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Kirkland will need to make adjustments against Canelo

Canelo Alvarez James Kirkland(Photo credit: Hogan Photos) By Dan Ambrose: The ring rusty James Kirkland (32-1, 28 KOs) is definitely going to need to adapt to some of the things that former WBA/WBC 154lb champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (44-1-1, 31 KOs) is doing in the ring next month in their battle on May 9th on HBO Championship Boxing at the Minute Maid Park, in Houston, Texas, USA.

Kirkland, 31, has never been a particularly skillful fighter. He’s always been someone who got the better of his opposition with his power and his nonstop pressure.

What he gives up in the talent department he is frequently able to make up with his aggression. But what could get in the way of Kirkland winning his fight against Canelo is the long layoff that Kirkland has had. He’s been out of the ring since 2013, and he’s put on a lot of weight.

Much of the weight is now gone, but it’s still not good that he put the weight on in the first place. With the kind of layoff that Kirkland has had, he really should be taking a couple of tune-up bouts rather than going straight into a fight against one of the best 154lb fighters in the division.

Canelo definitely isn’t the best fighter in the junior middleweight division, and he may not even be the second best. But he’s good enough to give a rusty fighter coming off a long layoff a lot of problems.

Former two division world champion Paulie Malignaggi thinks that Kirkland is going to need to make some adjustments in the ring if he wants to beat the 24-year-old Canenlo. Malignaggi sees Kirkland as having some problems with Canelo’s technical skills and his punching power.

“I think it can be explosive for a few rounds. I think Kirkland is going to have to figure out some stuff to deal with Canelo’s boxing ability,” Malignaggi said via “Not that Canelo is the best boxer, but he’s a good enough boxer to give Kirkland a lot of trouble. He mixes a lot of shots, he’s got a very educated left hand, and what I mean by that is he can mix a lot of shots with that left hand, and you don’t see it coming.”

Kirkland’s straight ahead style of fighting is a style that Canelo has always done well against during his career. He’s good at beating sluggers, at least the ones that have been fed to him. Canelo still faced guys like Keith Thurman and Marcos Maidana. Those are logical fights that you would think would have been made already. But we have seen Canelo back off when he’s faced a guy that wasn’t afraid of him like we saw in Canelo’s fights against Floyd Mayweather Jr and Austin Trout. Both of those fighters had Canelo retreating at times, and looking really bad. If Kirkland is able to walk through Canelo’s shots, he could give him a great of trouble. Canelo isn’t hard to hit when he’s looking to slug. He can certainly box at times using his jab, but he’s not good at out-boxing the better fighters at 154. We saw Erislandy Lara and Mayweather both out-box Canelo.

“He [Canelo] throws a hook the same way he throws a jab; it just turns into a hook at the last minute,” Malignaggi said. “That’s dangerous when you can punch like Canelo. That’s enough skills in his boxing arsenal to give a guy like Kirkland, who comes in straight ahead, a little bit of problems. You got to see if Kirkland can make some adjustments.”

Canelo isn’t a huge puncher. He’s built like a tank, but he doesn’t the kind of power that we see from guys like Miguel Cotto. Canelo is a fighter who has mainly compiled a lot of his knockouts against smaller fighters in the welterweight division. He hasn’t knocked out a lot of junior middleweights in his career.

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