Friday, May 8, 2015

Surefire thriller Canelo-Kirkland to follow humdrum Mayweather-Pacquiao

By Peter Lim

Coming on the heels of Canelo-Kirkland, the so-called Fight of the Century turned out to be the missed opportunity of the century for the sport of boxing. Had Mayweather-Pacquiao even remotely lived up to its hype, its momentum might very well have compelled many a casual fan to watch the genuinely explosive match-up that is Canelo-Kirkland and perhaps generated a new batch of lifelong sweet science converts. Instead, the humdrum, anticlimactic outcome of the richest fight in boxing history probably rendered the general public turned off and tuned out, relegating this potential Fight of the Year to a marginalized audience of diehard boxing fans and patriotic Mexicans.

Fire and Ice

Canelo-Kirkland is analogous to a collision course between a massive glacier and a raging wild fire. We've seen the cool, calculating and versatile Canelo box with boxers and brawl with brawlers, beating both at their own game. Mature beyond his years, no other boxer except his lone conqueror, Floyd Mayweather Jr., can adapt and adjust to his opponents' style as well as Canelo.

Kirkland, on the other hand, only knows how to fight one way and that is all out war. Not only is he a relentless high-volume puncher, he also packs mind-numbing punching power. There isn't anything too cerebral about his game plan; he blasts away with both fists with uncompromising ferocity until the other man wilts, and it has worked for him in all but two of his 33 fights.

The two fights that Kirkland was unable to impose his will on his opponents came against two relatively light hitters - Nobuhiro Ishida and Carlos Molina. In the Ishida fight, Kirkland was caught cold, dropped three times and stopped in the first round. Against Molina, he was outboxed and befuddled but was spared a second defeat when Molina was dubiously disqualified in the tenth round.

Canelo has never faced anyone as dangerous as Kirkland before, but all in all, Kirkland's weaknesses play more into Canelo's strengths than vice versa. Moreover, Kirkland will be coming off a 17-month layoff and will be fighting without long-time trainer Ann Wolf in his corner for the first time since the Ishida disaster.

See this blogger's prediction for Canelo-Kirkland at

Several members of Houston's boxing fraternity weighed in on Canelo-Kirkland

Juan Diaz, (40-4, 19 KOs), former triple-crown lightweight titleholder
"Canelo's like a young lion now who hasn't been hurt like Kirkland. We've seen Kirkland hurt and he cannot take a punch. Even though he's a knockout artist, once he get's touched, he's going down. I believe that Canelo's going to feel Kirkland's power but as soon as Kirland feels Canelo's power, he's going to fall like he normally does in big fights. I believe Canelo's going to stop Kirkland in five."

Lou Savarese, promoter and former heavyweight contender
"I like Canelo who has gotten better with every fight. Kirkland is a guy  who puts everything on the line and will knock you out or gets knocked out. It'll go to a decision, it'll be an exciting fight but I like Canelo to win it."

Rocky Juarez, (30-11-1, 21 KOs), 2000 Olympic silver medalist and five time world title challenger
"Canelo's going to win in less than six. The reason I believe that is because he starts off quick and the only loss that Kirkland has suffered was from first round stoppage. You've got to catch him cold because once Kirkland gets started he's a relentless and dangerous fighter."

Edwin Rodriguez, (26-1, 17 KOs), super middleweight contender
"It's going to be a good fight. I think it's going to be a unanimous decision for Canelo. Kirkland brings a lot of pressure but the thing about Kirkland is you don't know which one is going to show up."

Frank Tate, trainer, 1984 Olympic gold medalist, former IBF titleholder
"The first one to land is going to be the winner. I'm going with Canelo."

Ronnie Shields, trainer at Plex Gym
"I'll say Canelo by disputed decision."

Bobby Benton, trainer at Main Boxing Gym
"I think Canelo wins pretty easily."

Juan Lopez, trainer at Lopez Boxing
"All the deficiencies in Kirkland's technique - he gets hit, he's careless - is going to catch up. I think Canelo's going to stop him. It's going to be a knockout in six or seven rounds."

Result and Aftermath:

The dynamic, fire-and-ice clash of styles aside, there were numerous intangibles that added to the pre-fight intrigue of Canelo-Kirkland. Could Alvarez withstand Kirkland's punching power or be fazed by his uncompromising ferocity? Would Kirkland be as destructive and well-conditioned after a 17-month layoff and without Ann Wolfe in his corner? Was his chin was frail as it appeared in his disastrous knockout loss to Ishida or was that an aberration considering he had survived the punches of harder-hitting fighters?

All those question marks were erased after the first round. As expected, Kirkland (32-2, 28 KOs) came out fast and strong,forcing the fight into the trenches while unleashing a fusillade of punches upstairs and down from his southpaw stance. Back against the ropes, Alvarez (45-1-1, 32 KOs) took a few direct hits but absorbed most of the incoming fire on his arms and gloves, and stemmed the onslaught by tying Kirkland up in a clinch.

When the action resumed, it was Alvarez's turn to go on the offensive. While there was little method to madness in Kirkland's attack, Alvarez's assault was calculated but no less violent. Clinically timing Kirkland with pinpoint straight rights and left hooks, Alvarez stopped Kirkland in his tracks before he could close the distance and resume his blitzkrieg. A left hook to the body followed by a straight right to the chin dropped Kirkland along the ropes.

The writing was on the wall after that; Kirkland had revealed his full hand in the opening round, while Alvarez still had a few cards up his sleeve, and both men seemed to know it.

"When I dropped him the first time, I knew I had him," Alvarez said. 

Kirkland went for broke in the second round, gunning for Alvarez with reckless abandon only to run into solid counters that came in the form of hooks, crosses and uppercuts from both sides and at all angles. Alvarez viciously zeroed in to the body when Kirkland missed and overextended his punches. Still, Kirkland courageously pressed the action and landed a sporadic flush shot that kept the fight interesting.

By the third round, Kirkland seemed gassed but nevertheless went through the motions of throwing inconsequential punches in bunches that Alvarez casually deflected and dodged, biding his time and waiting for the right moment to pounce. That moment came when Kirkland dipped smack into a perfectly-timed right uppercut that dropped him to his knees. He beat the count on wobbly legs and Alvarez went in for the kill. Offense, being Kirkland's only means of defense, he swung at Alvarez with a right hook only to be beaten to the punch by a curling right that caught him clean on the jaw and knocked him out cold at the 2:19 mark of the round.

Savarese Boxing card a prelude to Canelo-Kirkland

By Peter Lim

Houston will see two consecutive nights of live boxing as former heavyweight contender Lou Savarese puts on a fight night at the Bayou City Events Center on Friday, a day prior to the dynamic showdown between Saul "Canelo" Alvarez and James Kirkland at Minute Maid Park. While big HBO-televised bouts like Canelo-Kirkland only comes to Houston every once or twice a year, Savarese Boxing Promotions has been staging regular cards in the city since 2009.

The show has traditionally served as a platform for young local fighters to transition from rookie to prospect to contender while honing their skills in front of their homegrown fans, but it gradually evolved to feature an international cast of foreign imports as well. Fighters from South Africa to Uzbekistan to El Salvador and everywhere in between began to attract immigrants from their respective homelands to the cards, creating a festive atmosphere where people from all corners of the globe and walks of life with little in common except their passion for the sweet science comfortably mix, mingle and make merry.

This latest card, showcasing an eclectic mix of local and foreign talent, is no exception.

In the main event, local favorite and regular fixture on the Houston boxing scene Juan Leija (11-1-1, 3 KOs) takes on Samuel Gutierrez (10-12-4, 3 KOs). Leija is the Texas flyweight champion but his title will not be on the line.

Radmir Akhmediyev (4-0, 4 KOs) takes on Aaron Anderson (3-36, 1 KO) in a middleweight bout. Akhmediyev, 24, who relocated from Kazakhstan to Houston last year to train under Bobby Benton, has often been touted by Savarese as the next Triple G.

Welterweight Craig Callaghan (7-1, 4 KOs) of Liverpool, England, will attempt to rebound from his first loss against Anthony Hill (1-7).

Polish heavyweight Krystian Dzienski makes his pro debut against Jerome Aiken (0-1).

Justin Ledet (3-0, 2 KOs) faces Celso Pinzon (3-2-1, 3 KOs) in a heavyweight bout.

And junior middleweight Angel Huerta makes his debut against Raymond Johnson (0-1).

Results and fight report: