While the megafight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao is in the rearview mirror, the sport of boxing marches on.
Saul "Canelo" Alvarez moves back into the spotlight when he takes on James Kirkland Saturday night (HBO, 9 p.m. ET) from Minute Maid Park in Houston in a light middleweight bout.
A strong case can be made for Alvarez's being one of the most popular boxers in the sport after Mayweather and Pacquiao. Alvarez, 44-1-1 (31 KOs), lost a majority decision to Mayweather in 2013 that drew 2.2 million pay-per-view buys and grossed more than $150 million.
Mayweather's subsequent pay-per-view bout came against Marcos Maidana, and that drew less than one million PPV buys.
Alvarez won his next two bouts in 2014 after losing to Mayweather, and he is approaching the peak of his abilities at the age of 24.
Kirkland, 31, is a tough and relentless fighter with a 32-1 (28 KOs) record, and normally this would appear to be a very competitive fight. However, Kirkland has been inactive since his December 2013 TKO of Glen Tapia, and the ring rust could be a serious issue against a top-level fighter like Alvarez.
The oddsmakers have made Alvarez a heavy 4-25 favorite, according to Odds Shark. On the other hand, backing Kirkland would bring a 4-1 return.
If Kirkland can get off to a decent start and prove that he can stay with Alvarez, this could turn out to be an excellent fight. Kirkland has beaten the likes of Carlos Molina, Alfredo Angulo and Alexis Hloros. He hasn't lost since suffering a first-round TKO at the hands of Nobuhiro Ishida in 2011.
When Alvarez is on his game, he will throw dangerous combinations, and that gives him knockout power with both hands. He has not always been at his best against top fighters—he did just enough to beat Austin Trout and Erislandy Lara but was not overly impressive—and when Kirkland is razor-sharp, he could fall in that category.
However, Kirkland has been out of the ring for too long. He is not an accomplished boxer, as he is more likely to get the job done with power, courage and perseverance than skill.
It's good that Kirkland is getting back into the ring, but he might have been better off fighting an opponent who is not as dangerous as Alvarez. Kirkland will give his all in this fight, but it's difficult to see him doing enough to come up with a victory.
For every solid shot that he lands, he is likely to take three or four. That's not a good proportion in this business.
Prediction: Look for Alvarez to stop Kirkland in the eighth round.