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Canelo vs Kirkland: Why 154 lb 'Earnie Shavers' is a threat to Alvarez

Lee Cleveland Updated
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On May 9, boxing star Canelo Alvarez will face James Kirkland in Houston, TX in a bout to be aired live on HBO.

James Kirkland wasn't Canelo & Co's first choice but they were unable to come to terms with future Hall of Famer Miguel Cotto.

After examining James,' resume, some may insist Kirkland was a safe pick. After all, like Yuriorkis Gamboa, Mikey Garcia and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr of late, Kirkland has essentially turned into a part time fighter due in part to contractual disputes with his promoter, 50 Cent.

Kirkland hasn't entered the ring since December 2013 and has fought only twice since his memorable rumble with Alfredo Angulo in November 2011.

James should be easy pickins, right?

Well maybe, and maybe not.

Make no mistake, Canelo may have the edge in overall skill. Moreover, James may have to shake off some ring rust.

Klitschko vs Sanders (2003) anyone?

In 2003, WBO heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko faced a hard-punching foe in Corrie Sanders, a part-time fighter who had only fought three times in the previous 35 months, very similar to James today.

Easy tune-up for Wlad, right?
We'll, not exactly.

When the 37 year old seemingly rusty, over-the-hill South African found Wlad's chin, the showcase turned into a disaster for the new champ. Klitschko was down four times and failed to survive Round 2.

Three words: Natural - punching - power...   The late Corrie Sanders had it in abundance.

But what truly makes Kirkland a unique breed is his crippling punching power is coupled with a durable chin. Some fighters have one trait or the other while many elite-level fighters aren't known for possessing an abundance of either.

At 32-1 with 28 knockouts, Kirkland boasts an 85 percent knockouts-to-fights ratio, joining Gennady Golovkin and Deontay Wilder as one of the few active big name fighters with a KO percentage above eighty. And while James hasn't shown the polish of Golovkin and Wilder, his punching power, pound-for-pound, is certainly comparable.

Is James Kirkland, in some ways, like a mini Earnie Shavers?

Like Shavers back in the day, Kirkland defeats supposedly better-skilled foes with sheer power, and his KO percentage (85) is comparable to a prime Shavers' who retired with a 76 percent KO ratio. 

Even in defeat, as Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes will attest, a fighter like Shavers, who gave both legends some scary moments, is always in the fight due to his fearsome power. Heavy favorites in their respective outings against him, Ali and Holmes were far more polished than Earnie yet the latter took them to the brink of defeat, especially Ali.

A smaller-packaged Earnie Shavers, James Kirkland is quite capable of taking Canelo Alvarez into muddy waters - and has proven he can weather a few storms himself.

Heavy-handed underdogs like James, Earnie and Corrie Sanders, are always one punch away from upsetting more polished, more accomplished foes, even when far behind.

A knockout artist is always a major threat on some level and should never be taken lightly.


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