If you hear a rumbling in the boxing world right now, it's probably coming from HBO's newest card, scheduled for March 7. In the main event, there should be thunder aplenty when James Kirkland faces Joel Julio in what could be a stunning battle between young punchers.
Julio (34-2, 31 KO) is without any question the toughest test yet for Kirkland (24-0, 21 KO), who has become a hot rising star thanks in large part to HBO wins over Eromosele Albert and Brian Vera. Neither of those fighters brings the power that Julio does, however.
Cameron Dunkin, manager for Kirkland, admits readily that this is a dangerous fight. Frankly, if I'm part of Team Kirkland, I hate this fight for my guy. But I would also admire the guts he's displaying by taking such a risky matchup. Too many fighters, in my view, are coddled for too long these days. Danny Jacobs, I've said before, has nothing more to learn about boxing or about himself by smashing more bums. Kirkland has nothing more to learn fighting club fighters like Vera. Sure, Vera stood up to him well, but he was never a serious threat to Kirkland.
Julio is a serious threat. The young man can throw down. His two losses have come against crafty southpaws Carlos Quintana and Sergei Dzinziruk, the latter a fight most guys in his position wouldn't have taken, but he's another guy who's shown the balls to take tough fights, and has probably learned something in defeat.
In short, I love this fight, I love HBO for making it, and I respect the hell out of both fighters for taking it on. Kudos all around.
The co-feature that night will pit Golden Boy's new golden child, Victor Ortiz, against veteran Vivian Harris is a nice step-up fight for Ortiz. It's also a battle of dudes whose nickname is "Vicious."
Little has been heard or seen of Harris (29-3-1, 19 KO) since his September 2007 loss to Junior Witter, a fight where Witter flat-out kicked Harris' ass around the ring. He took 13 months off before returning to the ring last October, fighting at a Medieval Times in Lyndhurst, New Jersey.
But if he knocks off Ortiz (23-1-1, 18 KO), then he's right back in the mix at 140. A win for Ortiz, on the other hand, means Victor now has a real Quality Win on his record, and that's generally enough to land a sanctioning body title shot.
I like this fight, too, to be honest. I figure Ortiz has a fairly easy time with Harris, but Vivian has to know this is damn close to a last shot opportunity. He's 30 years old and seems far removed from his run as WBA junior welterweight titlist.
Golden Boy is also trying to get HBO to make the March 7 card a tripleheader with Robert Guerrero in another bout. Guerrero returns after a long absence on the off-TV undercard of Margarito-Mosley on Jan. 17, and would likely be ready to fight again by March 7 barring any injury.
The other fight HBO reportedly has locked up is the long-rumored April 4 showdown between 122-pound titlist Juan Manuel Lopez (24-0, 22 KO) and 118-pound titleholder Gerry Penalosa (53-6-2, 36 KO).
Penalosa, at 36, may not seem at first glance to be a great challenge for Lopez, and with the explosive way that Juanma fights, he might wind up not being a great challenge. But even though he's advanced in age, Penalosa is still one tough cookie with a lot of skills. The fight will take place in Puerto Rico, Lopez's home country, and I hope they find a decent co-feature for the show. WBO featherweight titlist Steven Luevano has been mentioned for that date, and I doubt they could convince him to face Mario Santiago in a rematch in Santiago's country, but hey, it's worth a shot. Ask Luevano if he'd rather not fight on TV at all.
The Lopez-Penalosa card will essentially go head-to-head with Showtime's offering of a 140-pound title unification between Timothy Bradley and Kendall Holt. I've complained about these things before -- we all have. Once last year a Showtime rep talked to me about how they run the first Saturday of the month and HBO is really counter-programming them and not the other way around, and while I see his point...Showtime doesn't really run the first Saturday of the month every month. I've more come to accept that it's a reality we have to deal with now and then. There are only so many Saturdays.