Not even Ann Wolfe can help James Kirkland now. Last night, in what was supposed to be the continuation of the comeback he launched back in August of last year, former destructive, all-conquering 154 pounder James Kirkland was crushed well inside a round by Juan Macias Montiel. Fighting as a middleweight, 36-year-old Kirkland was sent south by a left to the head and he never had a prayer of recovering. And sure enough, Montiel, nephew of former world champ Fernando Montiel, soon got the stoppage win, this after scoring two more knockdowns.
Going into last night’s fight, fans wondered if the layoff would affect Kirkland, a fighter who has been a slow starter in a number of his fights, as well as being a fighter with a highly suspect chin. But it turned out to be far worse than people thought. Without a doubt, Kirkland is shot, he is finished – if he fights on he will be risking his health big time. Wiped out in a little over 90-seconds by a good if not great fighter, Kirkland now has to find himself another line of business. 26-year-old Montiel, who improved to 22-4-2(22) might get himself a decent fight off the back of this.
But Kirkland, 34-3(30) is all done. Once an electrifying warrior who seemed a dead-cert for the top, Kirkland became a fan-fave with his aggressive, seek and destroy approach. Decent fighters like Allen Conyers, Eromosele Albert, Brian Vera and Joel Julio were rolled over, before Kirkland’s career was derailed due to jail time (falling foul of the law a big problem for Kirkland over the years). Returning after a two-year hiatus, Kirkland was soon blasted to defeat in a round by Nobuhiro Ishida. The shocker took place as Kirkland fought without a key element to his game: trainer Ann Wolfe.
It was the beginning of the end for “The Mandingo Warrior.” The southpaw came back, reunited with Wolfe, and he did give us a truly sensational fight, one which he won. It was in November of 2011 when Kirkland went to war with Alfredo Angulo. Somehow surviving an early knockdown, Kirkland roared back to stop Angulo in 2011’s FOTY. This is how this writer would like to remember Kirkland – as a gutsy warrior who was capable of thrilling us with his ability to overcome pain and hurt to get the KO victory.
But that James Kirkland is gone. No longer having any punch resistance, or balance, or speed, or real snap in his shots, the Kirkland of 2020 (and, God forbid, beyond) is capable only of being destroyed, not of coming back from apparent disaster to pull out the sensational win.
Anyone who cares for Kirkland will insist he never fights again. He had a good ride back in the day, but a brutal hammering by Canelo Alvarez in 2015 apparently took everything that was left of the Texan southpaw.