Steve Kim at MaxBoxing reports this evening that James Kirkland has reunited with trainer Ann Wolfe, following Kirkland's disastrous April 9 loss to Nobuhiro Ishida.
Kirkland (27-1, 24 KO) worked in a highly successful fighter-trainer relationship for years with Wolfe, herself a former fighter and one of the most noted female boxers in history. But after a gun possession charge while on parole, Kirkland was imprisoned and had a falling-out with Wolfe. When he returned to the sport, he was trained by veteran Kenny Adams, won two tune-up fights, and then was wiped out by Ishida in 1:52, in a fight that was supposed to just be another Kirkland warm-up. Here's some crowd footage of the fight (language NSFW):
Talk after the fight was that Kirkland might try to go back to Wolfe for career guidance. Adams, now 70, is a fine trainer, but there were questions about what kind of schedule he could keep with a full-time fighter these days. After the loss to Kirkland, Adams fell ill in the locker room and was taken to the hospital. Thankfully, it was minor, but trainers -- like anyone -- have a peak they pass eventually, too.
Now that Kirkland is back with Wolfe, what can we expect?
The brutal truth might be that Kirkland just isn't what he was cracked up to be. Yes, he's an animal offensively, but who did he ever really beat? Joel Julio and Brian Vera are OK fighters, but not top of the line, and Kirkland's lack of boxing was always covered by his ability to take a punch and his destructive power. When you combine those two things with a ferocious nature, you get a fighter, if not a great pro boxer.
But against Ishida, he looked helpless. Kirkland is only 27, but he's got some miles on him mentally -- he has to. He's been at the bottom personally, if not professionally, and that can take a toll on any man. Maybe Ann can inspire him to become the force he was before, but I'd proceed with caution before trumpeting Kirkland as sure "back" just because he's reunited with the trainer who understands him best. She can't take the punches for him, and she can't fight for him.
But either way, I've still never seen a boring James Kirkland fight, and though they'll surely look for a tune-up first, another action-packed slugfest could be on the way. Steve Kim also says that there are talks to match Kirkland with veteran brawler Ricardo Mayorga (29-8-1, 23 KO). Mayorga last fought on March 12, losing an entertaining if mostly one-sided battle with Miguel Cotto on Showtime pay-per-view. The Nicaraguan trash talker can't box for beans, but he's still got some grit and some thunder. To me, Kirkland-Mayorga sounds like 360 seconds, at most, of furious barroom brawling -- and a lot of fun.
That fight would be paired with the make-up date for Joseph Agbeko and Abner Mares in the finals of Showtime's bantamweight tournament, and makes all the sense in the world. Agbeko and Mayorga are promoted by Don King, while Mares and Kirkland are Golden Boy fighters.