Saturday, June 03, 2023  |


Kirkland and Ortiz win big

Fighters Network

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Golden Boy Promotions put three of its young recent signees in tests of varying degrees in the three co-featured fights at the HP Pavilion on Saturday on HBO. And it was the budding star who was in the toughest matchup who shined the brightest.

Junior middleweight contender James Kirkland (25-0, 22 knockouts) was in with arguably the most dangerous opponent of the evening, hard-punching former title challenger Joel Julio, but the relentless southpaw furthered his fearsome reputation by hammering the gutsy Colombian to a sixth-round technical knockout.

In the co-featured bouts of the evening, junior welterweight prospect Victor Ortiz caught, cornered and stopped Mike Arnaoutis in the second round of their scheduled 12 rounder; and former featherweight titleholder Robert Guerrero, from nearby Gilroy, Calif., had to settle for a disappointing second-round No Decision after suffering a bad cut from an accidental headbutt against Daud Yordan.

Most of the announced crowd of 6,765 were disappointed by the outcome of Guerrero’s bout, but they still got a thrill from Ortiz’s quickie KO and their money’s worth with Julio’s bold stand against Kirkland.

“The reception here was great,” Golden Boy Promotions president Oscar De La Hoya said at the post-fight press conference. “We had more than 6,500 fans come out to support three young future champions, and you’re going to see a lot of these three because we’re building the future of the sport.”

Fans might see all three back on the same card in the summer, according to Richard Schaefer.

“I just got off the phone with (the sports programming executives of) HBO and we’ve already got a date locked in for all three fighters, June 27,” the Golden Boy CEO said of Kirkland, Ortiz and Guerrero. “This really is the next generation of fighters and with HBO’s help we will grow them into tomorrow’s stars.”

Based on the results of Saturday’s fights, the L.A.-based promotional company might want to give the young guns time to develop.

There was talk of moving Ortiz into a title bout in his next fight. The winner of the April 4 WBO/WBC 140-pound title unification bout between Kendall Holt and Timothy Bradley was even mentioned. And experienced WBC 130-pound belt holder Humberto Soto was discussed as a possibility for Guerrero’s next fight.

However, Ortiz, 22, and Guerrero, 25, were in fights that were inconclusive. Arnaoutis, who some ringside observers thought was stopped prematurely, never got going against Ortiz, and Guerrero never got started against the skillful Yordan.

There was nothing inconclusive about Kirkland’s victory, but as formidable as he looked, he was still wide open for almost every right hand that Julio threw at him.

The native of Austin, Texas, was unapologetic about his approach to the sport at the post-fight press conference.

“My game is to get on them and stay on them, and come in with the right kind of mindset, the mindset of a warrior,” Kirkland said. “I expected Julio to run because I think I’m a harder puncher than him. I saw that the more pressure I put on him and the more body punches I put on him, I could tell that eventually he would go down.”

Kirkland’s co-manager Cameron Dunkin said he plans to take his time with Kirkland this year and give the 24-year-old boxer-puncher more time to improve on his defense.

Veteran 154-pound titleholders Vernon Forrest and Daniel Santos were thought to be potential opponents for Kirkland later this year.

“Not yet,” Dunkin said. “He did well against Julio and put on a great show for the fans, but he’s still getting hit too much.”

Julio (34-3, 31 KOs) had his moments, particularly in rounds two and three, whenever he decided to plant his feet and let go with heavy right hands that occasionally stunned Kirkland. But he was gradually weakened and punished by his antagonist’s non-stop pressure and brutal head-and-body attack until he was barely able to defend himself.

Although Kirkland began to slow down and his punch output dropped in rounds four and five, Julio absorbed so much damage that he was either unable or unwilling to stand his ground. He did more moving and holding than punching in these rounds. After the sixth round, with his right eye cut, bleeding and nearly swollen shut, referee Raul Caiz Jr. had seen enough and waved the bout off to spare Julio any further bodily damage.

“I think I put on a good fight and I think I deserve another opportunity because I think I can still become a world champion,” Julio said at the post-fight press conference. I gave my all in this fight; Kirkland was just too strong tonight.”

Julio’s co-promoter Kathy Duva believes the 24-year-old veteran should go back down to 147 pounds, where he’ll be stronger and have more stamina.

If Julio does return to welterweight, where he was boxing hottest prospect back in 2005, he might eventually run into the hottest prospect of last year, Ortiz (24-1-1, 19 KOs), who looked at least two weight classes bigger than Arnaoutis by the time the two 140 pounders got in the ring.

Ortiz patiently stalked and feinted at Arnaoutis while looking for counter-punch opportunities. He found his mark in the second round when he caught his fellow southpaw with a big left hand that knocked the veteran off-balance and had him reeling back into his own corner. Ortiz quickly pounced and swarmed Arnaoutis with hard follow-up punches until referee Ray Balewicz stopped it at 1:27 of the round.

The stoppage wasn’t bad, but it was questionable. Arnaoutis (21-3-1, 10 KOs) was clearly rattled but not out on his feet. The Greek stylist was clear enough to protect himself by covering up, and many of the punches Ortiz launched at him landed on his gloves and elbows. However, some of Ortiz’s punches got through to his body and one left uppercut nailed his chin, causing his legs to buckle once again.

“Sometimes you have plans but they don’t always work out like you think,” said Ortiz, who didn’t make it clear whether he was talking about himself or his opponent. “Mike’s a good fighter, but I’m the new champion on the rise, and I’m not letting anyone stop me.”

Guerrero (23-1-1, 16 KOs) was supposed to make the same kind of post-fight statement after blowing out Yordan, an undefeated but untested junior lightweight prospect from Indonesia.

But, as Ortiz said, sometimes things just don’t work out as you planned.

Guerrero started the fight aggressively, using his size advantage by mauling Yordan (17-0, 12 KOs) when in close, but the Indonesian boxer showed his class by keeping his composure and by timing a nice right hand off the local fighter’s head before the end of the first round.

Yordan showed nice in-and-out movement in the second round as he traded hooks with Guerrero and tied up the bigger man on the inside, but a clash of heads cut through Guerrero’s right eyebrow and just above his eyelid.

Referee Jon Shorle took Guerrero to a neutral corner to have a ringside physician look at the cut and once the 25-year-old crowd favorite admitted that he couldn’t see out of the eye, the contest was ended and declared a No Decision at 1:47 seconds of second round.

“This sucks,” Guerrero said afterward. “I was here in front of my hometown fans and I was doing well, getting to him to the body, and then this happened. I feel like crap.”

Guerrero is going to feel like crap until he starts camp for his next fight, but the number of tickets he sold for Saturday’s show ensures that he will be back in the ring soon.

It won’t be long until he’s able to give his hometown fans the show he had hoped to give them Saturday night.

Doug Fischer can be reached at [email protected]