James Kirkland Prepares For Battle
By Gabriel Montoya, MaxBoxing (Nov 4, 2011) Doghouse Boxing
Photo: James Kirkland
It’s been an up and down then back up again year for Austin, TX junior middleweight James “Mandingo Warrior” Kirkland, 29-1, 26 knockouts. After leaving prison for a weapons possession charge while on probation back in September 2010, Kirkland returned to the ring. Leaving behind Austin and the trainer who brought him to contender status before jail derailed his career, Ann Wolfe, Kirkland moved to Las Vegas, NV and began working with Kenny Adams. After two knockout wins, Kirkland looked a little rusty. Something was a bit off but no one was acknowledging it, least of all Kirkland.

Then disaster struck.

Kirkland was put in his third fight in five weeks against light hitting Nobu Ishida, a tall junior middleweight from Japan. The fight was supposed to be Kirkland’s re-introduction to the big stage and was part of an HBO PPV world. There was talk of a fight with middleweight champion Sergio Martinez should Kirkland win the fight and another slated for a few months later as a main event on HBO regular.

Unfortunately for Kirkland, he had prepared poorly and after three surprise knockdowns, was stopped by Ishida in the first round. He never even saw the third minute of round one.

The loss sent Kirkland into a depression as he sat in Vegas wondering what he should do. He had had a feud with Ann Wolfe sometime during his prison stretch and because of that, he had refused to train with her. But now, with the party nearly over, something had to give. Kirkland placed a call to his co-manager, Cameron Dunkin and soon he was back in Austin training at his old gym with Wolfe.

“I tell you, I'm taking nothing away from Kenny Adams, he has a certain style that he teaches his fighters, but I'm a totally different fighter. I'm a press fighter. I'm a pound-for-pound fighter. I'm an all-around fighter. But when it comes to being able to be pushed to the next level, I got that from Ann Wolfe,” Kirkland told me on a conference call this week. “I didn't get that from Kenny Adams. So the whole not enough sparring, not enough work, not the best conditioning, anybody can drop to a certain weight if they're motivated, but to be able to have all the tools to be able to do it you have to be trained by a person that you feel comfortable with, the person has to be at the same level. And that's how it was with Ann Wolfe. But in the Ishida fight I was nowhere near prepared for that fight. People say, oh, he doesn't have a chance, or he doesn't have this or he doesn't have that. I didn't train the way I'm training for this fight. I didn't spar basically the same time. It's a different type of strategy for a different type of fight. And the strategy that I used for the Ishida fight was nowhere near there. My timing was off. My movement was off. Nothing was prepared for the fight.”

While Kirkland would not explain exactly what kept him from working with Wolfe when he first got out of prison, he explained just what she brings to his table.

“The reason why I decided to get a new coach in the meantime, me and her had a personal matter, but eventually we put the stuff to the side and went ahead and got back together,” Kirkland explained. “But as far as boxing and not being able to get in there and do what you need to do, yes, it takes away from your time and it takes away from your preparation, your head movement, the whole nine as a fighter, but then when you go back to the table and say hey, who pushes these to the next level, who's going to give me that challenge that I need as far as the work, and Ann Wolfe, she's always pushing me to the next level. She's definitely a world champion as far as all the way around, family, boxing, the whole nine. The teamwork that we do is like none other and with everything that I've been doing to get prepared for this fight, when at first I was doing everything I was doing, I was like how the hell am I going to go through this type of training to be able to but as it goes on, you get mentally prepared and do what you got to do, that's what happens. I became super strong and I became like no other. I'm really prepared for this fight and I'm just thankful.”

The fight Kirkland refers to is the most important and dangerous of the 27 year olds career. Saturday night on HBO Boxing After Dark he takes on Alfredo “Perro” Angulo, 20-1, 17 KOs live from Cancun, MX. Considering all he has been through leading up to this moment, two prison stretches and a brutal loss, the fight represents more than just everything he has ever worked for getting here. It is all or nothing for Kirkland on Saturday. He has prepared accordingly.

“I just want to give everybody thanks to de la Hoya and Golden Boy Promotions, Mr. Schaefer and everybody, [co-manager] Michel Miller and everyone standing behind me and supporting me,” said Kirkland. “One thing I've got to say as far as the training, we have a whole new style, a new way of eating, and everything worked out super-duper good. Right now I weigh 158 and the fight says 154, so I've got five days to lose four pounds, which is nothing. I feel super-duper tremendously good. I can't say much more, but I just feel blessed and in top shape. I'm not underestimating anybody, a lot of people want to speak up on oh, you all did this, you all did that. Sparring is one thing but I got the best of it, but sparring is one thing and I'm not underestimating anybody and the difference between this fight and the fight is that I trained for this person and I know what he's coming with and I know what type of game plan he likes. I know he's a come forward fighter and that's the same type of fighter I am. So we train to the utmost, to the max, because we know exactly what we're getting ourselves into and then at the same time you're trying to learn how to adjust to a new trainer, and I just want to be able to show the world that I deserve the opportunity to be able to be a world champion and this is it right here, to be able to show the world what I'm capable of.”

Heading into the bout, Kirkland informed me and co-host David Duenez that he would be on media blackout. Feeling he needed to channel all his energy into this fight camp, Kirkland wanted to leave nothing to chance. The move shows the kind of commitment he has made to the fight, himself and to Wolfe.

“My reasons for that would be because I know what type of fight that I'm bringing myself into and I want to put all my knowledge and all my power, all my abilities as far as fight wise, and focus on nothing but on the fight,” he explained. “I want to be able to give my all, all my concentration, all my motivation, all my focus in the game as far as strengthening and as far as speed, power, a total contact fight. I trained for that. I've had over 17, 18 sparring partners that flew from all around the world, and I'm very, very happy because when I started off in the training camp a lot of things weren't there, and then as far as with my team being able to sit down and get prepared for the fight and making sure we are ready and knock him out and ensure that I touched every obstacle, and anything can happen in the fight and you have to be prepared for, and that's what I've done. That's the reason why I wasn't so much talking to the media and everybody has to say this and everybody's going to say that, but there are only two people that are going to get into that ring on November 5th and that's me and Alfredo Angulo.”

Kirkland explained that a big part of his preparation for this fight was his diet. With a big frame for junior middleweight, Kirkland tends to carry a lot of weight between fights. This time was not much different and so he decided a diet change was needed.

“My weight usually is really, really high. I'm not even going to say how much it is. But usually it's really, really high, but for this here it was even higher for this fight,” he said. “But we've changed everything as far as the foods and we prepared the meals and we did the whole nine to make sure that this weight will come off fast. And the weight came off better than what I expected because I deal with my body all the time, I work on it all the time and I know what my body can go through, what my body can take, and I ate, I enjoyed myself, it's like, I can't even explain it. It felt good because I actually got to eat and drink and do everything and the vitamins, just the whole nine because I didn't strain myself, I didn't push myself to dehydration and all that type of stuff. I was just prepared.”

Angulo is not without changes heading into this fight. For one, is without his strength coach Darryl Hudson. Secondly, he has moved his camp to Mexico City where he has worked with long-time friend Nacho Beristain to prepare. In terms of style, Angulo is a pressure fighter with solid boxing skills. At first glance, he is simply a Mexican pressure fighter but beneath that surface is a trickier than expected fighter.

“The thing with Angulo, he's a surprising fighter,” said Kirkland. “He can try to pull out different types of strategies, but the main thing that he likes to do is he comes forward. And one thing that Kirkland is prepared for, I'm prepared for battle. I'm prepared to go 12, 13 as many rounds as possible, but one thing we know it only goes 12, we will see who's going to be strongest or who's going to put out more effort and more work, I'm going to be able to show the world what I'm capable to be able to do. I know what I trained for. I know what this fight brings to the table. I know what my next fight is looking forward to. But if this all turns out right, my mind frame is to destroy, seek and destroy and use class and skill with it. And that's how the fight's going to go.”

Most fight fans agree this fight is going to be a war that won’t last the distance. To Kirkland, the length does not matter. What the fight will come down to is pure guts, toughness and who can take the power of the other.

“I don't care how long it goes. I know what I did in preparation for this fight. If Angulo can take what I'm giving, I'm willing to give this all 12 rounds,” said Kirkland. “We're trying to see who's driving a V-6 and who's driving a V-8, and who's driving a V-12 and who's going to put out the most power and the most energy for this fight. I know what I'm capable of doing, so that's what all shows in the ring.”

With his team back in place, his preparation as good as it will ever be, Kirkland is looking to return to the upper echelons where he feels he belongs. However long it goes, this one should be memorable.

“When I first got out and got back into the ring I was given a coach, I was given a trainer, I was given a gym, and I was like making it work and not me saying hey, this person may be good for me or that person may be good, but this is what I was given. And I said, you know what, I'm going to take a chance with it and let me see how this works and how can I get prepared for fights with this person, and it didn't go right,” said Kirkland. “I'm not saying it's on my team, but it's on all of us together as far as hey, I made the wrong decision as far as going that route, but to go back with Ann Wolfe and it's like a different type of motivation, a different type of drive that I get from being in that circle. And to be able to work with Ann again and me and her set everything to the side and said, hey, this is the fight that we need and this is how what we're going to do, this is the level that we know and everybody knows, and this shows them that you are prepared that you wanted to go way beyond the beyond to make it happen, and that's what it is now. I do give glory and thanks to God for this opportunity and everyone will see by November 5th that I'm more than ready.”

You can email Gabriel at maxgmontoya@gmail.com, follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gabriel_montoya and catch him on each Monday’s episode of “The Next Round” with Steve Kim. You can also tune in to hear him and co-host David Duenez live on the BlogTalk radio show Leave-It-In-The-Ring.com, Thursdays at 5-8 PM PST. Gabriel is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

* Special Thanks To MaxBoxing.

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