If you had anything negative to say about boxing because of how Mayweather-Pacquiao unfolded, then I hope you watched Canelo vs Kirkland. In three rounds, Canelo Alvarez tamed the wild James Kirkland in a knockdown affair every fight fan should watch.
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Kirkland lived up to a lot of expectations on Saturday, not all of them good. He was as aggressive as old fans remember. From the opening bell he charged at Canelo like no one has done before. He didn’t seem to fear the punching power of the Mexican starlet and probably believed his Tyson-esque bobbing and weaving could and would save him from the fire power thrown in his direction.
Kirkland's chin and resistance just aren’t the same without Ann Wolfe. Maybe Wolfe channels a piece of her own fighting spirit into Kirkland through some mystical voodoo. Maybe she knows the right tone to use to motivate him after a big knockdown (that would have been helpful after the first round against Canelo, when Kirkland’s eyes were glassy and his feet unsteady as he walked to the corner for a short 60-second break). Or maybe, she trains him harder than anyone else knows how. Whatever she does, Wolfe finds a way to get Kirkland to walk through pain, to come back from the brink to dish out his own punishment. He needed that magic on Saturday.
After the weigh-in on Friday, Kirkland was asked for the millionth time why he changed trainers. He responded with something new. He said he wanted “harder work.”
With all due respect to Kirkland's new trainer, 29-year-old Rick Morones Jr., Ann Wolfe's interviews are probably harder than Morones' workouts. And in a straight fight, smart betting money would heavily been on Wolfe to cleanly knock out Morones inside of two rounds. Lest we forget about Wolfe's boxing chops.
Watching Canelo coolly handle Kirkland's barrage at the opening bell, you get a great sense of how well he has matured. He embraces tough fights — you can tell by his long list of top-notch opponents — but he doesn't approach them recklessly. He wants to test his mettle but doesn't forget to counter, measure and move. He has the guts to take on dangerous foes and the skills not just to beat them, but ends fights emphatically.
Mayweather tamed Pacquiao with elite foot movement and was content to leave his opponent confused and impotent. Canelo tamed the chaos that Kirkland brought into he ring with hard counters and then looked for the kill. Canelo wasn't satisfied with neutralizing the danger (a feat in itself) as much as he wanted to annihilate it. That's why fans are rightfully flocking by the tens of thousands to watch him live. Soon, he'll be ready to command huge PPV numbers on his own. So if you were upset at Mayweather-Pacquiao, just remember that both men are In the twilight of their careers. Canelo (along with some others) is the future of boxing.
There's no shortage of opponents who are eager to try to steal Canelo's fandom and share in the big paydays he offers. A Miguel Cotto matchup is what every boxing fan — especially Latinos thinking of the storied boxing rivalry between Puerto Rico and Mexico — wants to see most, but after Canelo's impressive hammering of Kirkland, I'm fairly sure Cotto will forget the number to Golden Boy's office (Canelo's promoter).
Demetrius Andrade, one of the Charlo brothers, Cornelius “K9” Bundrage and even Timothy Bradley would all jump at the chance to face off against Canelo. But the most alluring, big-money fight outside of Cotto is against Gennady Golovkin.
Oscar de la Hoya has said that Canelo will fight GGG “down the road.” The problem is that “down the road” has a way of causing fights to sit on the shelf past their sell-by date. Hopefully, the stars will align sooner rather than later for this super matchup. But the truth is, after a performance like he had on Saturday night, regardless of who Canelo fights next, how could you not tune in?