Raise your hand if you thought James Kirkland was all but finished as a legitimate contender after he was stopped in one round by light-punching Nobuhiro Ishida in April.
That’s a lot of hands.
Yes, Kirkland surprised a lot of people when he turned in a fight-of-the-year candidate by knocking out veteran contender Alfredo Angulo in the sixth round on Saturday in Cancun, Mexico, thereby reclaiming his place among the sport’s potential stars.
Of course, we don’t want to get carried away. Kirkland deserves credit for a spectacular performance — the kind of performance that begets stars — but things might’ve turned out differently had Angulo not punched himself out after he put Kirkland down in the first round.
We’ll have to see Kirkland beat Angulo again or take down another big-name opponent or two before we become true believers.
However, he did more than enough on Saturday to re-enter the junior middleweight ratings.
RING RATINGS UPDATE
Heavyweight: No. 9 Chris Arreola retained his position after taking out journeyman Raphael Butler in three rounds Saturday in Mexico.
Cruiserweight: No. 5 Denis Lebedev had no trouble with a faded James Toney on Friday in Russia. On Saturday, in Hollywood, Fla., No. 10 Guillermo Jones stopped Michael Marrone in six rounds to retain the WBA strap. Lebedev and Jones stay put.
Light heavyweight: No. 10 Ismayl Sillakh knocked out unrated Ali Ismailov in the fourth round on the Lebedev-Toney card to retain his position.
Super middleweight: No. 3 Lucian Bute gave an outstanding performance against Glen Johnson (No. 7 last week) on Saturday, winning a one-sided decision to retain his IBF title. However, with No. 1 Andre Ward and No. 2 Carl Froch above him, there’s no room to move up.
Johnson, who has lost consecutive fights at 168 pounds, drops to No. 9 in the ratings. And Arthur Abraham, who lost his last three fights in the Super Six World Boxing Classic, drops from No. 8 to No. 10.
That allows Thomas Oosthuizen and George Groves (Nos. 9 and 10 last week) to jump two spots each. Groves stopped unrated Paul Smith in the second round Saturday in London.
Junior middleweight: Angulo (No. 2 last week) drops to No. 7 after his knockout loss. Kirkland (unrated last week) enters at No. 6. Austin Trout (No. 10 last week) drops out.
Lightweight: Ricky Burns (unrated last week) enters at No. 7 after his one-sided decision over Michael Katsidis on Saturday in London. Jorge Linares (No. 10 last week) drops out.
Junior lightweight: Takahiro Ao remains at No. 5 after defeating unrated Devis Boschiero by a split decision Sunday in Tokyo.
Junior featherweight: No. 7 Steve Molitor stays put after defeating unrated Sebastien Gauthier by a split decision on the Bute-Johnson card.
Bantamweight: Unrated Shinsuke Yamanaka stopped Christian Esquivel (No. 10 last week) Sunday in Tokyo, thus taking Esquivel’s spot in the ratings.
Junior bantamweight: Suriyan Sor Rungvisai (No. 4 last week) jumps two spots after defeating Nobuo Nashiro (No. 6 last week) to retain his WBC title Friday in Thailand, his second consecutive victory over a rated fighter. Sor Rungvisai outpointed Tomas Rojas in August.
Nashiro, who is 2-3-1 in his last six fights, drops to No. 10.
Meanwhile, Rojas (No. 5 last week) stopped veteran Feliciano Ledesma in the second round Saturday in Tijuana to retain his position. And Yota Sato (No. 7 last week) stopped previously unbeaten Kenji Oba on Tuesday in Tokyo. He moves up to No. 6.
Flyweight: Unrated Toshiyuki Igarashi outpointed Wilbert Uicab (No. 9 last week) Sunday in Tokyo. Igarashi takes Uicab place in the ratings.
Rated fighters in action this coming weekend (with current ratings)
Welterweight: Manny Pacquiao (No. 1) vs. Juan Manuel Marquez (lightweight champion) (Saturday).
Junior welterweight: Tim Bradley (No. 2) vs. Joel Casamayor; Mike Alvarado (No. 10) vs. Breidis Prescott (Saturday)
Junior lightweight: Diego Magdaleno (No. 7) vs. Emmanuel Lucero (Friday); Luis Cruz (No. 10) vs. Juan Carlos Burgos (Saturday).
Pound for pound: Manny Pacquiao (No. 1) vs. Juan Manuel Marquez (No. 5) (Saturday); Tim Bradley (No. 8) vs. Joel Casamayor (Saturday)