Canelo vs Kirkland - The Eyes of Texas, the Scrutiny of Mexico
By Marc Livitz in Houston, TX
Thanks to a great start to the current MLB season, the Houston Astros are currently a hot ticket in the Space City. Houston has at times worn the label of being a fickle sports town (this writer is a native and is speaking from experience).
Either way, tonight's bout at Minute Maid Park (aka "The Juice Box") between Saul "Canelo" Alvarez and James "Mandingo Warrior" Kirkland is expected to draw upwards of 45,000 fans, the vast majority of whom will of course, be pulling for the redheaded fighter from Guadaljara, Jalisco, Mexico.
(Main pic courtesy of Round by Round Boxing)
Anyone who attended yesterday's weigh in would have been hard pressed to convince that a fighter hailing from the state's capital was part of the main event.
Understandably so, Canelo attracts the sensibilities of the enormous numbers of Mexican Americans as well as Mexican patriots in the United States and elsewhere.
However, it may come surprising to some that Alvarez finds more love and admiration to such a degree in the United States than in his native land of the Tri Color.
While he currently holds a very impressive record of (44-1-1, 31 KO's), the majority of the boxing know were well aware that his bout two years ago with Floyd "Money" Mayweather was much more about Floyd's moniker than the chance for Canelo to catapult himself to stratospheric heights. It was a forced issue and of course, Alvarez was thoroughly shut out, yet high marks were in order as Canelo's sabbatical from the ring didn't last long as he returned to face Alfredo "El Perro" Angulo and Erislandy Lara, respectively last year.
In Mexico, he may be neither Julio Cesar Chavez nor Chucho Castillo, yet his ring guts are to be respected.
It may take a few more big wins, though to convince the country that he's as committed to his full time job as a fighter and not as a soap opera personality or spokesperson for various products.
The pressure of an entire nation can't be a easy tree to chop and carry, yet tonight's focus may be just as critical for James Kirkland. The Austin native has the reputation as a marauder in the ring, although his first round knockout to the less than heralded Nobuhiro Ishida four years ago left an indelible array of questions on his head. Although "The Mandingo Warrior"'s staggering and impressive record of knockouts to wins (32-1, 28 KO's) is still intact, the stunning first round knockout loss to Ishida saw one question in particular thrown his way over and over again.
Why did he depart from trainer, Ann Wolfe?
Two of his last three fights have been memorable nights which showcased his savagery in the ring as well as his chin and willingness to pick himself up off the canvas. If you haven't seen his respective bouts with Alfredo Angulo and Glen Tapia, then by all means, run to the computer and search for it.
Ann Wolfe was back in his corner for the fights just mentioned, but she's not tonight. By contrast, trainer Rick Morones, Jr. will be in his corner.
James had indicated in interviews leading up to tonight that his feeling was that he'd taken his training as far as he thought it could go with Wolfe.
"The techniques that I needed to work on was one of the reasons I had to separate with Anne Wolfe", said Kirkland during a recent media conference call.
"Heart, determination and will cannot be taken away from me. I thought I needed more to bring to the table than what I had. I take nothing away from her, though. There were things that I had to improve on that I couldn't with her."
All things considered, imagine the bludgeoning of criticism Kirkland may indeed be subjected to should he suffer a convincing loss to Canelo Alvarez this evening. He and Morones may very well be hit with tons of, "why?" and "why not?" types of queries and possibly how his biggest chance on the biggest of stages would have been different had he stayed with Wolfe in his corner.
The respect one should get alongside the freedom to make one's choices may be absent in such an instance. As unfair as to may be to Team Kirkland, the mind believes what the eyes see in boxing. The Eye Test, as it is.
The Austinite may have his hands full in more ways than one this evening in Houston.
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