Alvarez thrills fans with explosive KO of Kirkland, is Cotto next?
HOUSTON – Aficionados had no doubt before the opening bell of Canelo Alvarez’s scrap with James Kirkland that the violence would be spectacular for as long, or short, as their match lasted. Expectations were understandably high.
And expectations were exceeded.
In the finest performance of his career thus far, Alvarez (45-1-1, 32 KOs) dropped Kirkland (32-2, 28 KOs) once in the opening round and twice in the third, stopping the relentless-but-outgunned Texan cold at 2:19 of Round 3.
“I did not know I was knocked out,” said a still-stunned Kirkland afterwards. “But I’m proud to have been in a fight like this.”
“I’m happy about the win,” said Alvarez. “The people gave me the strength to win.”
Alvarez’s people, composing 31,588 in attendance and partisan-Mexican in every way, filled Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros, with raucousness for the eight or so minutes the fight lasted.
As expected, Kirkland began the match by racing at Alvarez, pinning him in the corner and assaulting him with any punch he might land. Alvarez, displaying a degree of poise belied by his 24 years of age, caught most of Kirkland’s punches on his elbows and gloves, and countered ferociously in the opening minute.
“He did surprise me with his aggressiveness in the first and second round,” Alvarez said.
A left-hook counter by Alvarez in the center of the ring, though, brought an immediate halt to Kirkland’s momentum in the middle of Round 1, and a first buckle to Kirkland’s oft-questioned legs. A left-hook, right-cross combo by Alvarez then dropped Kirkland into the ropes. The Texan rose, staggered forward and barely fought his way to the round’s closing bell.
“I had him hurt in the first round in the corner,” Kirkland said. “But he escaped.”
After imposing his physicality on Alvarez for moments of the Roundm2, Kirkland once more found himself chastened and straightened by Alvarez combinations – thrown far more creatively than Canelo is often credited with being – and Kirkland returned to his corner with his mouth agape.
Round 3 brought the end, and the end was excellent. In fact, the way Alvarez finished Saturday’s match was, to borrow Mexico’s language a few days after its Cinco de Mayo holiday, ┬íPerfecto!
After finding Kirkland, a southpaw, folded over his lead right knee and dropping him with a right uppercut, Alvarez waded towards his prey. He then fixed his eyes on Kirkland’s chest and began a right hand. The position of Alvarez’s eyes alone lowered Kirkland’s hands. Then with Kirkland realizing his error and trying to start a counterpunch, Alvarez crashed his right fist into Kirkland’s face, rendering him unconscious before his limp body landed sideways on the canvas. No 10-count was needed.
So devastating was the impact on Alvarez’s punch, and so pronounced was Kirkland’s collapse, even before Kirkland was able to sit upright, Alvarez pushed his way to his felled opponent’s body in the hopes of verifying Kirkland’s restored health.
Before the match began, an announcement came that Alvarez had already agreed to the terms of a fall match with lineal middleweight champion Miguel Cotto. While there’s no doubting Cotto’s class, after the ferocity and effectiveness Alvarez showed Saturday, there is plenty of reason to wonder if Cotto is ready for a pugilistic package as complete as Canelo now is.
“I will continue to fight the best fighters,” Alvarez said of his probable match with Cotto. “That’s what I do. I’m not afraid of any fighter.
“(Cotto) is the kind of fighter I want to fight.”