Alfredo Angulo vs James Kirkland WBC Light Middleweight Title Eliminator Preview

Can big punching Kirkland tame the man they call ''El Perro''?

Two of the biggest punchers in the light middleweight division go head-to-head on Saturday when James Kirkland squares off against Alfredo ''El Perro'' Angulo at the Centro de Cancun in Cancun, Mexico. Both men possess frightening punching power, and the odds of this fight going the distance are long indeed. The winner of this fight could feasibly face Saul ''Canelo'' Alvarez for the WBC light middleweight title in the new year in a big money fight, so the stakes for both men are high.

29-year-old Alfredo Angulo (20-1, 17 ko's) turned professional in 2005 after a stellar amateur career that included a victory over current WBC/WBO light welterweight champion Timothy Bradley. Angulo represented Mexico in the 2004 Athens Olympics but was eliminated by Ireland's Andy Lee, now a top 10 middleweight contender.

Angulo made an impressive start to his professional career, winning his first 15 fights, 12 by knockout. He took an 11 bout knockout streak into his May 2009 WBC light middleweight title eliminator against Puerto Rico's Kermit Cintron, himself a former IBF welterweight champion.

Despite Cintron's far greater experience, Angulo entered the fight as the bookies favorite. Cintron had been KO'd in six rounds the previous year by Antonio Margarito, a defeat that cost him his world title. A hard fought victory over Lovemore N'Dou failed to convince many that Cintron was back, and he looked fortunate to receive a draw when he fought Sergio Martinez in February 2009, despite being for all intents and purposes knocked out in the eighth round.

Many fans believed that Cintron was on the verge of being a 'shot fighter', despite being only 30 years old. However, as Angulo soon discovered, Cintron had at least one big victory left in him. The Puerto Rican used his height and reach advantages to perfection, and elected to box instead of slug, befuddling Angulo and winning a comfortable unanimous 12 round decision.

Since the Cintron setback, Angulo has bounced back with five straight knockout victories. Undefeated American Prospect Harry Joe Yorgey was dispatched in just three rounds in November 2009, and Colombian contender Joel Julio was KO'd in the 11th round, a victory that earned Angulo the interim WBO light middleweight title.

Angulo starched former WBA light middleweight champion Joachim Alcine in one round in a WBC light middleweight title eliminator in July 2010, and returned from a year of inactivity to knockout Joseph Gomez in one round this August.

At 5'10" tall, Angulo at times resembles a bigger version of Mexican superstar Juan Manuel Marquez. Like Marquez, Angulo boxes out of the classical 'European' stance and boxes behind a tight defense. He is promoted by Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions, who also look after the interests of Saul Alvarez.

Nicknamed ''El Perro'' - Spanish for The Dog - by his supporters, Angulo hits extremely hard and takes a great shot. Kermit Cintron proved he can be out-boxed, and on Saturday night, James Kirkland will discover if he can be out-slugged.

27-year-old James Kirkland (29-1, 26 KOs) has the physique, the power and the aggression to be a light middleweight version of Mike Tyson. Unfortunately, Kirkland also shares Iron Mike's talent for getting into trouble outside of the ring.

Kirkland had a standout amateur career winning 134 of 146 bouts. He was a four-time Silver Gloves champion (like the Golden Gloves, but for under 16's) and a National Golden Gloves finalist.

Kirkland turned professional in August 2001 with a third round knockout over Maurice Chalmers. By November 2003, his ledger stood at 11-0 with 9 KOs, but he was about to make the first of two major mistakes in his young life: in 2003 Kirkland was convicted of armed robbery and served two years in prison plus six months on house arrest before being paroled in 2006.

He resumed his boxing career in April 2006 with a third-round TKO over journeyman Manny Castillo. It didn't take Kirkland long to get back into his stride, and he began to climb the rankings by staying active and scoring victories over quality opponents like future John Duddy conqueror Billy Lyell, iron chinned former, Commonwealth light middleweight champion Ossie Duran, future world title challenger Ermosele Albert and former WBO light middleweight title challenger Joel Julio.

Kirkland was 25-0 and riding high in the world rankings when he was to make that second critical mistake: in April 2009 Kirkland, while still on probation for his 2003 armed robbery conviction, was arrested during a routine traffic stop in his hometown of Austin, Texas. Kirkland was carrying a gun. As he was a convicted felon, he was subsequently sentenced to two years in prison, although he was released early in September 2010.

It did not take Kirkland long to get back into his winning ways, and he scored two quick KOs in March 2011, knocking out Ashandi Gibbs in one round and Jhon Berrio in two.

Next up for Kirkland was 36-year-old Nobuhiro Ishida of Japan, an 11-year ring veteran who was having something of a late career surge. Ishida had held the interim WBA light middleweight title for two years before losing it the previous October on a split decision to Rigoberto Alvarez.

Tall for a light middleweight at 6'1", Ishida was not rated as any kind of a puncher with just seven career knockouts, but had never been stopped and was a solid boxer. He looked like the perfect opponent for Kirkland, and HBO commentator Max Kellerman dismissed the contest as nothing more than a ''stay busy fight'' for the American.

In a red hot contender for 'Upset of the Year', Ishida floored Kirkland three times in less than 2 minutes to score a sensational first round knockout.  

The counterpunching Ishida floored Kirkland within 30 seconds, and the American was clearly hurt. Instead of seeing out the round and clearing his head, Kirkland chose to go on the attack, and was floored again soon after. Now in desperate trouble, instead of clinching and doing whatever it took to survive the round, Kirkland once again showed kamikaze tactics and was floored heavily for a third time.
Although there was no three knockdown rule in effect, referee Joe Cortez chose to end it. HBO commentator Jim Lampley described the result as the ''biggest upset he had seen in 25 years of covering fights.''

Kirkland has since got back together with his former trainer, ex-female boxer Anne Wolf. Wolf had been with Kirkland for most of his career, but the two had parted company when Kirkland went to prison for a second time, and she was not in his corner on the night of the Ishida fight.

Wolf has trained Kirkland for his two comeback victories: a one round knockout over Dennis Sharp and a two round TKO over Alexis Hloros.

Kirkland and Wolf must now work on a defensive strategy to cope with the hard-hitting Angulo. Kirkland proved he could take a punch in his fight with the big hitting Joel Julio, absorbing many of the Colombian's biggest punches before flattening him in the sixth round.

Nevertheless, there is no getting away from the fact that Kirkland looked positively china-chinned against the light punching Ishida.

The American's fighting style is based on aggression and heavy hitting, and he will be looking to blow away Angulo in double quick time. Because of his massive power, Kirkland could well succeed, and add the Mexican's name to his growing list of knockout victories.

However, ''El Perro'' looks to have something of the pit-bull about him. His defense is tight, and when breached his chin looks strong. I see Angulo taking several 'bunker-buster bombs' from Kirkland in the first three rounds of the fight, but tagging him time and again with his own counter shots.

The further this fight goes, the stronger the Mexican's chances, and I see Angulo coming on strong in the second half of the fight and battering Kirkland two defeat by the eighth round.

Angulo by TKO in eight.

Big Fight Odds: James Kirkland 5/2, Alfredo Angulo 2/7 bet365

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Alfredo Angulo vs James Kirkland WBC Light Middleweight Title Eliminator Preview

Can big punching Kirkland tame the man they call ''El Perro''?

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