Last night in his home town of Austin, 35 year old James Kirkland returned to the ring for the first time in over four years. Stopping a badly overmatched journeyman named Colby Courter, who had a 13-14 record upon stepping into the ring, Kirkland scored three knockdowns on the way to a quick, first-round victory. Now 33-2(29), Kirkland, fighting at middleweight, put his crushing 2015 KO loss to Canelo Alvarez behind him. Sort of.
So how far can Kirkland’s latest comeback go? Will he stay active this time, and will he work with Anne Wolfe if and when he does keep busy with future fights? In the past, Kirkland, a genuinely brutal puncher who excited fans in a major way back in the years 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011, would take a return fight, win it, and then disappear. If he wants to make this latest comeback a succesful one, he cannot afford to waste any time.
With his withering power, Kirkland has a shot against just about anyone, his shaky chin being the big negative next to his name. Last night’s quick and easy fight told us absolutely nothing about Kirkland’s chances in the future. “The Mandingo Warrior” was in good physical shape and his punches were reasonably fast, yet he was in with such a soft touch it is hard to give him any real praise.
Okay, after such a long layoff, Kirkland was entitled to a safe one, but he must take a step up in his next fight. 35 is not too old for a fighter thse days, but has Kirkland been looking after himself while he has been out of the ring? Kirkland never made it to a world title back when he was in his 154 pound prime and it really is tough to imagine him pulling it off now, up at 160.
Still, fans have plenty of affection for Kirkland and they will be rooting for him along the way, for as long as this, surely his final comeback, lasts.