A week after the match that was the biggest money fight in boxing history, another star would grace the boxing ring. Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez is one of the brightest stars in the sport and he has continued Mexico’s long tradition in boxing. Coming off of a win against Erislandy Lara from 2014, Alvarez looked to continue facing the best fighters in his division. Standing across from ‘Canelo’ was knockout artist, James ‘Mandingo Warrior’ Kirkland, who brought a record of 32-1, with 28 of those wins coming in the form of a knockout. The stage was set at the Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas, for this match up of two of the premier fighters in the 154lb division.
Kirkland came out of the gates early, looking to pressure the Mexican star. Kirkland pinned Canelo on the ropes and started to unload a series of short shots to both the head and body of Saul Alvarez. Canelo maintained his composure, while doing his best to cover up and counter the charging Kirkland.
A minute into the round, Alvarez landed his first clean blow, a left hook to the jaw of Kirkland that seemed to slightly stiffen the legs of the Texas fighter. Sensing blood in the water, Alvarez began to open up with his combination punching. James Kirkland waived Canelo towards his as he moved back towards the ropes. Kirkland seemed to still be feeling the effects of the early punches and as he leaned on the ropes, a quick a left hook to the body followed by a sweeping right hand from Alvarez floored Kirkland.
Kirkland made the count and as the action resumed, he went right at Canelo, looking to fight fire with fire. Both fighters traded shots on the inside, but Alvarez’ superior speed and accuracy gave him the resounding edge in all the exchanges. ‘Mandingo Warrior’ was again hurt at the end of the round, as he ate flush right hooks to the head and digging blows to the right side of his body. James Kirkland was virtually saved by the bell, as he was absorbing an incredible amount of damage and looked to be seconds away from a stoppage loss.
Leading into the bout, the absence of Anne Wolfe from the corner of Kirkland was a big focal point, as it was her who had guided James through some of the tougher moments in his career. If Wolfe’s influence was to play a factor, it would be in a ‘trench warfare’ situation, the situation James found himself in going into the second round.
As round two began, both fighters met in the center of the ring and continued to battle. The 31-year-old Kirkland launched right hands in the direction of Canelo but his punches were too slow. Seconds into the bout, Alvarez had Kirkland on unsteady feet once more and pushed the Texas native to the ropes and unloaded a ruthless barrage of strikes. James Kirkland was held up only by his heart at this stage and even while absorbing punishment, he still attempted to move forward and land punches of his own.
Saul Alvarez sat back in the middle stages of the round, having spent a lot of energy in the previous minutes. Kirkland had a resurgence in the latter portion of the round, where he drove Canelo to on the ropes and landed some thudding blows of his own, and gaining some momentum as the round concluded.
Kirkland charged forward in round three, forcing Canelo to cover himself and look to play the role of a counter puncher. ‘Mandingo Warrior’ kept attacking but his punches did not seem to have the power that they usually have, and his punches appeared slower then the previous round. Canelo was timing Kirkland and he saw an opening as James Kirkland moved towards him to land a sharp right uppercut. The uppercut landed cleanly on Kirkland and sent him to the canvas.
Kirkland again made the count but was clearly out on his feet. Referee, Jon Schorle, allowed for the fight to continue, but only to give Canelo a chance to finish off his prey. A jarring right hand from the Mexican landed flush and ended the night for the brave James Kirkland. No count required from the referee as Kirkland laid flat on his back, knocked out.
With the win, Saul Alvarez once again puts himself back in the spotlight and showed that out of all the young fighters out there, he has the biggest shot at super stardom. At only 24 years old and with his lone defeat coming at the hands of boxing’s P4P king, Floyd Mayweather, Canelo now has his sights set on WBC middleweight champion Miguel Cotto, a clash that has been long talked about and often stalled. Should Cotto get past his next opponent in Daniel Geale, the stage would be set for these two meeting one another.
If the fight happens, it would mark Canelo’s return to PPV, a platform in which he has had some success, but has lacked blockbuster appeal without a superstar opponent in the promotion. The fight with Cotto would provide Alvarez with a chance to win a title in another division, and the possibility of becoming the third biggest PPV star behind Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.
There are a lot of opinions for Saul Alvarez after his impressive performance over James Kirkland, as besides the Cotto fight, there has been talk of a match up with IBO champ, Gennady Golovkin down the line, and there is always a possibility of a rematch with Floyd Mayweather if Alvarez somehow comes away with a middleweight title belt.
The bout from this past weekend against James Kirkland not only marked the return of Saul Alvarez after a 10 month absence, but it also excited the boxing fans, which was a much needed change of pace for the boxing world that was coming off of the underwhelming Mayweather-Pacquiao bout. Alvarez’s win could also see him in contention for a year end award, as his knockout win over Kirkland is an early candidate for knockout of the year. No matter what direction Alvarez goes next, he announced this past Saturday night that he is back, and is one of the most exciting young stars in the sport today.