Michael Rosenthal

Kirkland due back in the ring next week

James Kirkland is expected to be a busy man.

The big-punching former junior welterweight contender, who stopped in Ashandi Gibbs in 34 seconds last Saturday in his return from a two-year hiatus, will fight on the March 18 card in Costa Mesa, Calif., on Telefutura. His opponent has yet to be determined.

He also is scheduled to fight on the Erik Morales-Marcos Maidana undercard April 9 in Las Vegas. And Kirkland said he has a date in July, although that one apparently isn’t official yet.

“James was ready to fight again that night, as I told you guys,” Richard Schaefer, his promoter, said of his quick KO. “That’s not allowed, though. I told him to take a couple of weeks off. He fights next at the Orange County Fairgrounds on Telefutura. The guy fights like a Mexican; he deserves to be on Telefutura.

“We’re very excited to have him back. He didn’t really lose a step at all.”

Kirkland overwhelmed Gibbs with a tsunami of punches in what was truly a breath-taking half minute on the Saul Alvarez-Matthew Hatton undercard at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.

So thrilled was he to return to the ring after his 18-month prison sentence for a parole violation – and win in spectacular fashion — that he could barely contain himself.

“It wasn’t just in his fists, it was his whole body,” Schaefer said. “… The way he stood over (Gibbs) after the knockdown it was like his whole body was exploding. He was a bundle of energy. He definitely is ready to go.”

And, if things go well for Kirkland, this could just be the beginning.

“I could see him fighting for a world title before the end of the year,” Schaefer said.

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