If you're a boxing purist, and appreciate the subtleties of a first-rate defense, don't watch the main event on HBO between Alfredo Angulo and James Kirkland on Saturday from Cancun, Mexico. There will be nothing there for you to enjoy.
And if you're queasy at the sight of blood, you're better off skipping the super welterweight title eliminator bout, as well. There figures to be more blood in this one than there was in your average Abdullah the Butcher wrestling match.
But for anyone else who enjoys boxing, the Angulo-Kirkland is one of those rare fights that figures to enthrall you from the beginning until what figures to be a very violent, very bloody ending.
It is, in some ways, a poor man's version of Marvelous Marvin Hagler against Thomas Hearns. Though they possess no more than about a tenth of the skill of legends like Hagler and Hearns, Angulo (20-1, 17 KOs) and Kirkland (29-1, 26 KOs) have the real possibility of putting on a savage, jaw-dropping war like Hagler and Hearns did in Las Vegas in 1985.
That epic three-round bout remains the standard by which all subsequent slugfests are judged. Angulo and Kirkland, though, have the offense-first, lead-with-the-chin styles that frequently lead to sensational battles.
"This fight is either going to be compared to Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas Hearns, or it's going to be [an Arturo] Gatti-[Micky] Ward-[type], where you have a war for 12 rounds," promoter Oscar De La Hoya said. "So no matter what the outcome is, we know this fight is going to be very, very entertaining and a very great fight."
Though it's the expected comment from a promoter, in this case, De La Hoya is telling the truth. This is that rare fight in which you have two aggressive, offensive fighters with knockout power in both hands and precious little defense.
There are, however, questions about both guys. Kirkland spent nearly two years in prison, just as he was becoming a contender at super welterweight. In his first major bout after being released, he was destroyed by the light-hitting Nobuhiro Ishida on April 9, knocked out in less than two minutes.
There had previously been questions about Kirkland's chin, and the Ishida bout did nothing to dispel them. Ishida had come into the bout with seven knockouts in 30 pro fights and was no more fearsome than a six-month-old kitten.
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He looked like Hagler, though, the first time he breathed hard in Kirkland's direction. Kirkland was down three times and wobbling around as if he'd been on a two-night bender.
Kirkland, though, lobbed the blame at his then-trainer Kenny Adams. Adams, the coach of the 1988 U.S. Olympic boxing team, is one of the greatest trainers of this – or any – generation.
Kirkland, 27, had nothing but praise for Adams prior to the fight, and nothing but disdain for him since, which seems to be more an indictment of Kirkland than Adams.
He's since rehired his original trainer, Ann Wolfe, and insisted he didn't get the proper work in to face Ishida in April.
"I'm taking nothing away from Kenny Adams," said Kirkland, who then proceeded to do just that. "He has a certain style that he teaches his fighters, but I'm a totally different fighter. I'm a press fighter. I'm a pound-for-pound fighter. I'm an all-around fighter. But when it comes to being able to be pushed to the next level, I got that from Ann Wolfe. I didn't get that from Kenny Adams. So the whole not enough sparring, not enough work, not the best conditioning, anybody can drop to a certain weight if they're motivated, but to be able to have all the tools to be able to do it you have to be trained by a person that you feel comfortable with, the person has to be at the same level. And that's how it was with Ann Wolfe.
"But in the Ishida fight, I was nowhere near prepared for that fight. People say, 'Oh, he doesn't have a chance,' or 'He doesn't have this,' or 'He doesn't have that.' I didn't train the way I'm training for this fight. I didn't spar basically the same time. It's a different type of strategy for a different type of fight. And the strategy that I used for the Ishida fight was nowhere near there. My timing was off. My movement was off. Nothing was prepared for the fight."
Angulo hits about 10 times harder than Ishida, but he's got problems of his own. Last year, according to documents from the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Angulo was deported to Mexico. Not only was he in the country illegally, but INS determined that he had assisted six other men to enter the country illegally, as well.
He was deported and barred from re-entering the U.S. for 10 years. The result has been that his career has been put on hold. He was deported not long after knocking out Joachim Alcine in the first round of an HBO-televised match in Rancho Mirage, Calif., on July 17, 2010.
Since then, he split with promoter Gary Shaw and signed with Golden Boy Promotions, but has fought only once. He knocked out Joseph Gomez in 84 seconds in Mexicali, Mexico, on Aug. 20.
In the last 30 months, Angulo has actually been in the ring for four minutes, 23 seconds, or just under a round-and-a-half. In addition, he's also got a new trainer, having hired the Hall of Famer, Nacho Beristain.
Angulo intimated that it was Shaw who was responsible for his long layoff, though he would not directly identify him. But he said that none of it matters anyway.
"The layoff was very, very frustrating and I blame one person," Angulo said. "I blame one person. I don't want to name any names, but one person didn't want to fight me when there were opportunities for me to fight. There were different situations where I could have fought, but that one person, for whatever reason, did not want to fight me because I guess he wanted to punish me, so he didn't fight me.
"As far as affecting me and just only fighting one-and-a-half rounds, I train hard. I train hard and I proved it [against Gomez]. That was supposed to be a tough fight, but I was ready, I was in great shape, I was strong, and I ended up finishing the fight early. So you guys, I've always said that I was born to fight, and I think that I'm going to prove it again on Saturday night and you guys are going to see for yourselves that I was born to fight."
All the elements – the new trainers, the layoffs, the deportations – make it very hard to predict what would happen. Angulo is the better overall boxer and has more quality wins, but there are difficult questions to be answered on both sides.
That leaves just one thing to predict for the Angulo-Kirkland fight:
Violence; lots and lots of violence.
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- James Kirkland
- Alfredo Angulo
- Thomas Hearns