James Kirkland had a impressive streak of wins until a small bump in the road called life derailed him. As a result of a probation violation, Kirkland had a long stint incarcerated that took him out of the ring for close to two-and-a-half years.
As Kirkland’s return drew near, many hardcore fans were buzzing to see how much of an effect the long layoff would have on the then undefeated junior middleweight. He would make quick work of his first opponent, knocking out Ahsandi Gibbs on the under-card of Alvarez vs. Hatton in a short thirty seconds.
Just under thirteen days later, Kirkland would fight once more. This time, he co-headlined a “Solo Boxeo” event on Televisa—one that saw him surprisingly in an actual fight for much of the first round against rugged Jhon Berrio. It might have been a sign of things to come, as Kirkland was rattled by some big punches via Berrio. But he pulled through with a KO in the second round that was set up by a huge left body hook.
Which leads us to Kirkland’s most recent performance last Saturday against former WBA light-middleweight title holder Nobuhiro Ishida.
Coming in as a a huge underdog, and basically a sacrificial lamb to help Kirkland get back into a rhythm, Ishida displayed the fighting will of a samurai warrior and possibly pulled of the biggest upset of 2011 thus far. In what was an opponent reversal, it was Kirkland now being knocked out as quickly as his last two prior opponents. Ishida came off as not only the winner, but the sentimental hero to the crowd on hand in Las Vegas, given the disaster affecting the people of Japan in Tokyo and Fukishima.
A few weeks back, we had a chance to speak to Kirkland. He was optimistic that he would be back in title contention after four to five bouts, and said that he wanted fights that would offer fans action-packed affairs.
Though the loss to Ishida will set him back a bit, it by no means Kirkland is done. A fighter like Kirkland—who is young, has been out of action for a few years and offers an aggressive approach—has a lot of fight left with some intriguing matchups ahead. Time will tell if Kirkland will overcome this hump as he should, but he expressed to our fight correspondent, Marcos Villegas, that he would love a matchup with another aggressive-style fighter like Alfredo Angulo.
Kirkland also shares with us his views on this weekends' welterweight showdown between two emerging boxing superstars, Andre Berto and Victor Ortiz, this Saturday, April 16, on HBO Boxing After Dark.