Doug Fischer

Kirkland explosive in ring return

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Former junior middleweight contender James Kirkland made up for lost time by knocking out Ashandi Gibbs just 34 seconds into the first round of their scheduled eight rounder, which kicked off the undercard to the Saul Alvarez-Matthew Hatton fight at the Honda Center on Saturday.

Kirkland (26-0, 23 KOs), who served 18 months in jail for gun possession by a felon, was making his first ring appearance since he stopped Joel Julio two years ago. The 26-year-old Texan, now based in Las Vegas and training with Ken Adams, entered the ring with the look of a caged tiger that knew it would soon be set free.

“I dreamed about this moment every day since I got out,” Kirkland said after the bout.

The southpaw boxer-puncher gave Gibbs (10-3, 4 KOs) the throat-slash gesture just before the opening bell and then he made good on that promise, swarming the poor New Yorker with body shots and right hook-left cross combinations. Gibbs was quickly overwhelmed.

Adams liked what he saw from Kirkland.

“Everything that he threw was fluid and right on time,” the veteran trainer told RingTV.com. “Now I just need to settle him down enough to get some distance when he throws.”

Adams will have many opportunities to gauge Kirkland’s improvement this year. The fighter’s manager (Cameron Dunkin) and promoter (Golden Boy Promotions) intend to keep him busy.

Kirkland is already scheduled to fight again on the Erik Morales-Marcos Maidana undercard on April 9. It’s not soon enough for him.

“I joked with James that his fight ended so quickly that we’ll have to put him in with someone else on the undercard tonight,” said Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions. “He said ‘Yeah, OK, I’ll be ready.’ He was serious!”

In another notable bout, Daniel Jacobs fought for the first time under the guidance of new trainer Freddie Roach. The middleweight prospect from Brooklyn blasted overmatched Robert Kliewer, of St. Paul, Minn., out at 1:44 of the first round.

Jacobs (22-1, 19 KOs), who landed a series of crisp hooks before Kliewer (11-13-2, 5 KOs) crumpled against the ropes, gave his performance a mixed review after the fight.

“I was happy with my offense but I didn’t really get to display any defensive skills because I wasn’t in with a guy who could give me the right amount of pressure,” Jacobs said. “I threw a lot more punches than I normally do. Not because Freddie told me to. He just wanted me to work my jab in the first round, but for some reason I kept thinking about Manny Pacquiao and how he fights.

“I was supposed to pace myself but I don’t get paid for overtime, so when I hurt him I went for it.”

Also on the undercard, heavyweight prospect Seth Mitchell (21-0-1, 15 KOs), of Brandywine, Md., dropped journeyman Charles Davis (19-22-2, 4 KOs) four times en route to a second round stoppage.

Junior middleweight prospect Alfonso Blanco (3-0, 2 KOs), of Caracas, Venezuela, stopped Pablo Ruiz (0-3), of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, in the first round after dropping the journeyman three times with body shots.

Blanco, a tall, rangy and athletic boxer who needs to sharpen up his technique a bit, is trained by Robert Garcia in Oxnard, Calif.

The only competitive fight on the non-televised (in the U.S.) undercard was a four rounder between Cleven Ishe and Jason Montgomery, two painfully raw but game California middleweights.

Ishe (2-0, 1 KO), of Long Beach, scored a knockdown in the fourth round to clinch a decision over Montgomery (2-1-1), of Hayward, by unanimous scores of 39-36.

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