James Kirkland wasn't ready.
He came out looking to take the fight to Saul "Canelo" Alvarez from the opening bell, but Alvarez proved you have to balance the brutality with skills and fundamentals to be most effective.
On Saturday night from Minute Maid Park in Houston, Canelo scored a sensational knockout over Kirkland in the third round of their short, but action-packed, bout. In case you missed it, here's a look at the punch that put Kirkland away, per HBO Boxing on Twitter:
While Canelo might have been momentarily taken aback by Kirkland's aggression in the first minute of the fight, he quickly flipped the switch and showed himself to be the superior fighter.
A combination found its mark on the hard-charging Kirkland's chin and sent him down in the first round. Kirkland was badly hurt in the sequence. While he made it through the round, he hadn't totally regained his faculties into the second round.
Canelo had expended a good amount of energy trying to get Kirkland out of there in the first round, so he backed off of his opponent knowing he'd have a plethora of opportunities to finish shortly thereafter.
It was clear from the Compubox numbers that Kirkland was simply target practice for Canelo.
HBO analyst Roy Jones Jr. compared this bout to the Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao bout from last week.
In the third round, Kirkland seemed to look to go back on the offensive. He started to have some brief success, but he got caught with a well-placed counter uppercut that put him down to a knee. He wasn't hurt as badly as he was in the first round, because he quickly picked up the referee's count.
Kirkland rose to his feet at the count of seven, but he wouldn't be there for long.
Moments later, Canelo feinted to the body with his left jab and came over the top with a smashing overhand right that had Kirkland out before his body hit the canvas. That's the type of performance that sets the 24-year-old Mexican superstar up to become the new pay-per-view king once Mayweather has hung up the gloves.
It seams clear that the best fights for Canelo will be at middleweight. There's no one of note at 154 pounds for him to face—especially on HBO's side of the boxing landscape.
He could challenge Miguel Cotto in his next bout, or even Gennady Golovkin somewhere down the road. Both fights would be high-profile and very intriguing.
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