James Kirkland, now 35 and four years after his last fight, is looking to make a boxing comeback.
The former junior middleweight contender has signed with Davies Entertainment and reunited with trainer Ann Wolfe, which is one of the more famous and heavily-discussed boxer-trainer relationships in recent memory. When Kirkland was with Wolfe, he did quite well. When he wasn’t, he didn’t.
Wolfe was not with Kirkland (32-2, 28 KO) for his last fight, a nasty third round knockout loss to Canelo Alvarez at Minute Maid Park in Houston, on May 9, 2015. Wolfe was in attendance, though, and spoke candidly with HBO cameras after the fight.
Asked about what it was like to see Kirkland battered by Canelo, which Wolfe had predicted would happen, she said, “To see James like that, see his mother upset like that, see everybody upset — it wasn’t ‘I told you so, I’m happy because that happened to you.’ It was fucked up.”
The pair were known for Wolfe’s brutal training camps, which pushed Kirkland to the very limits, and did truly get the best out of a talented and powerful boxer who wasn’t always able to focus on his career and stay on the straight-and-narrow and all that.
Wolfe was also not in Kirkland’s corner back in 2011, when he was shockingly stopped in the first round by lightly-regarded Nobuhiro Ishida. She returned to his team after, and seven months later, Kirkland stopped Alfredo Angulo in a punishing war in Cancun.
Simply put, the James Kirkland trained by Ann Wolfe was one fighter, and the James Kirkland not trained by Ann Wolfe was another. He probably would have always lost to Canelo, and he wasn’t flawless with her — there was the bizarre DQ win over Carlos Molina in March 2012, for instance, in a fight where Kirkland was losing — but Kirkland was certainly a better fighter with Wolfe in his corner.
A comeback at this stage, after four years out of the ring, is going to be tough either way. You have to wonder if Kirkland can handle a Wolfe-style training camp at this point, physically or mentally. He’s been out of the game for a long time and he’s in his mid-30s now. In other words, this could be the first we hear of Kirkland’s comeback, but it could also be the last we hear of Kirkland’s comeback.