Canelo Alvarez Brutalizes, Stops James Kirkland In Three Rounds

Boxing fans left unsatisfied by last week’s “Fight of the Century” were treated to a brutal one-sided shootout between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and James Kirkland in Houston Saturday night on HBO. The junior middleweight bout was entertaining as long as it lasted, but it was clear from early on that Canelo (45-1-1, 32 KO) was simply too good for the hard-charging Kirkland (32-2, 28 KO), whom he folded in sickening fashion at the end of round 3.

At his best, Kirkland is lightning (and thunder, and gale force winds) in a bottle, and it seemed the main storyline heading into this bout was whether the Austin native could live up to his violent promise without TV friendly trainer Ann Wolfe. As it turns out, it wouldn’t have mattered much — he roared out of the blocks as per usual, only to find an opponent who wouldn’t bend to his will and gave better than he got.

At times, Alvarez is like something out of a horror movie. It’s not just his red hair and alabaster skin; when he’s in his element he seems impossibly cold and cruel, like a child torturing ants under a magnifying glass. When Kirkland ran at him in round 1 he was completely unflustered, calmly absorbing the fusillade before stinging Kirkland with short shots, turning him back onto the ropes and dropping him with a pinpoint right hand set up with a glancing left to the body.

Kirkland was lucky to make it out of the round, but found himself on the back foot again early in round 2 as Alvarez raked him with right hands and left hooks of shocking power. With the Texan somehow still upright, Canelo was more than happy to retreat to the ropes and spend the rest of the round there. It seemed like just another day at the office for the Guadalajara native, who allowed the battered Kirkland to wail away at him with arm shots while scoring with telling uppercuts.

In round 3, however, Canelo decided it was time for the wings to come off the fly. Stepping back into a neutral corner to create space, he landed a devastating right uppercut which put Kirkland on the canvas once more. After that it was target practice and Canelo obliged the 30,000 fans at Minute Maid Park by finishing the job with a sweeping right hand set up with a jab to the body. Kirkland corkscrewed to the floor like a spinning top losing its momentum. Thankfully he stayed put.

“I prefer to fight a guy like Kirkland who comes to fight and likes to fight. That’s what the fans want. I love it,” said Canelo in the post-fight interview. He also said he’d be open to fighting either Miguel Cotto or Gennady Golovkin. Cotto, the middleweight champion, will almost certainly be first, assuming he gets past Daniel Geale next month.

As a guy with virtually no defence and heavy hands, Kirkland will always be in entertaining fights, and there’s no shame in losing to Canelo. And it’s not like junior middleweight is a particularly stacked division, so he can still make interesting fights so long as he doesn’t do anything to sabotage his career (as is his wont).

On the undercard, favoured featherweight prospect Joseph Diaz, Jr. (16-0, 10 KO) received a stern test from Mexico City’s Giovanni Delgado (15-3, 9 KO). Diaz, a 2012 Olympian, found himself in a brawl in the early rounds as Delgado refused to take a backward step, but from round 4 he managed to pick his spots a little more. Though all the early round were close, Diaz pulled away late. His body work, especially his southpaw right rip, was telling, and in rounds 8 and 9 he buckled Delgado’s legs by following it up with left crosses. Delgado, however, had absolutely no respect for Diaz, and continued to charge hard in the final round. In the end, though, he couldn’t match Diaz for precision or power, and the judges’ scores were 99-91 and 100-90 twice. Both fighters managed to raise their stock, with Delgado demonstrating he could mix it up with a lot of featherweights and Diaz proving his toughness.

( Photo: Canelo Alvarez of Mexico, left, delivers a punch to James Kirkland during their junior middleweight bout at Minute Maid Park on May 9, 2015 in Houston, Texas; credit: Scott Halleran/Getty Images)