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James Kirkland Arrested for Assault; Has the End Finally Come for the Mandingo Warrior?

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COMMENTARY | In what may amount to the final nail in his professional coffin, former world title contender James Kirkland has been arrested for assault and charged with "causing bodily harm to a family member," according to the American-Statesman, a newspaper based out of Kirkland's hometown of Austin, Texas.

Although very few details are currently available, the American-Statesman reports that the 29-year-old Kirkland was taken into custody over the weekend and held on $5,000 bail at the Travis County Jail in the Austin area.

Kirkland, who has been inactive from boxing since February of 2012, was once regarded as one of the top prospects in the sport and, pound for pound, one of its most fearsome presences since a prime Mike Tyson ruled the ring.

In recent years, though, Kirkland's star has fallen considerably and the fighter nicknamed "The Mandingo Warrior," has found himself buried in legal and contractual drama. The junior middleweight contender, once pegged for superstardom and a lengthy world title reign, has now fallen completely off the map and shows no signs of getting back to the boxing main stage anytime soon.

Back in 2009, as Kirkland was on the verge of his first world title shot, a parole violation brought about by an ill-advised attempt to purchase a firearm, would send the fighter to prison and cost him two years of prime career.

Upon his release, Kirkland returned to the ring sans longtime trainer Ann Wolfe, but looked flat and unmotivated. Still physically strong and supremely heavy-handed, Kirkland lacked the intensity that took him to the top before his prison stint and it didn't take long for him to be exposed as a mere shell of his former self.

In April of 2011, Kirkland was stopped in one round by light-hitting Japanese fringe contender, Nobuhiro Ishida and it looked as though the end had come for the once-fierce Mandingo Warrior.

But Kirkland would get a rare second shot at stardom later that same year when a reconciliation with Wolfe and a thrilling stoppage of Alfredo Angulo in a six-round instant classic would bring the Austin, Texas native right back to the top.

Once again, Kirkland was one win away from a world title shot, with only professional spoiler, Carlos Molina standing between him and a chance at Saul "Canelo" Alvarez's WBC 154 lb. world title.

For much of the contest, held in Houston, Texas, Kirkland was thoroughly outboxed by the underrated Mexican contender and appeared to be headed towards a decisive decision loss. However, after a tired Molina was sent to the canvas by a Kirkland punch at the end of the tenth round, a technicality would lead to Kirkland getting the disqualification victory.

Apparently violating a little-known Texas rule, Molina's corner man had entered the ring before the official end of the round. And despite the fact that he immediately exited the ring when he realized the round wasn't officially over, referee Jon Schorle still saw fit to disqualify Molina.

After the close call with Molina, odd decisions and sad mistakes would stop Kirkland's career cold.

The fighter would refuse close to a million dollars to fight Saul Alvarez, initially claiming that a shoulder injury, sustained in the Molina fight, wouldn't allow him to take the bout. But Kirkland would later issue a statement through a longtime associate, saying that he wouldn't consider the bout for anything under $2.5 million.

After Golden Boy Promotions moved on, Kirkland's story began to grow even weirder.

Kirkland would blame his poor performance in the Molina bout on members of his team, who he claims forced him to take two black pills that sedated him prior to the bout.

The odd accusation was followed by attempts to sever any and all ties with promoter Golden Boy, Wolfe, and just about everyone else on his team. Kirkland's abrupt push for independence has created a legal mess of entanglements that has kept him from the ring for the last sixteen months with nothing evenly remotely planned for the future.

Now, following this latest arrest, the chances for a Kirkland return grow even dimmer.

As a fighter, James Kirkland found himself able to meet and defeat any foe. As a man, Kirkland is struggling in life and may be on his way to a TKO defeat.


Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.

Sources: American-Statesman, Tha Boxing Voice, Boxingnews24

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