Canelo vs Kirkland: Post-fight wrap

Terry Dooley
10/05/2015 3:24pm

A week after a bout between two fighters who haven’t scored a KO in a combined total of 14 fights (and featuring the world’s best defensive boxer) left boxing fans dazed and bewildered, Saul Alvarez produced a big knockout win over James Kirkland and served up the kind of big fight action that we all want but rarely get to see. 

Granted, Kirkland was the architect of his own downfall once again due to his Kamikaze, 'death by cop' approach from the opening bell, but it takes two to tango and 'Canelo' opted to fight fire with fire, rather than engaging in evasive measures, before drawing a line under the contest with a pair of knockdowns in the third round—one from a right uppercut, the other a fight-ending straight right hand that prompted referee Jon Schorle to wave it off at 2:19 without bothering to count.

If Floyd Mayweather’s win over Manny Pacquiao was one for the purists, last night’s contest showcased boxing’s other side, the crash, bang, wallop approach that invariably results in either prolonged, damaging slugfests or a KO win.  

There were no boos in Texas's Minute Maid Park Arena following Alvarez’s win, which has added to the argument that the 24-year-old Mexican will shoulder the mantle of the world’s premier fighter once Mayweather bows out. 

Unlike the American maestro, Alvarez is prepared to roll forward from the get-go if the mood takes him. Granted, it will make for a shorter career—with more losses than Mayweather would rack up even if he fought until he was 50—yet it is exactly what the sport needs. 

It’s a shame that many of the casual fans who tuned in last weekend probably weren’t even aware that this fight was taking place and will still view boxing with suspicion—well, at least until the next hugely hyped crossover “event”—seeing as we’ve stopped calling them fights—takes place.

Despite a thrilling finish, claims that last night’s bout was on a par, or even close to, the likes of Marvin Hagler against Thomas Hearns is probably an aftereffect of last week’s contest. Starved of action and knockdowns, boxing fans lapped up Canelo’s performance, and it was a very good one, but it was born out of Kirkland’s complete and utter lack of guile.

The 31-year-old started brightly only to be floored by a counter right late in the first, his legs never looked right from this moment on. His punches lacked pep, although he threw an awful lot of them, and it was only a matter of time before he was felled again. It was his first fight in almost two-years and his lack of sharpness came as no surprise.

When the finish came, it electrified the 31,000+ strong crowd, it may be Kirkland’s home State, but this was Canelo’s crowd, and the third-round finish was reminiscent of Don Curry’s destruction of Milton McCrory in 1985. Like Kirkland, McCrory was dropped heavily then scrambled to his feet only to be brutally felled by a big right hand. "I couldn't believe how slow he was," was Curry's assessment of the win, Alvarez could have been forgiven for thinking the same thing. 

Curry became a star that night, Alvarez has been one ever since bursting to prominence, the Mexican who looks like an Irishman underlined that star status last night, proving that he is more than a match for anyone who stands right in front of him and trades—although he’s not quite as good if someone gives him angles and lateral movement.

More than anything else, the fight proved that boxing’s all about faith, patience and timing, the fans who gnashed their teeth when Mayweather posted a wide win last weekend knew that boxing would throw them an exciting fight via this timely match-up. 

A week after Mayweather’s clinical display, Manny’s injury and the bizarre scorecards turned in by some fans and pundits, Alvarez took a fight by the scruff of the neck to showcase boxing’s other side, which is the side that most people want to see.

Once Mayweather is gone, and provided they feed him more Kirklands than (Erislandy) Laras, Alvarez should be able to carry the sport forward, especially if he faces Miguel Cotto for the linear middleweight title. 

With a potential bout against Gennady Golovkin also on the horizon, the future looks good for the sport and its fans. And with his ‘0’ already gone, Alvarez is unlikely to adopt Mayweather’s style anytime soon—a welcome relief to his fans, but a concern for those who also appreciate the sweet science.

By the numbers: Like many fighters before him, Alvarez discovered that Mayweather is hard to hit when losing to him by decision in 2013. On that occasion, his accuracy dropped to 22%, half of what he had posted in his previous fights and woeful compared to Mayweather’s 53% (according to Compubox)—it went back up to a whopping 64% (power shots) against Alfredo Angulo (TKO 10) in his comeback contest.

In contrast, his accuracy slipped again when he faced the slippery Erislandy Lara (W SD 12), he landed around 88 of 232 power shots for a percentage of 38 overall, with Lara almost matching him by scoring 36% (52 of 140 power shots landed).

Last night, he hit a high mark once again, posting 60% on his power punches (79 of 132). Kirkland hit 21%, 41 of 177 power punches went in, although a lot of them lacked steam and every single miss presented Alvarez with an opening or two—and he took advantage of them.

As the saying goes, you have to be careful when dealing with “Lies, damned lies and statistics”, but if you don’t take the figures as Gospel and look for a pattern one thing becomes crystal clear: if you stand in front of Alvarez he will hammer you into submission, as Kirkland, now 32-2 (28), found to his cost last night and, one suspects, a few more fighters will discover. 

The people who handle the 45-1-1 (32) fighter are not stupid and will match him accordingly, there’ll be more Kirklands than Laras throughout the rest of his pro career—great news for the fans who dip in and out of boxing in the hope of seeing KOs, action and controversy, so make sure you tell your friends to tune in the next time he’s in this type of fight. They won’t be disappointed.

However, there’s one figure that Alvarez does need to change, he’s been operating at 155lbs since losing to Mayweather. It’s high time for him to either stick to light-middleweight or commit fully to 160, the post-Mayweather rehabilitation is complete, it’s time to compete for titles again.