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James Kirkland vs. Alexis Hloros on Saturday

James KirklandBy Dan Ambrose: Former junior middleweight contender James Kirkland (28-1, 25 KO’s) will be back in action on Saturday night against a soft touch opponent Alexis Hloros (15-3-2, 11 KO’s) in a scheduled 10 round bout on the undercard of the Amir Khan vs. Zab Judah unification bout at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada.

This is Kirkland’s second fight since being destroyed by middleweight fringe contender Nobuhiro Ishida in a 1st round knockout last April. Kirkland looked slow and flabby in getting taken out quickly by Ishida in that fight. Kirkland came back from that fight to stop 2nd tier opponent Dennis Sharpe in the 1st round in June, but still showed the same defensive flaws that got him knocked out against Ishida.

The extra flab was gone but Kirkland was still very hittable, not all that powerful and slow of hand compared to the new crop of junior middleweights that have been taking over the division. Kirkland is now back with his old trainer Ann Wolfe and she’s got him in shape and fighting the way he used to. However, either the division has gotten better since Kirkland was briefly making a mark between 2007-2009, or Kirkland still isn’t anywhere close to what he was in the past.

It looks to me that Kirkland is the same fighter he was before, but he just never really was as invincible as some people thought he was. He never fought anyone really dangerous before going to prison for a year for a weapons violation in 2009 and yet he was still getting hit way too much for his own good. In his recent fight with Sharpe, Kirkland still wasn’t moving his head, showed no ability to move around the ring laterally to avoid shot and was pretty much just a wide open target.

He’s going to have to make some major changes to his game if he wants to beat the better fighters in the division like Saul Alvarez, Alfredo Angulo, Sergiy Dzinziruk, Vanes Martirosyan. Those fighters would rip Kirkland apart, as would Ishida if Kirkland ever fights him again. Kirkland will beat Hloros on Saturday, because the guy is a level or two below Kirkland in ability but that won’t solve Kirkland’s long term problems.

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