Canelo in Houston

Photo by Tom Hogan

Canelo vs. James Kirkland

By David A. Avila

Mexican redhead Saul “Canelo” Alvarez openly hopes to replace Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s as boxing’s best fighter. And it begins by facing muscular powerhouse James “Mandingo Warrior” Kirkland.

With Mayweather stating he will retire after one more fight, Alvarez (44-1-1, 31 Kos) seeks to become the sport’s next boxing cash machine when he faces knockout punching Kirkland (32-1, 28 Kos) at Minute Maid Stadium in Houston, on Saturday May 9. HBO will televise the Golden Boy Promotions event.

Alvarez lost to Mayweather two years ago by decision but it remains his only loss. At the time the Guadalajara native was only 23 years old with dreams of defeating a boxing wizard. He learned firsthand that he was ill-equipped to face that defensive style. But he won’t be facing a defensive stylist in Kirkland.

The Houston native Kirkland has made his reputation as a bold aggressive punching machine who suffered a surprising knockout loss against Japan’s Nobuhiro Ishida back in 2011. Kirkland did not train properly for that fight and paid heavily by getting knocked out by the Japanese veteran in one round. It remains his only loss.

Expect aggressiveness by both prizefighters who look to impress the boxing public with their offensive-minded fighting skills. After Mayweather’s underwhelming victory on Saturday, which boxing connoisseurs appreciate but casual fans of the sport found boring; Alvarez and Kirkland can grab some of those fans to their own camps.

Oscar De La Hoya, whose company promotes this fight, was a boxer-puncher who looked for the knockout whenever possible. He took to Twitter after Mayweather’s victory on Saturday night to state his case after many fans expressed their disapproval of the mega fight’s lack of action.

“Call me old school but I like the fans getting their money’s worth by watching an action-packed fight,” De La Hoya said on Twitter. “Can’t wait for some real action: Canelo versus Kirkland.”
Alvarez is a boxer-puncher too who relies on his strength to get him through opponents who are faster or his boxing skills to get him past more powerful opponents. Kirkland has the power to render him unconscious and the popular Mexican knows it.

“Yes it’s a fight that had been talked about for many years and he’s one of the most dangerous fighters in the last few years,” said Alvarez. “He’s very strong and very dangerous. We know what he brings to the table.”

Alvarez has been selling out large arenas and many expect Houston’s baseball stadium to sell more than 20,000 tickets on Saturday. But popularity can get you so far. A victory over Kirkland would propel him back toward the top and possibly gain him a fight with Puerto Rico’s Miguel Cotto. A match with the current WBC middleweight titlist would be a sell out in any arena whether it’s Madison Square Garden or Staples Center. But Alvarez must get past Kirkland who stands in front of him like the Rock of Gibraltar.

“I would really like a Miguel Cotto fight. “I just feel maybe he (Alvarez) feels this is going to be a walk through. But anything can happen.”

Fight Chatter

Super bantamweight prospect Manuel Avila (16-0, 7 Kos) faces Erik Ruiz (13-2, 6 Kos) on Thursday at the Belasco Theater in downtown Los Angeles. The Golden Boy Promotions fight series has been a popular attraction. Others on the fight card will be Diego De La Hoya and Oscar Negrete. 

Junior welterweight contenders Carlos Molina (17-2-2) and Mercito Gesta (28-1-2) fought to a draw after 10 rounds last Thursday in Indio, Ca. It was a fiercely competitive fight that saw both have their moments. Other winners were Ireland’s Jason Quigley, Brazil’s Yamaguchi Falcao and Russia’s Ruslan Madiev.

Two division world champion Leo Santa Cruz (30-0-1, 17 Kos) of East L.A. won by unanimous decision on Saturday in Las Vegas over Mexico’s Jose Cayetano (17-4) in a featherweight bout. Santa Cruz thanked local amateur star Danny Gonzalez of Moreno Valley for his help in preparing for the fight.

Fights on Television

Thurs, Fox Sports 1, 7 p.m., Manuel Avila (16-0) vs. Erik Ruiz (13-2).

Fri. ESPN2, 6 p.m., Amir Mansour (21-1) vs. Joey Dawejko (14-3-2).

Fri. TruTV, 7 p.m., Glen Tapia (23-1) vs. Michel Soro (25-1-1).

Sat. CBS, 1 p.m., Anthony Mundine (47-6) vs. Austin Trout (28-2).

Sat. HBO, 6 p.m., Saul Alvarez (44-1-1) vs. James Kirkland (32-1). 

Sat. UniMas, 11 p.m., Jose Ramirez (13-0) vs. Robert Frankel (33-5-1).