Whoever decided that boxing was dead after the disappointment of Mayweather vs. Pacquiao last week clearly didn’t pass along that memo to the over 31,000 fans who showed up to watch Mexican star Canelo Alvarez take on the hard-hitting James Kirkland.
Those same critics also failed to alert the fans on Twitter who made #CaneloKirkland the No. 1 trending topic after the dramatic finish.
“I believe we witnessed the future of boxing,” said boxing legend and Alvarez promoter Oscar De La Hoya. “Last weekend was the past and we’ve witnessed the future. This fight couldn’t have turned out any better. I believe we witnessed Hagler vs. Hearns all over again.”
The fans who packed Minute Maid Park to see the third-biggest star in the sport got their money’s worth with a fight that provided more action over two and a half rounds than the “Fight of the Century” did over a full 12-rounds.
From the moment the opening bell sounded until the ref waved off the fight while Kirkland laid motionless on the mat, every second of the match provided the captivating action that last week’s mega-fight so glaringly lacked.
Kirkland—an Austin, Texas native—tried to pressure the young Mexican star early in the first round and seemed to stun him once or twice with power punches while he had him pinned against the ropes, but once Canelo was able to escape the corner and create some distance the disparity in skill level became evident.
Unfortunately for Kirkland the mistake of opening up the roof during the undercard while it was raining and then quickly closing it again after it started a fire on Twitter lasted longer than the main event.
Canelo nearly ended the fight in the first round after landing a thunderous straight right hand on the chin of Kirkland which sent him crashing into the ropes. Kirkland beat the 10-count, but continued to take massive shots to the body and head until the bell mercifully sounded to end a dramatic first round.
To Kirkland’s credit he came out looking to push the action and take the fight to Canelo early in the second round, but once again Canelo was able to create space with his footwork and find a home for his punches including a devastating uppercut that Kirkland took standing up that likely would have knocked out most fighters.
Kirkland once again bravely attempted to push the fight in the third round, but another uppercut and a crushing over-hand right knocked him down twice more and ended the fight. Most observers gave Kirkland a “puncher’s chance” heading into the fight because of his great power, but Canelo’s quick hands, timing, footwork and ability to set traps and exploit the poor defense of his opponent made for a short night.
“It’s one of the best,” said Canelo answering through a translator on whether or not it was the best knockout of his career. “But I still have a long way to go.”
Indeed Canelo—who is only 24-years old—has plenty of room to grow despite the experience he’s already gained over 47 pro fights. The long-term future is bright for the young star while his near future could include a fight against lineal middleweight champion Miguel Cotto as early as this fall.
The expectation is for the two stars—who are arguably the third and fourth most popular attractions in the sport—to meet this fall as long as Cotto is able to win his fight against Daniel Geale in June and retain his title. If it happens that fight certainly won’t have the mainstream crossover appeal for the casual sports fans that Mayweather vs. Pacquiao had, but it will be on Pay-Per-View and draw more hype and anticipation among hardcore fans than any recent match besides the previously mentioned super-fight.
In contrast to the sport’s top star, Canelo—who said after the match that he wants to fight in Texas at least once a year—has shown a willingness to make the biggest fights available to him and fight in a very entertaining and fan-friendly style. Whether his next match is against Cotto, all-action fighter and middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin or anyone else willing to step into the ring with him the fans will follow in droves.
Mayweather and Pacquiao will retire and head off to the Hall of Fame in the next two or three years, but the future of boxing is in capable hands with the star power possessed by Canelo and the many other action fighters who routinely deliver entertaining fights regardless of how many casual fans are watching.
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