Brian Harty

Readers vote opener of Kirkland-Angulo “Round of the Year” for 2011


It’s appropriate that the vote for Round of the Year should happen on Christmas day, as 2011 certainly was a year of “give and take.” From the inhuman resilience of Porpramook-Yaegashi to the last-second turnaround of Concepcion-Marquez, fighters around the world gave generously of their leather and provided a multitude of three-minute memories for fans.

In the end, though, the contest came down to two candidates. readers selected the first round of James Kirkland vs. Alfredo Angulo as the winner with 43.2 percent of the vote, followed by the sixth round of Andre Berto vs. Victor Ortiz at 35.8 percent. Rounding out the poll results were the opening round of the first fight between Luis Concepcion and Hernan Marquez (9 percent), the ninth round of Lamont Peterson vs. Amir Khan (7.5 percent), the first round of Brandon Rios vs. Urbano Antillon (2.9 percent), and the eighth round of Akira Yaegashi vs. Pornsawan Porpramook (1.7 percent).

Both Kirkland-Angulo and Berto-Ortiz featured fighters trading knockdowns, but it was perhaps the backstory that clinched it for the winner.

Kirkland, a much-heralded junior middleweight working his way back into the pro ranks after a year-long prison term, had suffered a shocking first-round defeat against relatively non-threatening Nobuhiro Ishida in April. Since then, he had reunited with trainer Ann Wolfe and chalked up a couple early KO wins, but the stigma of “exposed” hung over him and the boxing world’s loss of confidence showed in the betting odds.

Angulo was heavily favored to win by the press, but there were questions about his readiness, given that his activity that year had amounted to one minute and thirty-four seconds of work.

Moments before the bell on Nov. 5, Angulo was characteristically stoic and unreadable, while Kirkland’s face and movements revealed a somewhat more nervous energy. He put it to good use in the opening seconds, delivering quick combinations and strong left-handed shots that soon had Angulo in the unfamiliar position of moving backwards.

Just twenty-eight seconds in, though, Angulo was in the corner under fire when he almost casually wound up and then nailed Kirkland with a single straight right that dropped “The Mandingo Warrior” on his trunks. One could almost hear the collective mutterings of “told ya so” as everyone braced for a repeat of the Ishida fight.

After that, Angulo was suddenly much more animated, pogo-sticking to a neutral corner to wait out the count. When the fight resumed he was all over Kirkland with a full complement of power shots, many of which found their mark as it was now Kirkland who tried to fend off his attacker while moving backwards. Halfway through the round when Kirkland staggered forward in a vain attempt to hold and found himself pinned in the corner by a barrage of heavy hands, it seemed like the end was imminent.

Whenever the storm of punches parted enough to provide a glimpse of Kirkland’s face, however, it was still composed, his eyes still looking for a chance. With a minute remaining, Angulo’s assault began to slow, his arms seemed to be filling with lead, and Kirkland pushed back.

From there the turning tide became a flood as Kirkland began to land clubbing right hands that put the exhausted Angulo’s ear on his shoulder. The attempts at retaliation got wider and more feeble as Kirkland seemed to gain strength with each punch. A straight left sent Angulo staggering halfway across the ring, and Kirkland was there to push his prey into the corner and set his feet for the final salvo. Angulo wilted under a series of monstrous left hands, finally succumbing and falling with 15 seconds remaining.

Angulo would rise and make it through the round, but the momentum of the fight had irrevocably changed. Kirkland would ultimately score a knockout in the sixth, giving us one of the most memorable upsets of the year.


Today’s readers’ choice year-end awards poll category is “Trainer of the Year.” Go to the poll section on the right side of the homepage to cast your vote now.

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