NEW YORK (Jan. 31, 2007)—Undefeated southpaw James “Mandingo Warrior” Kirkland (17-0, 15 KOs) and unbeaten Timothy “Desert Storm’’ Bradley (17-0, 10 KOs) will take on Billy Lyell (14-3, 2 KOs) and Manuel Garnica (22-6, 12 KOs), respectively, in the co-featured bouts Friday, Feb. 2, on “ShoBox: The New Generation.” SHOWTIME will televise the action at 11 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the west coast)..
The well-regarded Kirkland and the upset-minded Lyell will collide in a 10-round junior middleweight match. Even though both are making their network debut, the spotlight will be on Kirkland.
“Kirkland is a must-see for fight fans,” said “ShoBox’’ color commentator Steve Farhood. “He has an intensity that can only be described as ‘Tysonesque.’ He is a legitimate power hitter who tries to crush his opponent with every shot. I have been looking forward to his “ShoBox’’ debut for months. Even though he still has a lot to prove, Kirkland is going to be fascinating to watch in the meantime.’’
Offered Doug Fischer of MaxBoxing.com, “Kirkland is one to watch and one of the most exciting young fighters in the sport. He matches Andre Berto’s speed, power and explosiveness, but he’s got more of a killer instinct than the 2004 Olympian. Kirkland’s take-no-prisoners attitude in the ring is something all fans of ring action must see.’’
Bradley will box Garnica in an eight-round junior welterweight fight in the opening half of a twin bill promoted by Gary Shaw Productions, LLC, at Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez, Calif.
The “ShoBox” card transpires a day before a “Super Saturday” world championship doubleheader on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING (9 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the west coast). In 12-round bouts, World Boxing Council (WBC) Light Heavyweight Champion Tomasz Adamek will defend his crown against No. 2 contender Chad Dawson, while Jesus Chavez will risk his International Boxing Federation (IBF) lightweight crown against IBF Interim 135-pound titleholder Julio Diaz.
Kirkland, of Austin, Texas, is an exciting banger from the Aaron Pryor school of boxing who looks to overwhelm opponents with brute force and tons of punches. The 22-year-old southpaw with dynamite in both mitts has won nine straight by knockout. The slugger has never gone past four rounds.
In his last start, Kirkland scored a fourth-round knockout over David Toribio on Dec. 1, 2006, at Chumash. He knocked Toribio down three times, including twice in the third with vicious shots to the head. After Toribio went down from a body shot in the fourth, the referee stopped the contest at 1:35.
Kirkland, who has been known to spar with two men at the same time, is headed toward becoming a success in life and in the ring. Personable and humble outside of the square circle, he speaks sincerely and respectfully with no hint of arrogance, makes zero excuses, and, has an incredible work ethic.
Make no mistake, however, as Kirkland is an enormously determined young man who is very confident of his overall talent and skills.
“I am on the right track,” Kirkland said. “I am an intelligent fighter. I know how to pick and pack, and pack and destroy. There is no man at 154 pounds that can beat me. I know my potential and will fight anybody to show that I am the best.
“The only way I lose is if I beat myself by not training or working hard. I look forward to fighting whoever’s at the top. Gary (Shaw) can move me any way he wants. Gary knows how to move fighters. He helped Winky Wright and Jeff Lacy. That’s why I signed with him. He’s super nice and cool. I like him.’’
Kirkland’s motivation stems from a desire to improve the lives of his family members. “A lot of stuff is going my way now,” Kirkland said. “I just want to make it so people like my mom don’t have to suffer any more. I am just trying to take care of business for my family.”
It is not surprising the five-foot-nine-inch Kirkland has always had a mean streak. For the longest time, Kirkland’s life was one continuous fight against poverty, the streets, temptation and desperation.
“(There were times) my mom was shopping pantry food (food and essentials provided free by charities to the neediest citizens),’’ said Kirkland, who never knew his father. “We were on food stamps and all that.’’
Kirkland became interested in boxing, which may have saved his life.
“James started with nothing,’’ said Ann Wolfe, who co-trains the boxer with Don Billingsley, who has been a father figure to the youngster for his entire life. Wolfe, one of the most talented women’s boxers in history, has been like a boxing parent. She has known Kirkland since he was 10.
“I watched Kirkland grow,’’ Wolfe said. “I saw him when he got into trouble. I was there for all of that. But if not for Billingsley, Kirkland would have nothing. We always knew he had a lot of potential, and that if he could stay calm outside of the ring and let life take its course, he could be a champion.”
Despite growing up in less than ideal conditions and getting into his share of trouble, Kirkland had a tremendous amateur career. En route to compiling a 134-12, he was a three-time Texas State champion (1998-2000) and was a silver medalist at the ‘01 National Golden Gloves. Additionally, he won the Silver Gloves championship four years in a row.
Shortly after losing in the finals of the Golden Gloves Nationals, Kirkland turned pro as a welterweight at age 17 with a third-round TKO over Maurice Chalmers on Aug. 25, 2001, in Austin. He won his other two starts in ’01, went 3-0 in ‘02 and 5-0 in ‘03.
But after improving to 11-0 in November 2003, a kid influenced by life on the streets participated in criminal behavior that resulted in his receiving six months of county jail time and six months house arrest.
“I was with the wrong crowd and already had a bad record,” Kirkland said. “I could not get a job and I was trying to get some money.”
Upon his release, Kirkland was beset with management and promotional problems. However, he is in good hands these days. He is managed by Cameron Dunkin and promoted by Gary Shaw Productions (GSP). This will be his seventh GSP start, which signed Kirkland to an exclusive promotional agreement in April 2006.
“Kirkland is a special kid. I’m glad he’s on my side,’’ said Shaw, who promised he would fight Kirkland often and keep him busy and done just that. “He has KO power in both hands. Before long, fans all over the world will know what Texas fans already know, and that is that Kirkland is fast on the draw and powerfully accurate. He is the future of the 154- and 160-pound divisions.”
On April 21, 2006, Kirkland made his debut for Shaw. In his first start in 30 months, or since he weighed 148 pounds and stopped Russell Jordan in the first round, Kirkland improved to 12-0 with a second-round knockout over Manuel Castillo in Mount Pleasant, S.C.
In his third comeback fight, Kirkland continued to look impressive by scoring a first-round knockout over Jeray Cunningham on June 3, 2006, in Las Vegas.
Wading in with Hagler-Hearns-like ferocity, Kirkland floored Cunningham twice in the opening round with wicked body shots before the referee waved the mismatch off at 1:16. “Marvin Hagler is my favorite fighter,’’ Kirkland said. “I took a lot of stuff from that man.’’
In addition to his mother, Kirkland has two brothers. The boxer sends his mom and those closest to him money to help with the bills.
Lyell, 22, of Warren, Ohio, is a strong, aggressive-minded, combination puncher who makes for good scraps. After a six-fight winning streak ended two outings ago, he won his last start by outpointing Jarome Ellis across eight rounds on Nov. 2, 2006, in Washington, D.C.
Although it was not exactly capital punishment, Lyell did enough to win the main event of a boxing charity event by unanimous decision and capture the “Fight for Children” championship.
Known for exceptional hand and foot speed, and the ability to take a punch, Lyell is a proven winner on the road. Always capable of a surprise, he traveled to Pikesville, Md., and registered an easy, eight-round upset decision (80-72 twice and 78-74) over previously undefeated local favorite Anthony Cygan on Jan. 20, 2006.
Lyell is 7-1 in his last eight starts. The lone defeat came against another huge hometown favorite, Charles Whittaker, on Sept. 30, 2006, in the Cayman Islands. In a competitive bout for the NBA 154-pound title, Lyell lost by fourth-round TKO.
Bradley, of Palm Springs, Calif., will make his second consecutive “ShoBox” and Chumash appearances. In his network debut on Dec. 1, 2006, the WBC No. 10 contender came away from an action-packed affair with an eight-round technical decision over Jaime Rangel at Chumash.
The then-23-year-old Bradley was ahead 79-73 on all three scorecards when it was stopped after an accidental clash of heads opened a deep cut over the former world title challenger’s right eye.
Bradley, who appeared tight, was awarded the victory in by far his greatest challenge after the referee halted matters at 1:54 of the round.
“They say ‘ShoBox’ has some of the hardest fights,” said Bradley in a pre-fight interview, “better than any other network. They say you’re going fight when you fight on ‘ShoBox’.”
A winner in the vast majority of his 145 amateur fights, Bradley was a two-time National Champion and won titles at the P.A.L. National Tournament, the Under-19 National Tournament and the Junior Golden Gloves Championship. In his bid, however, to make the 2004 United States Olympic team, he was upset by Vanes Martirosyan in the U.S. Western Trials. Martirosyan went on to make the team.
Bradley was 20 years old when he made his pro debut nine days before his 21st birthday on Aug. 20, 2004.
Garnica, 32, of Guadalajara, is coming off of a hotly disputed 10-round decision loss to world-ranked Juan Lazcano on Oct. 21, 2006, in El Paso, Texas.
Reporting for Fightnews.com, Chris Cozzone called the result “perhaps the worst decision seen in El Paso in this century’’ and an “early Christmas gift win’’ for Lazcano.
When asked if Lazcano deserved a decision, his trainer, the brutally honest Freddie Roach, said, “No. (Juan) couldn’t get untracked and he (Garnica) out hustled us.”
The five-foot-seven-inch Garnica used an awkward, stick-and-move style to frustrate, confuse and consistently pot-shot Lazcano.’’ Yet, at the finish, the judges scored it 97-93, 98-92 for Lazcano and 96-94 for Garnica.
During his career, Garnica has been competitive against quality opposition, including former world champions John-John Molina and Gabriel Ruelas. He lost a 10-round decision to Molina and fought to a 10-round majority draw against Ruelas.
In the outing before last, Garnica captured the WBC Latino 140-pound crown with a 12-round unanimous decision (117-111, 116-112 and 115-113) over former world champion Carlos Maussa on Aug. 25, 2006, in Miami.
Nick Charles and Farhood will call the action from ringside. The executive producer of “ShoBox” is Gordon Hall with Richard Gaughan producing.
About ShoBox: The New Generation
Since its inception in July 2001, the critically-acclaimed SHOWTIME boxing series, “ShoBox: The New Generation” has featured young talent matched tough. The “ShoBox” philosophy is to televise exciting, crowd-pleasing and competitive matches while providing a proving ground for willing prospects determined to fight for a world title.