By Albert Baker PHOTO: Ed Mulholland/ Getty Images
In what could be the remedy to the fight of the century that was the failure of Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez 45-1-1 32 KO’s knocked out James “Mandingo Warrior” Kirkland in what has to be considered the front runner for fight of the year 2015. Yes fight of the year, even after the sensational match up of Matthysse vs. Provodnikov, this so far is the fight of the year.
How does this become fight of the year? The meaning to the fans of the sport, not the casual fans that instantly became boxing experts following the sleep inducing bout that was the so-called fight of the century last week. This was the fight of the year for the boxing faithful. The die-hards, the boxing-heads, the fight freaks who look forward to Saturday’s like it’s a holiday.
Canelo and James Kirkland came to the center of the ring with one intent – to please the fans. Period. Both knew what was on the line. No titles, no pound-for-pound status, only the love of the fans. So they did what fighters of yester-year did – they delivered a fight that they both should be proud of. A fight that the 31,855 fans at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas would be proud to brag about being at.
In the first round, Canelo came out in a defensive posture while Kirkland threw huge lefts and rights at a tight guard that saw a few sneak through and land on the red-headed Mexican from Guadalajara. Towards the end of the round, Canelo landed a monstrous right uppercut, then right hook that put Kirkland down on the canvas.
Coming out for the second round, Kirkland had his legs back and gave you the feeling he was just getting warmed up as he threw everything but the kitchen sink at Alvarez. Landing shot after shot on a covered up Alvarez; the sight of Kirkland coming back on Alfredo Angulo in 2012 started to play in my mind over and over, until Alvarez rallied at the end of the round to land solid shots on the chin of Kirkland.
The third round saw Alvarez land a right uppercut that will undoubtedly be one of the most vicious televised uppercut highlights for years to come. Kirkland walked right into it and crumpled to the canvas as he fell into Canelo on the way down. Beating the count Kirkland got up and tried to return fire only to eat a savage right hook that dropped him like a sack of potatoes immediately prompting the referee to stop the fight.
After the fight Kirkland said “I was proud to be in a fight like that, he’s a great champion and a hard puncher.”
Kirkland didn’t attend the post-fight press conference as he went to the hospital as a precautionary measure following the fight. Golden Boy Promotions owners Oscar De La Hoya and Bernard Hopkins both stated that it was “precautionary” and that Kirkland seemed “okay and in good spirits”.
Alvarez during the press conference gave Kirkland his due and said “he was a warrior that came to fight”. When asked if it was his best knockout “It’s one of my best knockouts yes. I tried to finish him in the first [round] but I couldn’t.”
“They’re always going to doubt me, I don’t worry about the doubters” said Canelo as he addressed questions from press row about Kirkland’s strength and his ability to live up to the massive hype around his character.
One thing is certain; after the epic dose of sleep aid that was Mayweather vs Pacquiao, Golden Boy Promotions had the answer tonight. The product in the end is the fight not the hype, and tonight we may have witnessed something special as Canelo Alvarez and James Kirkland bravely stood toe to toe in the ring to remind the world that boxing is alive and well.