Boxing fans knew that something special would happen when James Kirkland met Alfredo Angulo in Cancun tonight on HBO. But before the junior middleweight war happened, it was difficult to imagine just how brutal it would be.
The 1st round was an all time classic. Kirkland (30-1) swarmed out of the corner and started backing Angulo (20-2) up from the get go. He looked sharp and dangerous until a huge, well timed Angulo right hand sent him straight to the floor. At that point, it seemed that the fight was destined to be a repeat of Kirkland’s April shock KO loss to Nobuhiro Ishida.
Instead, the Texan showed incredible heart and chin to weather a terrifying Angulo assault that lasted nearly two full minutes and returned the favour, dropping the Mexican puncher for the first time in his career with only seconds to go in the round. There was nothing flash about either of the knockdowns. Both were delivered with terrifying, concussive force.
Mexicali’s Angulo committed a serious error in trying so hard to finish Kirkland in the 1st round and completely punched himself out. He got up from Kirkland’s chopping overhand left and survived to round’s end, but never recovered. Kirkland subjected him to a shocking beating for the rest of the fight.
That’s not to say that Angulo wasn’t landing; he was. But this was the fearsome Kirkland of old, with a decent enough jab, a good chin and even a little defence. Every time it seemed that Angulo might be getting some momentum back, Kirkland dug to the body and chopped at the head.
By round 5, Angulo’s face was bloodied and his head was popping back and forth like a dashboard toy. Angulo’s endurance replaced Kirkland’s ferocity as the most awe-inspiring feature of the fight. When the referee stepped in to stop matters with two minutes left in the 6th, he truly was saving Angulo from himself. The Mexican would have taken a beating for twelve painful rounds if it were up to him.
With so much contact, the only thing that will stop Angulo vs. Kirkland becoming Fight of the Year will be it’s one-sidedness from the 2nd round onwards. Instead, we got what will probably become the Round of the Year and Kirkland’s amazing, phoenix like rise from the ashes. Ann Wolfe, the trainer he returned to after the Ishida loss, might even be in the running for trainer of the year. She’s definitely the baddest bitch on the planet in my book.
Despite, or more likely because of, Kirkland’s performance, he may now find it difficult to get a good fight. Technically that was an eliminator for a shot at Saul Alvarez’ title, but it’d be surprising if Golden Boy lets “Canelo” anywhere near Kirkland. I don’t see the rest of the junior middleweight division lining up around the block for that treatment either.
On the televised undercard, New York middleweight Peter Quillin took care of Scotland’s Craig McEwan in six in a fight that never really heated up. Quillin (26-0) looked sharpish but found it hard to look good against the professional Scot. McEwan (19-2) kept the rounds close enough with his pressure, but never found a way to bother the American or land anything of consequence. The stoppage came far too early, with 30 seconds left in the 6th round, after a Quillin check hook/right hand combination. HBO’s Max Kellerman optimistically called the fight Quillin’s “coming out party.” In reality, it didn’t prove much. It’s difficult to tell how good he really is against a guy like McEwan, who will now most likely retreat back to the British scene where he can still be a very successful fighter.