Familiarity Breeds Action: Kirkland – Vera Preview & Prediction

When most people think of Austin, Texas the most prominent image conjured up would be that of the massive University of Texas campus that populates its downtown with thousands of underclassmen.  To residents of the Lone Star state, Austin hold a unique vibe in a state built on tradition.  Residents of the ATX have a slogan that sums up the bohemian vibe of the city that reads, “Keep Austin Weird”.  It’s not that Austin is some bizarre land of trends and people that buck the norms of society, but in a state that prides itself on big money, big hair, and big oil, Austin is granola to say Houston is to porter house steak.  But for all the recognition Austin enjoys surround its unparallel live music scene and endless debauchery fueled shenanigans on Sixth Street, the best kept secret of the ATX is that it is home to some of the most accomplished fighters in the sport.  Junior middleweight James Kirkland and Brian Vera are two such fighters, though both enjoy vastly different levels of recognition within the sport.  This Saturday the two will face each other in a battle of Austin sluggers that is sure to be an all action affair. 

Highly touted undefeated junior middleweight prospect James Kirkland exploded onto the scene in 2007 with his ShoBox televised blowouts of usually durable fighters such as Mohammad Said and Allen Conyers.  Since then the East Austin fighter has risen up the ranks to be regarded as a can’t miss prospect in the sport.  Though many will point out the noticeable absence of a marquee name on Kirkland’s ledger, you cannot deny the power and tenacity he displays in the ring.

During most of the early stages of his career Brian Vera was respected young middleweight prospect who enjoyed a rabid following along the I-35 corridor that linked the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex with Austin.  Such was his fan turnout in the Fort Worth area, that many joked he belonged to the “Cowtown” crowd more so than his native Austin peeps.  But like Kirkland, Vera’s ledger is filled with fighters who you have never heard of.  Though it should be noted that Vera did beat Marcus Hicks for the Texas middleweight title (for whatever that’s worth).  Hicks, while never anything to write home about as a pugilist, is currently a rising superstar in MMA fighting under the WEC banner.  But hands down, Vera’s claim to fame is his participation on this past season’s Contender show.  Sure he lost to Jaidon Codrington in his first fight in the show but the popularity generated by his participation landed him a nationally televised fight as a sacrificial lamb to ballyhooed prospect Andy Lee back in March of this year.  In what could be labeled as upset of the year, Vera weathered a relentless beating by Lee to rally back and stop the undefeated Irish prospect.  Now Vera stands to tackle his toughest test in a surging James Kirkland.

Prediction: Two and two equals four and Kirkland plus Vera equals sure-fire action.  In Kirkland, you have a hard-charging, whirling dervish of fistic pain taking on Vera, a man blessed with a seemingly impervious chin and enough heart to fill the ocean.  Kirkland’s a beast but at times he gets sloppy with his technique and unwisely squares up in front of his opponents.  In the fight with Conyers, the powerful New Yorker managed to drop Kirkland coming in.  It’s the blueprint Vera will need to follow if he hopes to pull out a victory.  Vera has respectable power in his own right.  While I wouldn’t put in on the level of Kirkland’s, the pop in his fists could pose a real problem should Kirkland get overanxious. But Vera has his own bad habits.  Chief among them is his tendency to swing wildly, winging wide looping punches that leave him open to counters.   What Vera does have in his favor is an iron infused chin that can take a hard shot like few others.  I see the fight being competitive for the first round or two and then Kirkland’s superior power and technique propelling him to middle round stoppage.  Vera will be game, and may manage to hurt Kirkland, but eventually his chin will give way to the powerful shots of Kirkland.  Still, it will be fun while it lasts.

Confidence:  68%.  Hard to go against Kirkland who I feel is a real talent in the sport.  Vera will make him work for the victory but short of landing a shot that puts Kirkland down I don’t see him winning.  Vera is tough and should Kirkland get over confident, I can seem him getting caught cleanly and put down.  However I think that Kirkland will be too much to handle.

Allegiance: Hard not to like both guys.  Vera is a humble character and his family is well respected in these parts.  For all the tenacity and rage Kirkland exhibits in the ring, outside of it he is a quite, respectful guy. Kirkland has battled some personal demons in his younger years but seems to have found a new lease on life with the birth of his sons and the guidance of Ann Wolfe.   I have to say I’m a sucker for any one who has overcome the trappings of a hard knock life so push come to shove, I have to say I’m rooting for Kirkland.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.