Tonight, budding superstar Saul “Canelo” Alvarez 44-1-1 (31) will take on southpaw slugger James Kirkland 31-1 (28) in a high profile junior middleweight bout. Alvarez has been a pretty impressive fighter both before and after being schooled by pound-for-pound champ Floyd Mayweather back in September of 2013, in which he suffered the only setback of career. Although, some do think his split decision over Erislandy Lara in his last fight bordered on being a gift.
In regards to Mayweather, Alvarez is in the running to be his next opponent as Floyd seeks his 49th consecutive victory without a loss since turning pro in late 1996. If Alvarez can make a statement in the way he looks against Kirkland, boxing fans will have a great excuse to pay for another Mayweather bout which will amount to another sparring session against Canelo much the same way their first fight unfolded.
As for James Kirkland, everyone who has watched him box knows he comes to fight. Kirkland doesn’t look to out-box or out-think anybody. No, he looks to take their head off with every punch he throws in whatever vicinity it happens to land. Kirkland is explosive with both hands and mixes up his shots well to the head and body. The scary thing about resting your hopes on him is his chin. In his lone loss he was stopped by a fighter named Nobuhiro Ishida, who isn’t much of a puncher but somehow managed to drop Kirkland three times in the first round. He’s also had his trials and tribulations outside of the ring, including a stint in jail and a falling out with his trainer Ann Wolfe. Wolfe was a dominant former world champion and connected terrifically with Kirkland. Under the tutelage of Wolfe, Kirkland fought at his best; however she will not be with him for this fight.
It’s not a reach to think that if Kirkland’s chin holds up, he’s definitely a live underdog against the unfinished, at least in my opinion, Alvarez.
The 24 year old Alvarez has been much hyped by Golden Boy Promotions and Oscar De La Hoya since he turned pro almost 10 years ago. Alvarez has a tremendous chin and is a fundamentally structured boxer-puncher who throws his punches with proper form and technique. He has more than adequate power, but isn’t the life-taker he was built up to be by many media members and his management team. Despite his near-pristine record and 46 fights as a pro, some have said that he’s still evolving. I for one don’t buy it. I think Canelo is who he is right now. He gets caught in between styles, as was evidenced in the Mayweather fight. However, I’ll give him as pass for that because Floyd is the best around today at getting his opponents away from what they intended to do against him and end up fighting more to his liking. Alvarez gets caught in between boxing styles too much for my liking and lacks a true style identity. One round he’s a counter-puncher, the next round he’s trying to press the action and two rounds later he’s backing away. Some may see that as him trying to get a read on his opponent, and that’s plausible, but I think it’s more the case of him trying to get a read on himself.
Canelo is in a great position going into the bout with Kirkland because if he can look impressive, there are so many lucrative fights out there waiting for him that boxing fans would love to see. As mentioned earlier, he’s a potential opponent for Mayweather. If that falls through he can fight Puetro Rican star and lineal middleweight champ Miguel Cotto as soon as his next bout, if Cotto beats Daniel Geale next month. And if he were to beat Cotto, which he would be favored to do, there’s plenty of anticipation for him to fight the man considered to be the most formidable middleweight in the world, Gennady Golovkin. That’s why Alvarez cannot look past Kirkland because there’s so much riding on him winning and looking good. And you better believe Kirkland knows that and is cognizant that if he rains on Alvarez’s parade and beats him, it is he who will jump to the front of the pack and have to be considered for a big money bout with a few of the fighters mentioned above.
With the stench of the “Faux Of The Century,” better known as Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, still in the air, fans are in need of a reason to continue to care about professional boxing like they did this time last week. If Mayweather wasn’t an undefeated in your face braggart, his fights wouldn’t be such a big deal. You can count on one hand, and that maybe overstating it, how many times you were excited and talked about one of his fights the next day. As for Pacquiao, he’s squeezed all one could possibly hope to out of his featherweight body. Manny has never mailed it in, but how long can he keep tangling with world class fighters that have to train down to the weight he has to eat himself up to? Pacquiao has been on the decline for at least three years and his best days are far back in the rear view mirror.
Tonight, if fans haven’t totally given up on boxing, Alvarez will have a lot of eyes watching him go at it with Kirkland on HBO. As Muhammad Ali often said about a few of his upper-tier Caucasian opponents, “they have the complexion and the connection.” Canelo has the complexion to draw fans from every ethnicity and both genders – and fighters with that pedigree become stars if they can really fight. It doesn’t take a sophisticated boxing observer to watch him in order to deduce he is a special talent in the ring, but that doesn’t make him a special fighter, at least not yet. In the ring Alvarez does everything better than Kirkland except hit with power. So he should be able to get by Kirkland without too many close-calls if he is anywhere close to being a unique fighter. He is one that fans can turn to knowing that they’ll see a real pro at work, one whose fights don’t evolve into well paid sparring sessions, but instead are action packed.
Despite controlling the fight against Pacquiao last week, Mayweather didn’t look spectacular at all. Is anyone after last weekend chomping at the bit to pay to see him, or Pacquiao for that matter, again? I sincerely doubt it. That said boxing has to move on and stop letting Floyd and Manny suck the life out of the sport. Instead I want to see the fighters who represent the future, and it looks good. I want to see Terence Crawford again, ditto that for Gennady Golovkin, Sergey Kovalev, Roman Gonzalez, Nicholas Walters and Mikey Garcia. And wouldn’t it be great for boxing if after Saturday night we could add the name Saul “Canelo” Alvarez to the list?
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com