This past Saturday night, junior middleweight sensation Saul “Canelo” Alvarez 45-1-1 (32) did what he was supposed to do.
And that was take out dynamite punching southpaw James Kirkland 31-2 (28) in an impressive fashion, and did he ever do that.
Yes, in the end Alvarez, age 24, was just too technically proficient for a borderline crude attacker like Kirkland. James is so offensive oriented and fun to watch, the problem is he gets hit with his opponent’s Sunday punch too cleanly because he's right there and so open. And as we saw, that's the wrong deficiency to allow if Alvarez is in front of you simply because he's one of the more accurate guys around in terms of punch placement.
Some will say that Kirkland's chin betrayed him again and the fight was an easy call, and they're not totally off the mark. I just don't think it’s that easy, though.
Kirkland, age 31, ate some monster shots in the first round, went down, and still survived the round. In the second, he began to stabilize the fight and forced Canelo to fight more measured and pick his spots. Alvarez knew that if he bid his time, Kirkland would become over-anxious looking for the big shot, and that would ultimately give him another opportunity to set James up for his full repertoire of beautifully placed uppercuts and hooks. Yes, Kirkland was rocked throughout the duration of the bout, but he didn't go out with the first or second big shot that found his chin directly in the way of Canelo's perfectly leveraged shots. Eventually, he succumbed to the rinse-repeat pattern of that. And you know what, there's nothing that his former trainer Ann Wolfe can do about that.
James Kirkland is an attacker the second he rolls out of bed in the morning. He's not the least bit methodical in terms of his fighting style and mindset. And when you nail him real good or hurt him, he wants to hit you back twice as hard, thus leaving himself vulnerable and open for a sharp shooter with a little more than adequate power and hand speed the likes of Alvarez.
Canelo, being the better skilled fighter with more weapons and tools, saw everything that Kirkland was sending his way. On the other hand, Kirkland didn't see any of the finishing punches that Alvarez was countering him with, and they're the ones that get fighters out. “I did not see the punch coming that knocked me out,” Kirkland said. Kirkland isn't unique in that regard, he's just more routinely susceptible to them than other fighters fighting at the world class championship level of professional boxing.
This was an impressive showing by Alvarez, despite it being a somewhat predictable one. He was very collected and poised under fire. His chin showed again that it is world class and he has a good boxing brain. The set up lazy straight left to Kirkland's body drew his attention away from the sweeping right hook that Canelo cut loose with at the perfect time in the third round and ended the fight. The punch landed flush on Kirkland's lower jaw, and that's where the light switch resides on most fighters.
The question is, did Alvarez look so good because he fought a very predictable opponent who was inclined to cooperate with him because he's so easy to hit and whose defense erodes as the fight progresses? Very well that could be the case. Looking back at the fight you are tempted to say Alvarez looks to be at his best fighting as a counter-puncher who inches back and lets the opponent push the action…if nothing else, that was the correct strategy for him to employ against Kirkland.
If you think about the fighters mentioned as Alvarez's next possible opponents, Floyd Mayweather and Miguel Cotto, we know Mayweather will flip the role on him and force Canelo to fight as the attacker. As for Cotto, I seriously doubt he'll carry the fight and initiate the action if he and Alvarez meet later this year. So in a way the book is still open regarding Canelo's style identity. He's definitely shown that he can inch back and counter – the issue I have pertaining to him is, how effective will he be when he has to push the fight? We saw against Mayweather that if you put something in his face, he has to think and plot his way in and doesn't cut loose, thus his offense is stymied.
And if he fights Cotto, I'm certain Miguel is going to try and use his legs to pot-shot Alvarez and get out. Miguel knows he'd probably get hit too much by bringing the fight to Alvarez, something that Saul would no doubt relish.
With the right opponent in front of him, Alvarez is exciting and fun to watch. His fundamentals and basics are outstanding, and he doesn't come undone when things don't go his way or when he gets tagged real good. I have no interest in seeing him fight Mayweather again; then again I have no interest in seeing either Mayweather or Pacquiao ever fight again. However, Alvarez-Cotto would be interesting, and as much as I'd favor Canelo, Cotto is not one to simply write off. If Alvarez can win the lineal middleweight title from Cotto, if Miguel retains it against Daniel Geale next month, than Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin becomes a major attraction. Yes, Golovkin would be the betting favorite, but Alvarez brings things to the ring that Gennady hasn't yet had to address. If we get to that fight, there will be plenty of interest and speculation in regards to the match-up, and fans can count on it being a spectacular bout as long as it lasts.
Thanks to Saul Alvarez and James Kirkland for giving boxing fans a needed injection of excitement after what may be the biggest joke of a big fight in boxing history last week, also known as Mayweather vs. Pacquiao.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com