James Kirkland is going into the biggest fight of his career on May 9 without the trainer who has led him to his greatest career successes, as ESPN.com reported yesterday that the junior middleweight knockout artist won't be working with Ann Wolfe for his bout with Canelo Alvarez.
Kirkland (32-1-1, 28 KO) and Wolfe have had an up-and-down professional relationship the last few years, which seemed to start mostly with Kirkland's most recent stint in prison. After that, Kirkland did not train with Wolfe for his comeback bid in early 2011, which saw him los for the only time in his career, knocked out in the first round by Nobuhiro Ishida in one of the more stunning upsets in recent years.
The two got back together after that, and Kirkland won five straight fights between 2011 and 2013. He hasn't fought since, and has endured a lot of promotional issues. At one point, he was suing Golden Boy, Wolfe, "Pops" Billingsley, and his manager, but a lot of that was resolved. Kirkland is now with 50 Cent's SMS Promotions stable.
Kirkland will instead be trained for this fight by Gerald Tucker, a former amateur boxer who went 5-0-1 in six pro fights in 2000-01. The Cincinnati native has no track record training professional fighters, and manager Michael Miller has the same reaction most fight fans will. He also says that Wolfe doesn't know why the two aren't training together.
"If you're not going to train with Ann at least train with someone who has experience," Miller said. "If you're going to change trainers, train with someone who has trained top fighters. But I tend not to get into that stuff. I haven't asked him why he isn't training with Ann, but she's puzzled too."
And this is simply rumor and fan talk and all that, but there are some people out there who are skeptical this fight will actually wind up happening. This news may not help to calm their nerves any. Kirkland has really been his own worst enemy over his boxing career, which could have been hugely lucrative and still may be. It's a potentially disastrous decision to train with an unknown trainer, but at the same time, who knows? Maybe Tucker and Kirkland will be a great fit together, and maybe Tucker is a trainer who comes out of left field and makes a name for himself.
Do you worry about Kirkland making this decision? Does it temper your expectations for him in this fight?