MIGUEL COTTO vs JAMES KIRKLAND — Maybe it was a long-planned event but a press conference for Miguel Cotto and James Kirkland caught me by surprise.
Puerto Rico’s Cotto (40-5, 33 KOs) and Kirkland (32-2, 28 KOs) convened at the historic Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, Calif. right across the street from the Grauman’s Chinese Theater. It was a noon affair on Friday, held in a banquet room in the mezzanine.
Cotto versus Kirkland takes place on Feb. 25, at the Ford Center at the Star in Frisco, Texas. HBO pay-per-view will telecast at $49.95.
The first to greet me was ace trainer Freddie Roach in the hallway near the planned event. I’ve known Roach since back in the day when he was training James “Lights Out” Toney. The Wild Card Gym was a small second floor room back in 1997 when I first stepped foot inside. Now it’s grown five times that size.
Roach has that special blend of professor extraordinaire and back alley fighter persona. He’s the nicest guy in the world but if crossed or disrespected, then the old fighter inside comes out and you better look out. I’ve seen it happen a few times.
One of the great treats in boxing is talking to guys like Roach and other professors of the fight game. The former Boston boxer was a regular on TV back in the 1980s. For a time it seemed that whenever a boxing card was televised Roach was the opponent.
Now, he’s the best of the best when it comes to preparation.
“I’m peeing blood,” said Roach about the body shots taken from Cotto during a recent workout session.
It’s been more than a year since Cotto last fought in losing the WBC middleweight title by unanimous decision to Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Ironically, Kirkland’s last fight was also to Alvarez six months earlier, except Kirkland’s loss was by a crunching knockout.
When Roach was asked if losing by knockout means Kirkland is the underdog he responded by saying “getting knocked out is part of the business. Anybody can get knocked out.”
But he also added that when he was fighting and lost by knockout for the first time, it was devastating. Some guys take it differently.
Cotto walked in with a wool cap on his head and immediately walked over to Kirkland who was already seated. He gave him a wholehearted hug and a short bow. Both seemed genuine in their respect for each other.
“I’m anxious for the opportunity and I’m thankful for the opportunity,” said Kirkland when asked about fighting Cotto. “Cotto is somebody who has fought all of the greats so I know that he has many tricks up his sleeves and that he prepares well for his fights.”
Kirkland has enlisted female boxing trainer Ann Wolfe who in the past guided him to several victories and no defeats.
“Dealing with Ann, we have a certain trust factor with each other when it comes to the training and techniques and things that we do to prepare for any fight,” said Kirkland who was trained by Wolfe when he defeated Alfredo Angulo. “I’m bringing someone who knows me from the beginning back to the fight game.”
Of course most fans remember only Kirkland’s last fight when he was floored twice by Alvarez in front of more than 20,000 fans in Houston, Texas. It was an emphatic knockout loss.
“Boxing is always a learning experience. And I’ve learned from fighting Alvarez and certain people that I’ve made mistakes against. I take those mistakes and I build from them. I try to learn,” said Kirkland matter-of-factly. “I’ve learned a lot from my defeats. Biggest thing that I’ve learned is move your head!”
Cotto lost to the same Alvarez by unanimous decision. After that fight, he and some others felt he did enough to win and deserved a rematch. His pairing with ace trainer Roach has resulted in some of the Puerto Rican fighter’s greatest wins including the knockout win over Sergio Martinez.
Of course, many feel Kirkland does not have the same gate attraction as others Cotto has faced in the past. He coolly poo poos those thoughts.
“James is a tough fighter and stout boxer and he’s going to go to work with victory on his mind,” Cotto said.
Roach was more descriptive of the dangers in facing Kirkland.
“James Kirkland always fights better with Ann Wolfe in his corner,” said Roach. “He has knockout power and Miguel has knockout power. Anything can happen when two guys fight. We just have to make sure we’re ready to take his power out of the equation.”
Roc Nation’s Michael Yormack said ticket sales are doing well and he expects a healthy boost from his partner for this event Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys.
“Let’s not forget that the Cowboys have the largest Hispanic following in the NFL. We know that is going to help us sell tickets; it already has. Jerry Jones is clearly one of the greatest promoters in the world,” Yormack said.
Of course talk always comes to who Cotto wants to fight after Kirkland should things go well.
Pacquiao is out.
“Unless Freddie works both corners,” said Cotto.
Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel.