Kenny Adams has been around a long time. The veteran trainer has worked with dozens of good fighters and isn’t prone to hyperbole about any of them unless it’s warranted.
Well, he believes it’s warranted when it comes to James Kirkland.
Adams has been working with the former junior middleweight contender for about a month and loves what he sees, a tough, powerful warrior who works hard and is easy to get along with.
And he’s surprised that Kirkland is as sharp as he is given his two-year hiatus from the ring, a period in which he spent time in prison for violating his parole by purchasing a gun.
Kirkland faces Ahsandi Gibbs in his comeback fight on the Saul “Canelo” Alvarez-Matthew Hatton undercard Saturday in Anaheim, Calif., and is scheduled to fight again on March 9.
“I don’t see a lot rust,” Adams told RingTV.com. “He goes in there, puts his punches together. He throws as good as he did (before prison). I like to think he’s doing even better.”
Kirkland is working with Adams for the first time after relocating from his home in Austin, Texas, to Las Vegas, far away from any negative influence that might lead him astray.
He lives with two other fighters in an all-boxing environment.
Adams didn’t know what to think given Kirkland’s past, only that he isn’t one to prejudge people. He said it didn’t take long to realize that working with the fighter is a pleasure.
“He’s really, really a terrific guy,” he said. “I’m not a tolerant person in some ways. I don’t take s— from anyone. James doesn’t give me any s—. He’s just a hard worker.
“Whatever anyone has heard about him … it doesn’t seem to be true. He listens well, he’s respectful. I have no problems with him.”
Adams has also been impressed with Kirkland the fighter.
Of course, the thing that stands out is his exciting, all-out style. Adams said Kirkland (25-0, 22 knockouts) has a tremendous chin to go with tremendous power, which is a dangerous combination.
And he’s a better boxer than some might think.
“He has a lot of good boxing skills,” Adams said. “Maybe he’s kind of awkward in some of the things he does, the different angles of punches he throws. But he basically has good boxing ability. He turns his shots over real good. He has great power, good stamina. He’s a full-fledged fighter.
“We do have to work on defense. That’s what it’s all about, one thing we’re working on quite a bit. Once we have more time to work on that, he’ll get better.
Adams expects big things from his newest protégé, who has decided not to speak with reporters in the days leading up to the fight.
Many fans have long been enamored with Kirkland because of his relentless aggression and crushing knockout power. Few fighters are more fun to watch.
“One thing he is is an exciting fighter,” he said. “That’s important, that’s what boxing needs, fighters like James. He gives and he takes … and takes very well. These are things I want to leave alone. This is what makes him who he is.”
And Adams is certain that Kirkland will succeed in his second career.
He was asked by RingTV.com whether he thinks that a future world titleholder has fallen into his lap.
“I don’t think … I know I’m going to have a champion,” he said. “Without a doubt. It might even happen before the year is up.”