The hope for many boxing fans is that high tide raises all boats, that the massive media attention heaped on the super fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao will also increase the general population’s awareness of boxing as a whole. While that might be true industrywide, for Canelo Alvarez vs. James Kirkland, it seems that this once highly anticipated war has been hidden underneath the very dark shadow cast by #MayPac. And that’s a shame, because it could be one of the most explosive fights this year.
On May 9 at the Minute Maid Park Arena in Houston, Texas, beloved Mexican warrior Saul “Canelo” Alvarez will step into the ring against one of the most ferocious and troubled fighters at junior middleweight, James “The Mandingo Warrior” Kirkland. This fight was almost made a few years ago, but because of Kirkland’s odd business sense and injured shoulder, a matchup never materialized. Now, everything is set for a clash that from the day it was signed fans thought would be a barn-burner. Then, as the promotion developed — slowly and under the shadow of the Fight of the Century — we came to find out that one important element was missing from the event: Ann Wolfe.
Wolfe is one of the greatest female boxers of all time and also one of the most well-recognized female trainers. She and Kirkland have a tumultuous and unique relationship. You’d be hard-pressed to find another trainer who has had a bigger effect on her fighter than Wolfe has had with Kirkland. And apparently she’s not a part of Kirkland’s fight camp.
Whatever the reason, Kirkland’s decision will undoubtedly play a role on fight night. Wolfe’s no-frills, bite through your lip, keep pushing forward training is what made Kirkland the animal that no one wanted to step in the ring with back in 2010. With her in the corner, the matchup against Canelo would’ve been dead even, if not slightly in favor the “Mandingo Warrior.” Now, Kirkland is a sizable underdog, and the fight has lost some of its luster. Regardless, on May 9, you can bet the fight won’t go 12 rounds.
The fact that Alvarez is taking on Kirkland at all is a testament to his resolve to entertain fans. Despite Canelo’s commercial success, he remains hungry for the approval of his Mexican brethren, and that is precisely why he continues to pick matchups that other fighters, and even his promoter (Golden Boy), would rather avoid.
A victory for either man on Saturday creates opportunities for some very interesting big-name matchups in the second half of the year. And maybe, a victory will embolden either fighter to call out the baddest man near their division: Gennady Golovkin. You can be assured that a showdown between Canelo and GGG would do big PPV numbers, and if they did it at the StubHub Center in Los Angeles, the fight would have to be moved to the soccer stadium because every boxing-loving Latino in a hundred-mile radius would be beating down the gates to get in.
If you were disappointed in the Fight of the Century, don’t give up on boxing. Tune in on May 9, and all your faith will be restored.
A former college wrestler, Taekwondo black-belt, and wannabe boxer, Paul Navarro (aka Fight Like Sugar) is now a full-time lawyer, part-time fight scribe, and high school wrestling coach.