Ryan Songalia

Fans welcome Angulo-Kirkland fight after disappointing “mega events”


James Kirkland (pictured) and Alfredo Angulo won’t be protecting unblemished records when they face each other in Cancun, Mexico on Saturday. Neither slugger is considered “elite” and their HBO-televised showdown isn’t for a major title, but fans anticipate their fight because the two junior middleweights do just that — fight.



For years, the notion of matching James Kirkland and Alfredo Angulo elicited giddy laughter from even the most pessimistic of boxing fans. The two power-punching junior middleweights have fan-friendly styles, scoring exciting knockouts without breaking their intimidating, stoic glares.

Their bout this Saturday, at the Centro de Cancun in Cancun, Mexico (HBO, 10:15 ET/PT), may have no title at stake, but it’s the type of dream matchup that requires no overbilling or overselling by a promoter.

Of course, the matchup has lost much of it’s appeal since it’s earliest conceptions, as Kirkland has done little since suffering a first-round technical knockout loss to Japanese journeyman Nobuhiro Ishida in April, while Angulo has cooled off considerably after being exiled to Mexico due to immigration issues, which followed a loss to the enigmatic Kermit Cintron.

Yet, in a year that has seen the term “mega event” become synonymous with the inability of high-profile bouts to meet expectations, here is a fight where the flaws and vulnerabilities of the two participants make for a potentially volatile and exciting matchup.

Kirkland (29-1, 26 knockouts), of Austin, Texas, and Angulo (20-1, 17 KOs), of Mexicali, Mexico, have demeanors that are akin to Mike Tyson and Antonio Margarito respectively, and likewise have had to overcome scandals and career lowpoints to reach this junction, which will serve as an elimination bout for the WBC 154-pound belt.

Kirkland, 27, missed two years of his career from March of 2009 to March of this year after being convicted of gun possession by a felon. While most expected him to emerge from prison like a man possessed, his performances have been uneven at times, culminating in the nightmarish performance against Ishida on the Marcos Maidana-Erik Morales undercard.

“The difference between this fight and the Ishida fight is that I’ve trained for this person,” Kirkland said during a media conference call on Monday. “I know what he’s coming with, I know what type of game plan he likes. We’ve trained to the max because we know exactly what we’re getting ourselves into, and being with Ishida, I didn’t know much about the guy and was learning how to adjust to a new trainer. That was then and this is now.”

Kirkland, who was dropped three times by the unheralded Ishida, has rejoined trainer Ann Wolfe, with whom he enjoyed his best success, and severed ties with Kenny Adams, who was designated as his trainer after his release from prison. Together, they’ve registered two early knockouts against pedestrian opposition.

“I take nothing away from Kenny Adams, he has a certain style that he teaches his fighters, but I’m a totally different fighter. When it comes to being able to be pushed to the next level, I gotta go with Ann Wolfe, because I didn’t get that from Kenny Adams.”

The southpaw slugger said that, under Adams, he barely sparred and wasn’t being pushed enough in conditioning. By contrast, Wolfe, a tough disciplinarian who was a female boxing champion, has brought in a 18 different sparring partners for Kirkland, which has the gym rat feeling outwardly confident in his preparations for Saturday’s bout.

Like Kirkland, Angulo is also adjusting to a new trainer in Nacho Beristain, the recent International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee who molded the styles of technical perfectionists Juan Manuel Marquez and Ricardo Lopez, among others. Angulo, who could never be mistaken for “Finito” Lopez, assures his fans that his work with Beristain won’t bring adjustments that clash with his smash-mouth fighting style.

Exiled to Mexico following the discovery of his illegal status in this country, Angulo severed ties with Gary Shaw Productions and joined Golden Boy Promotions, an organization better suited to promote him south of the border. The revelation came following Angulo’s devastating first-round knockout of recent titlist Joachim Alcine in July of 2010, but since then he has fought just one more round, knocking out unheralded Joseph Gomez in Mexicali.

“I’m not really worried,” said Angulo, 29, of his inactivity during the same conference call. “I think that a lot of the experience that I gain, I get it from the gym. I get it through hard work, dedication. That’s where I get my experience. I think that I had a sufficient amount of work that I put into to be ready for James Kirkland.”

A win by either won’t break them into any pound for pound lists, but perhaps boxing doesn’t need flawless leading men. Perhaps an action hero will suffice just fine.

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