James Kirkland - Can He Become A World Champion?

James KirklandBy James Slater - Whether or not he answers the question posed in the headline of this article in the affirmative, James Kirkland is always going to be a sensational fighter to watch. Fast, hugely aggressive and in search of the KO every time he fights, the unbeaten 24-year-old offers don't-blink entertainment.

The light-middleweight did it again this past Saturday, when he scored what was arguably his best win to date. Kirkland thrilled the watching fans as he went right after the formidable and highly thought of Joel Julio, becoming the first man to stop the 24-year-old Colombian. Once again showing his incredible physical strength and his raw punching power, the southpaw from Austin, Texas forced Julio to remain on his stool after six pulsating rounds. However, in winning his biggest fight to date, Kirkland once again left himself open to the critics who say he does likewise whenever he fights. It's true: defence is not a part of the game that Kirkland pays too much attention to..

So far, it hasn't mattered - as the now 25-0(22) slugger has proven too tough for all those he has met in the ring. He's had a couple of scares, though. Back in Nov. 2007 Allen Conyers decked Kirkland in a wild 1st-round before being stopped himself a few seconds before the bell. And after the Julio win Kirkland's people said themselves that their fighter must pay more respect to his own defence. But it looks a good bet that the natural puncher will be unable to change all that much. Kirkland is simply fearless when he climbs through the ropes and he fights accordingly. That's why we like him - his reckless, all-out attacking style gives the fans value for money entertainment.

The fact that Kirkland's chin and porous defence make him a little vulnerable himself only adds to the drama. The question, though, is how far can the 24-year-old go? With his withering power, Kirkland has a chance against ANY 154-pound fighter he gets in there with. There are some fine and talented boxers at the top of today's light-middleweight division, but Kirkland would be no outsider against any of them. Paul Williams, the man most see as the best at the weight, would be favoured to beat the still improving Kirkland, and maybe Sergiy Dzinziruk, the southpaw from Ukraine would too. But that's about it. Vernon Forrest, at age 38? Kirkland would be in with a superb shot at doing to "The Viper" what the wild swinging Ricardo Mayorga did to him down at welterweight a number of years back.

While guys like Cory Spinks, Sergio Gabriel Martinez and Daniel Santos, as more than capable as they are, would not be fighters Kirkland would in any way be reluctant to get it on with. That pretty much covers the top guys at the weight Kirkland would have to defeat in order to become a world champion. As such he must be given at least a 50/50 chance to become a ruler - especially with Williams, the best of the best at 154, looking like becoming a fulltime middleweight soon.

If he can get past the also unbeaten Alfredo Angulo - the fighter many see as the next foe for Kirkland - the man from Austin will surely get his chance at a major belt. He's too exciting not to get his opportunity. Speaking of excitement; if he and Angulo do meet the only people who would have a chance of going home disappointed would be the purists. How savage would this dogfight be?

If the potential war with "El Perro" (should it come off) doesn't either take too much out of him or take away his unbeaten record, Kirkland will have passed his final pre-world title fight test. Whatever happens, and whichever way things end up going, Kirkland is sure to keep us on the edge of our seats in 2009 and hopefully beyond.

Article posted on 11.03.2009

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