's ring intelligence and improvements.
When asked if he'd studied Canelo, Kirkland responded with a laugh.
"Have I been studying him? You got to know that. He's a great champ," said the Texas native.0" He's a combination fighter. He's got willpower. He's got almost the whole package, you know? One thing that I believe, my willpower, my determination, and my heart, along with the skills that I have, plus I'm left-handed -- I've seen one fight he had with a left-hander and he almost got knocked out."
Kirkland continued, "He's never fought nobody like Kirkland. He's never fought a fast fighter like me, the hardest puncher like me. He's fought people who have power, but don't have speed or that extra mile in them. People say, 'Kirkland, this is a step up for you.' And I say, 'It's a hellified step for him.'"
Kirkland (31-1, 27 KO) feels that many will underestimate his chances, and haven't given him due credit for what he feels are his own unappreciated boxing skills.
"I know he's a smart fighter. I'm smart, too," Kirkland said. "I just like to get in there and see who punches harder. It's just I always punch harder."
"Every fight that I have, I learn something. Progression is just the number one key thing when you keep fighting. I know he keeps getting more intelligent. There's just something about me, I'm different than other fighters."
"People don't give me (credit for) my skill. I make 'em miss, make 'em pay. They always see me on the kill mode, but they never give me my ups for my boxing."
As for Canelo's approach, Kirkland sees a potential opening in the way the 21-year-old Mexican (40-0-1, 29 KO) tends to start slow in his fights.
"He starts off like a dull battery. He starts off so slow," he said. "I'm gonna jump in like it's a turtle race and turn it into a rabbit race. I'm gonna jump him. I'm gonna go in fast and see what he got, especially if he wants to pit-pat, pit-pat. If he starts off that slow, man, he's got another thing coming. I'm coming. It's a pay-per-view fight. There's no other way to say it, it's a must-watch fight."
He also feels that Alvarez makes himself a sitting target, and that this -- along with conditioning issues -- were evident in Canelo's May 5 win over Shane Mosley.
"A lot of people don't see he gassed out in the third round," said Kirkland.
"He kept his head in one spot. He was a target. He feinted, moved his head just a little bit, stayed right there. All you have to do is throw combinations. ... It's easy to catch someone who's a dead target."
As for the shoulder surgery Kirkland recently had, which originally led his team to turn down the Canelo fight and look to rehab a bit longer, James is confident he'll be 100% in time for the fight.
"I'm for it. I'm ready. My shoulder, I know that I have no pain in it anymore," he said. "I can pick it up, I can do the moonwalk with it, i can do around the world and do it super good. When I throw it all the way to the max, I feel no pain, but I know I did have surgery.
"Keep throwing it out there, it starts to adapt to that pull. It's, like, you never forget how to ride a bike. It never forgets what it's supposed to do."
One thing does concern Kirkland a bit: The judges. With Alvarez being Golden Boy's new golden boy, a legitimate star at 21 years of age, with a lot of earning upside left to go, some are already worried that if it goes to the cards and Kirkland deserves the win, he'll get jobbed.
Predictably, Kirkland doesn't see any need to let it go the distance.
"He's a cash cow. They say if you let the cash cow take you to the scorecards, or allow him to make it to the 12th round, they're gonna rob you. So I'm gonna make them believe. He's gonna look like a pumpkin, man."