Sharkie’s Machine: Kirkland by Early Stoppage

By Frank Gonzalez Jr - September 6, 2008 - Friday night at the Austin Music Hall in Texas, exciting Jr. Middleweight prospect James Kirkland (23-0, 20 KO’s) was on display against yet another little known fighter named Ricardo Cortes, who’s record of 22-3-1, 15 KO’s is on par with Kirkland’s record (minus three loses). Cortes was coming off a first round KO loss to Alfredo Angulo in February. Kirkland’s last fight was a TKO 1 Win over Eromosele Albert. If I ruled the world, Kirkland would’ve been fighting Angulo instead of Angulo’s leftovers.

Things started with Cortes avoiding eye contact with Kirkland during the referee’s instructions. Cortes, ala De La Hoya, elected to skip the stare down, ‘psychological’ business. Kirkland’s presence is imposing enough and Cortes would have no choice but to look at him continuously once the fight started. Drama wasn’t something on the menu here since I don’t know anyone who expected Cortes to win.

Kirkland was aggressively moving forward, throwing lots of punches, all to the face. Cortes was also aggressive and had decent boxing skills that saw him land a few good shots, up and down, during some of the exchanges. Kirkland’s pressure was dictating the pace. It looked like Kirkland was going for a first round KO since he’s being touted as, “The Mike Tyson of the Jr. Middleweights.”

It was shaping up to be a good fight and both had some moments. Cortes was wobbled by a left, right, left combo from Kirkland but he recovered himself well enough and even scored some clean shots before the round ended.

In the second round, Cortes was scoring well with good counter punches. Unlike Kirkland, Cortes was attacking the body and the head. There was a lot of action as Kirkland aimed himself at Cortes, and threw the same combination over and over, left, right, left. The flow ebbed when Cortes rallied his offense and Kirkland took a few good shots, one that even had a little sting on it. A moment later, Kirkland caught Cortes with that same left, right, left combo and this time, knocked Cortes to the canvas along side the ropes. After Cortes was down, Kirkland threw two more punches, landing one while Cortes was already down. The ref said nothing. I doubt it was done maliciously, but it was a notable foul for which any impartial referee would issue at least a warning.

After Cortes got up, action resumed. Cortes was still a little stunned but was fighting back as Kirkland was going for the finish. The action sloppily found its way to the corner of the ring, where Kirkland wildly tried to finish—but didn’t landing anything clean enough. Kirkland pressed Cortes in an effort to get the knock out but Cortes was blocking well enough and fighting back, when the ref stepped between them and prematurely stopped the fight at 1:59 of the second round. What?

It was over. Kirkland was the winner by TKO in two. Cortes wasn’t happy about the stoppage. He looked capable of continuing but the purpose of this fight had already been fulfilled by the premature stoppage. Angulo KO’d Cortes in one. Though Angulo is one up on beating a common opponent and Kirkland is ranked higher than Angulo, maybe they should fight each other?

Though Kirkland appeared the stronger fighter, he looked very limited in this fight; his defense was poor, he didn’t throw punches to the body at all and got tagged frequently. If the referee hadn’t prematurely stopped the fight, who knows what might have happened down the stretch. Cortes was game, and he was working Kirkland’s body and that may have slowed Kirkland down but hey, we’ll never know. And that’s how it goes when you’re the home fighter and someone’s trying to make you a star. I don’t blame Kirkland for the stoppage. And who knows what the ref was seeing that caused him to stop it while Cortes was clearly fighting back and not getting hit cleanly?

Kirkland has a lot of potential. On looks alone he can fight tomato cans forever and have a financially rewarding career as a pro fighter. But I think there’s something in Kirkland that loves to fight. I think Kirkland thinks he can beat anyone in the ring. It would be great if he explores that notion in his next fight by taking on someone who is on a winning streak and equally dangerous.

I’d like to see Kirkland fight (another guy who’s ranked lower than him) Joel Julio (34-1, 31 KO’s), a well regarded, quality fighter on a seven fight winning streak. How about one of the other undefeated prospects like, Yuri Foreman (25-0, 8 KO’s) a good boxer, or Alfredo Angulo (13-0, 10 KO’s) a good banger. Even current Light Middleweight WBC titlist, Sergio Mora (21-0-1 Draw, 5 KO’s) would make a good match up for Kirkland, especially if Mora manages to beat the Viper twice. Mora vs. Kirkland would be like a “Contender” fight. You could watch that one with your girlfriend.

If Kirkland learns to be more disciplined on offense and develop better defensive skills, he has the demeanor and power to be a strong contender. He must attack the body consistently if he expects to have success facing the quality fighters of his division.

Surely with his look, the intrigue of his female trainer and his percentage of knocked out opponents (nobody worthy of mention so far) Kirkland could easily be the next manufactured ABC Titlist. Or, he could work hard and become truly great without the assistance of sympathetic referees and hometown decisions. As Teddy Altas continually said after the fight, Kirkland is great when he goes to the body and he does that very well… when he does it. That he didn’t do so Friday night in Texas could be the nervousness of fighting in front of his hometown fans. There was certainly a hometown referee that tainted Kirkland’s win with the hyper vigilant stoppage against a guy who deserved at least to finish the round.

With 23 pro fights, (all victories) its time for Kirkland to truly step up his level of competition, unless his camp isn’t confident that he’s ready. He got the gift TKO victory last night but we learned nothing new. He didn’t show any versatility; just that he’s an aggressive puncher that’s very hittable. He has a great young trainer in Ann Wolfe, the former boxer that was a two division champion. Though Wolfe was probably one of the most exciting female boxers I’ve ever seen, she’s probably most famous for being avoided by Leila Ali. I think she would have knocked Leila out about as quickly as the Gregorio Alvarez counted Cortes out Friday night.

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Article posted on 06.09.2008

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