'Left-Hook Lounge': Vivek Wallace's Mailbag feat. Kirkland, Berto, Ortiz/Kotelnik, Jr. Welterweight Division, & More!!!

James KirklandZaslow P. (Atlanta, GA): With James Kirkland finally being released, how do you think his team should go about getting him back in the mix considering how deep the 154lb division is, and who would you like to see him face?

Vivek W. (ESB): First of all, I'd like to see what kind of condition Kirkland is in. Personally, I would not rush him into the ring with any of today's bigger names in the division until he's taken a minimum 3 tune-ups, and has fought a good 24 rounds, at least. By that time he would have gone deeper than 7 to 8 rounds or so at least two times, and would have re-established himself as a fighter who can go the distance (or close) with full strength. Any ring warrior will tell you that the true fight is won in the guy, but that's based on conditioning, as sparring is NOTHING like the real deal. I've seen several fighters near the top of the sport make every sparring partner you put in from of them whence and moan, but come fight night, fail to get off a meaningful combination beyond the 4th round due to exhaustion. Kirkland needs rounds. He needs to get hit. He needs to hit a few people. He needs to re-develop that killer instinct, and recall within his mind how to execute it without losing sight of the gameplan..

When he does reach that level, a few of the men I'd like to see him face would be Saul Alvarez, Angulo, Cotto, Williams, or Martinez, (in no certain order). Alvarez would be an interesting matchup because of his power, skill, and heart. Cotto, based on his style would be intriguing, because Steward is getting more out of him than many thought he had left. Angulo would be an obvious selection based on styles. Williams would present a different styles matchup based on size and length, and Martinez would be an intriguing southpaw style for him to try to conquer. There are several fights he can take that would be intriguing, but that's on paper, and paper burns! Once he gets into shape, let the games begin. I'd say no sooner than Fall of 2011, though. That would give him 3 gradual tune-ups at a rate of 4months between each one.

Gerald R. (Atlanta, GA): I'm a huge Andre Berto fan, but I'm completely disappointed that he's on the undercard of the Marquez/Katsidis fight facing someone that few of us really know anything about. I perceive that DiBella and company know something his heart that they're not telling (for obvious reasons), which would explain why they won't put him in with any true contenders. What do you think about this situation?

Vivek W. (ESB): For starters, I just want to say that anyone who dare question whether today's version of the sport is better than decades of the past need to seriously get a grip and be honest with themselves. Never in a million years would I imagine I'd have to address multiple questions in the same mailbag about the level of heart and commitment of marquee fighters who stand amongst the biggest names in the being an actual champion! With Andre Berto, I've met guy, I've talked to him in passing, I've watched him and supported him, but I can't truthfully question those who wonder why he isn't evolving the way many think he should because they have a point. I will say that Freddy Hernandez is not a cupcake like some have attempted to say. He's not a journeyman. He's a credible fighter with a better than average set of skills, power, etc, but no question, at this stage, he isn't the guy we should be seeing across from Berto.

When I look at Berto, I see youth, I see power, I see athleticism, and I see a marketable kid. When I look at Berto what I'm not seeing is the kind of evolution you'd expect in a champion with all of these attributes. I have questioned whether or not it's his trainer?.....I've questioned whether or not it's his heart?......I've questioned whether or not it's his stamina?.....and I've questioned whether or not it's his management and promotional team? Of all those questions, I can't quite put my finger on it, but one, maybe multiple ones from that selection is ultimately responsible, (if not all), for him failing to capitalize on that bevy of talent, youth, etc. This is a gladiator sport. It's a pain game. When you own a strap and hardcore fight fans have to search your resume long and hard to find more than 3 names they can really identify with, something is wrong. What I don't like the most is that in the process of not taking bigger fights, his team has effectively stripped him of bargaining power when one finally comes along.

If Pacquiao said, "lets do it now"....Mayweather, Williams, Mosley, Judah, whomever.....If any of them told him right now, "lets do it", he is a champion, but would probably have to take far less money because he isn't a legitimate draw and hasn't done ANYTHING to rate a bigger slice of the pie. So we can debate WHY he isn't fighting better opposition all day long, but the true question is "why is his team stripping him of bargaining tools he'll need when he does begin to entertain that level"? Nothing about what's happening in his career makes much sense. I like the kid, and want to see him succeed, so I hope it changes. One thing I will remind many of is that Miguel Cotto was once viewed as "protected" as well. And he later turned out to be one of the true warriors of this era. He did well against a younger Mosley. He did well against a younger Judah. He did well against Margarito before the pads thickened! And he did well before ultimately falling to one of the best fighters of this era (Pacquiao). So, lets see what happens with Berto. We haven't even reached the middle of his story yet.....(I HOPE)!

J. Barlow: I think the jr. welterweight era of a couple years ago with Tszyu, Hatton, Cotto, Mayweather and others, with all of them looking pretty much unbeatable at the time, was a much better crop than what we have today. I keep hearing about the current group but I still have my doubts. Khan leaves questions due to his chin, Bradley is decent but has questions, Alexander is capable but doesn't excite me, and neither does Maidana or Ortiz. How would you rate this group in comparison to the division years ago?

Vivek W. (ESB): I have to totally agree with you, and this touches on my response in an earlier question when I spoke of the type of fighters we had in the past, compared to what we're seeing today. It's very cliche-ish to say "it's a business"! We know it's a business, and many of the promoters of the past were the same ones conducting this "business" in those days, yet we saw a different type of fighter and a more pronounced warrior mentality. I think it's awfully baffling how some of the young fighters today can balk at a fight they need to take certain fights, or say things like "we have to let the fight build up first"! When you're fighting more than once or twice a year and elevating your level of competition, trust me, your name becomes relevant awfully fast. Hatton, Tszyu, Cotto, Mayweather, and many other guys from that crop, they fought whomever you put in front of them at that stage. Some of them may no longer be that way, but your question addresses that particular class, and back then, they all did!

Each of these guys from Khan to Bradley and everywhere in between, I have supported to no end, but how do you justify their argument to initially hold off on their fight for money when these men really just became main event fighters themselves, and still has yet to fill a reputable venue away from their hometown? It's madness. I love what each of them represent and I look forward to seeing them evolve, but there is no question, the crop from a few years ago was a very different group of guys, and some would argue far more polished. Cotto was the only one who really had the chin questions, and when he went up to welterweight and stood toe to toe with Mosley and Judah, he removed all doubt. To be fair, I say lets give these young guys of today their due shot to make their statement, as they're just getting started. A year from now the writing will be on the wall and we'll know who was the true contenders from the true pretenders. The future still belongs to them, but today, I have to agree with you that the older class was truly a better crop.

Jose I. (Covina, CA): I read that Goldenboy Promotions is trying to pin Victor Ortiz against Andreas Kotelnik on the undercard of Khan vs Maidana. What are your thoughts on this potential matchup?

Vivek W. (ESB): I think this is one of those matchups that leaves room to debate from two different angles. My first thoughts when I heard of this possibility was that this is a very risky fight, and potentially one that Ortiz is probably not ready for. Yet, the flipside to that argument comes when you analyze someone like Andre Berto who many feel is "too protected" for "too long". How soon is too soon, as it relates to putting your developing fighter in with someone who may be a cut above? It's a really intriguing matchup. Unfortunately, it's one of those matchups where the matchmakers and promotional team won't know if they did the right thing until it's all over. I think Ortiz looked well in his last fight, but that was against a man who doesn't quite represent the level of talent that Kotelnik will bring to the table. Kotelnik just made the man who I have felt for some time now is arguably the best overall talent of this jr. welter crowd (Alexander) look very ordinary, and he did that using a strong chin and fairly decent power himself, which happens to be two things that Ortiz has yet to prove he can handle.

This fight will answer ALL the questions we have about Ortiz. It will tell us if he's truly ready to elevate his game to stand amongst the elite, or whether or not he'll be another fighter who was once highly touted, but quickly re-routed. Years ago we saw something similar with guys like Francisco Bojado, Zahir Raheem, and even Acelino Freitas. These were all men who showed a certain glimpse of something special, yet were subsequently blinded under the bright lights, forcing the curtains to close sooner than the audience felt they got their monies worth. I'll be patiently watching. I gave the example earlier of Andre Berto. Unlike the consistent argument surrounding Berto, Ortiz wasn't given a chance to soak up rounds and rounds of experience while he hugs a fierce learning curve. For the young Ortiz, the rubber has hit the road, and his destination is clearly defined. He's now at a fork in that road. This matchup will let us know whether he's going to the right (direction), and whether or not he'll have anything left! Stay tuned.

(Vivek Wallace can be reached at, 954-292-7346, Youtube (VIVEK1251), Twitter (VIVEK747), Facebook and Myspace).

Article posted on 04.10.2010

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