Photos: Will Hart
By Kieran Mulvaney
Both Saul "Canelo" Alvarez and James Kirkland showed up in trim fighting shape at Friday’s weigh-in, each of them tipping the scales one half-pound inside the contracted 155-pound limit for Saturday night's fight on HBO's World Championship Boxing at 9:00 PM ET/PT.
If it aggrieved Texas’ own Kirkland that the Houston crowd was vociferously pro-Alvarez as the two men faced off, he didn’t show it. However, the day before at the final pre-fight press conference, his new strength and conditioning coach, Bremond 'Bay Bay’ McClinton, sought to invoke “the last time Mexico invaded Texas,” by exhorting those assembled to “Remember the Alamo.” (McClinton’s history lesson skipped over the fact that the previous time Alvarez fought in Texas – in San Antonio, where the Alamo actually is – he won.) McClinton also said something about an alligator mouth writing checks that a hummingbird ass couldn’t cash, or something to that effect, prompting Alvarez trainer Chepo Reynoso to note through a translator that, while he couldn’t understand a word McClinton said, he thought he seemed very angry. “I don’t know why he’s angry,” he said, “we’re very happy.”
To be fair, Kirkland himself seemed pretty happy, too, or at least as content and relaxed as his naturally intense vibe allows him to be. While he at times chafed in the build-up at repeated questions about why he was no longer working with long-time trainer Ann Wolfe, he raised the issue himself during an HBO interview on Thursday and seems keen to demonstrate that credit for his 32-1 record should go to him rather than his erstwhile coach. (The problem, of course, is that the lone defeat on that record came on the only other occasion he fought on HBO without Wolfe in his corner.) Fully aware that he hasn’t always made the best decisions in his professional and personal career – as evidenced, for example, by the fact that Saturday will mark only his second fight in a little over three years, or by a trio of arrests since 2003 – he appears genuinely aware that this is his opportunity to silence the naysayers and lift his career to the heights for which it at one point seemed destined.
Canelo’s career, of course, is already much closer to those heights. For him, the task at hand is not one of having to prove or disprove anything, but on maintaining a steady course to the very top. A lone career loss, to Floyd Mayweather, is in his rear-view mirror, but a matchup with middleweight champion Miguel Cotto beckons. At the tender age of 24, Alvarez already displays a preternatural calm and confidence beyond his years, and has shown a welcome readiness to take on all-comers. With Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao reaching the end of their careers, Alvarez stands ready to assume the mantle of the sport’s most popular star, and that goal will remain firmly within reach if on Saturday he can overcome what promises to be the hellacious assault of a dangerous man with everything to prove and nothing to lose.
The broadcast will be shorter than originally planned, thanks to Frankie Gomez weighing a full six and a half pounds over the contracted 141 pound limit for his scheduled bout with Humberto Soto, prompting the cancellation of his what had been slated to be his network debut.