By Kieran Mulvaney
A few months ago, Ann Wolfe, the trainer of middleweight James Kirkland described her feelings about the kind of opponent her charge had been facing of late:
“They want to give us meat that's already dead,” she told me. “A real predator don't want no cooked meat. You keep feeding a damn lion meat out of the refrigerator, it's gonna lose its predatory instincts. We want something raw, with its eyeballs looking at us, so we can kill it and eat it."
Kirkland, of course, had once been on a seemingly unstoppable upward trajectory, blasting his way through opponent after opponent, until being arrested and jailed in 2009 for a firearms violation. On his return to the ring in early 2011, he mowed down a couple of uninspiring opponents before walking into the unheralded fists of Nobuhiro Ishida, bouncing off the canvas three times in the opening round, and suffering his first and so far only defeat.
In the immediate aftermath of that upset, his promotional and management teams fed him relatively soft opposition – the ‘dead meat’ Wolfe referred to – until fighter and trainer insisted on being let off the leash.
And so they have been. In a mouth-watering contest on Boxing After Dark this Saturday night, Kirkland, with a Wolfe in his corner, will stare across the ring at a dog, Alfredo ‘El Perro’ Angulo.
Like Kirkland, Angulo is once-defeated. Like Kirkland, Angulo tends to end his business inside the distance (17 of his 20 wins are by KO or TKO, against 26 of 29 for Kirkland). Neither man is known for his subtlety nor his boxing finesse; each man enters the ring on a mission to seek and destroy. If there is a perceived difference, it is in the chin department: even en route to victory, Kirkland has been felled, whereas Angulo’s jaw has yet to be dented. But that jaw has yet to taste punching power like Kirkland’s.
The odds on either man winning a decision, therefore, are long. This is a clash that has knockout written all over it.
So do not get up to go to the kitchen. A trip to the refrigerator will be unnecessary and ill-advised. Like most meals, this one is likely to take far less time to consume than to prepare; but, potential brevity notwithstanding, it promises to be immensely satisfying.