Boxing Fans Have Much to Be Thankful For

By Kieran Mulvaney

Photo Credit: Will HartIt seems reasonable to assume that there a lot of people involved in boxing in Mexico, Las Vegas, New York and elsewhere feeling extremely thankful this holiday weekend. At the front of the line: Antonio Margarito, who received a belated go-ahead from the New York State Athletic Commission to fight Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden on December 3rd; Bob Arum of Top Rank, who is promoting the bout and who was prepared to move it elsewhere at the last minute until being confronted with a Cotto ultimatum that it had to be in New York or nowhere; officials at the Garden, who assuredly did not want what promises to be a huge event snatched away from under their noses; and the thousands who had bought tickets to the fight and made travel plans to the Big Apple.

This has been a year of highs and lows in boxing – at times, seemingly more of the latter than the former – but even so, there has been plenty for which the rest of us can be thankful, as well. For example:

Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao: Each may be loathed by the other's fans, but for neutrals it's a rare treat to have two such outstanding and contrasting practitioners at the top of the game. Here's hoping in 2012, they give us something to make us truly thankful.

Andre Berto and Victor Ortiz: For what is still probably the leading contender for Fight of the Year.

Pawel Wolak and Delvin Rodriguez: For giving us another Fight of the Year candidate - one so good, in fact, that they're going to do it again, on the Cotto-Margarito undercard.

Freddie Roach and Ann Wolfe: Freddie Roach is the number one trainer in the sport, an always-accessible and engaging interview, and the subject of his own upcoming reality show on HBO. But if Freddie's is the most interesting story among active trainers, Ann Wolfe's is right there with him. Plus she gave me the best quote ever.

James Kirkland: For three minutes of boxing action that still has me breathless.

Joe Frazier: Because although he may be gone, he will never be forgotten.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. May your beagle make you a memorable holiday dinner of buttered toast and popcorn. 

With a Wolfe in His Corner, Kirkland Faces Down a Bulldog

By Kieran Mulvaney

Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland

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.