Exciting young junior middleweight James Kirkland caught a break during sentencing for the gun charge that could have ruined his rising career. Kirkland pleaded guilty to gun possession by a convicted felon and was sentenced to two years in prison, but overall his time served could have him back in the ring in less than a year.
From Dan Rafael:
Kirkland would get credit for the approximately six months he has already served. In addition he can earn credits for good behavior and Texas rules allow for the final six months of his sentence to be served in a halfway house, [Kirkland attorney and co-manager Michael] Miller said.
Miller said federal guidelines called for a sentence of 47 to 57 months. However, Miller said Kirkland avoided the harsher sentence because U.S. Judge James Nowlin was impressed by the outpouring of support for the 25-year-old.
Besides Miller testifying on Kirkland's behalf, so too did his promoter, Golden Boy's Oscar De La Hoya, who made the trip to Austin with others from the company.
"I told the judge that James made a stupid mistake that cost him dearly," De La Hoya told ESPN.com after leaving the hearing."I told the judge, yes, we all make mistakes and we all need role models. I want to take James under my wing and guide him. He's never had that before. The judge was great on giving him that time because he could have given him a lot longer."
Said Miller, "James is a great kid who needs another chance. He committed a stupid act but his benefit to society isn't going to be in prison. It's going to be in society as someone kids can look up to as a person who changed his life around and made something of himself. I think the judge took that into consideration.
"James took responsibility for his stupidity and his own actions and a judge likes to hear that. I've visited him three times and I think he gets it. His attention has been gotten. If he fights again, great. But learning from this is what it is all about."
I take little potshots at Oscar every now and again, but it's legitimately great to see him go to bat for someone like this. But I do believe he's wrong about something: James has absolutely had people take him under his wing and guide him. That's been the focus of his brief HBO hype, with the video packages they do. Kirkland has had people in his corner trying to help him be a better man, but he screwed up this time.
The situation never screamed out to me that James Kirkland was some dangerous thug, or irreparable criminal or anything like that. He did something stupid, and he's done what he's had to do to take responsibility for it.
Kirkland is one of those rare fighters who possesses power, speed, and that killer instinct that you either have or don't. He is pure energy in the ring, and he's as exciting as they come. He's had personal issues, no doubt about that. But he's also 25 years old and can hopefully learn, and make this the final crossing of paths with the law. He's got a great future with a lot of money ahead of him if he can buckle down, and I hope he does that. Not only does it mean he lives a good life, but it means we get to watch him fight.