Austin, Texas born James Kirkland (32-1, 28 KOs) has finally landed the marquee fight that has eluded him for quite some time now. Whether it was out of the ring issues, managerial, or promotional issues until now he hadn’t landed the big fight. To make it even sweeter Kirkland will get his big fight in his home state. The Minute Maid Park, in Houston, Texas to be exact which is Just a few hours drive away from where he was born. Oddly enough Kirkland will not have the majority of fans in attendance backing him by a longshot come May 9th. That honor will go to his opponent that night former world champion Mexico’s Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (44-1-1, 31 KOs). As exciting of a fighter that Kirkland is his popularity can’t come close to competing with that of Alvarez even fighting in his home state. Alvarez will have thousands of fans in attendance who will come out to support him and fill the fight venue.
The lack of home turf aside Kirkland has a much bigger problem in itself in attempting to derail Alvarez. One major statistic that jumps out at you right away is the inactivity on the part of Kirkland. By the time he enters the ring for his fight with Alvarez he would have fought just twice in the last 3 years. Just once in the last 18 months. Kirkland did not fight at all in 2014. In Kirkland’s last fight he fought unbeaten and active Glen Tapia. He entered the fight not having fought in nearly 1 year and 9 months. Because of this he entered the fight as a slight underdog to the hometown favorite Tapia in New Jersey. We predicted Kirkland to win entering the bout feeling that the fact that Tapia wasn’t a big puncher nor slick boxer would nullify the inactivity of Kirkland. Kirkland went on to completely destroy the stationary target Tapia by way of a punishing 6th round TKO. Tapia and Alvarez couldn’t be more different of a level of fighters. Alvarez is a very complete fighter. He has been consistently fighting and against the very best competition including his 12 round Majority decision loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2013. Also a 12 round split decision win over Erislandy Lara in July 2014 in his last fight. Tough fights for Alvarez but proper rest after each fight. It’s the tale of two different careers. One of Alvarez being properly groomed to be boxing’s next superstar and the once promising Kirkland entering his second consecutive straight fight being brought in as the b side inactive opponent.
One consistency that has remained steady for Kirkland throughout his career has been his conditioning. He has never looked out of shape in his fights. This will be very important for him entering against Alvarez. Alvarez even in excellent shape has looked a bit sluggish throughout parts of fights but generally gets a second win and closes strong. It will be interesting to see how Alvarez handles Kirkland’s all out blitz attack. Even if he is dropped it does not seem to deter Kirkland. He has always gotten up and keeps coming. This is the second consecutive southpaw for Alvarez but slick boxing Lara and the world wind attack of Kirkland couldn’t be more different styles of fighters. The natural size factor seems to favor Alvarez who regularly enters the ring weighting 170 or more come fight night. This will be important as he will eventually taste the leather of Kirkland and the extra weight could help him to get through some rough patches throughout the fight. The other advantage with the additional poundage could be when fighting on the inside with Kirkland to help him wear Kirkland down. The body punching attack he used on Lara could be key as well to slowing Kirkland down. So many opponents have worried about Kirkland’s offensive attack that they spend a lot of time on the defensive. Alvarez is physical enough to sustain a body attack on Kirkland and in a long grueling bout he gives himself a chance to stop Kirkland late or pound out a hard earned decision.