In boxing, as in politics, it is an unforgivable blunder to peak early. Alfredo ‘El Perro’ Angulo learned this lesson the hard way on Saturday night in Cancun, Mexico, when he succumbed to James Kirkland via a barrage of left hands in the sixth. Pre-fight hype for Kirkland vs Angulo indicated this would be a contender for Fight of the Year. What fans got instead was the Round of the Year and a major statement from Kirkland. The Texas southpaw is reborn as a serious contender in the 154 pound division, regaining much needed boxing cred after his one-round knockout loss to Nobuhiro Ishida.
As round one started, Kirkland brought the fight to “Perro,” throwing punches in bunches, but missing for the most part. A composed Angulo endured about thirty seconds of head-hunting from Kirkland before he landed a perfectly-timed crushing counter right-hand. Down went Kirkland. And it was at that moment, just 30 seconds into the fight, that Angulo lost the bout.
Upon watching his opponent get back up, Angulo went after him like a man possessed. The one-round knockout of Kirkland by Ishida must have been flashing in Angulo’s mind as he went for broke, hoping to end the match right there, at the same time earning a shot at the WBC Light Middleweight title and the big time. Unfortunately for him, he failed to drop Kirkland again, even after landing a healthy amount of heavy-handed combos.
Kirkland, showcasing once again the indomitable will that’s become his trademark, somehow survived Angulo’s blitz, regained his legs, and started fighting back, landing some crucial body punches that zapped the energy right out of the Mexican. Suddenly, the tables turned. A pair of vicious left hands to the face stunned Angulo, sending him stumbling back along the ropes, and with seconds left in the round it was Perro’s turn to hit the canvas. Keep in mind, all of this action occurred only in round one! Alas, from there on out, the bout became mere formality. Angulo did get back up from the knockdown right before the bell, but for all intents and purposes, he had already checked out of the fight.
“Perro” never regained his legs. In rounds two and three he traded with Kirkland and at times connected solidly, but it was “The Mandingo Warrior” who dominated. Kirkland fired at will and landed bombs all over the humanity of Angulo in all manner of combinations. The referee finally stepped in to end what had become a one-sided affair in round six. Kirkland had found redemption, while disappointment was evident in Angulo’s corner. He had taken a beating, and his face showed it.
Going into the fight, Kirkland’s motivation level was given a much needed boost by his reunion with Ann Wolfe, who is not only one of the toughest trainers in the sport, but is the person who best knows how to press Kirkland’s buttons. Angulo, on the other hand, had fought less than two rounds in the 18 months previous to this fight, and looked drained and unenthused at the weigh-in and during pre-fight interviews. This shouldn’t take anything away from Kirkland’s spectacular come-from-behind victory, but it punctuates the difference in the way both fighters approached the match.
Kirkland should now move on to bigger and better things. While his fight with Angulo was officially an eliminator to find Canelo Alvarez‘ next foe, a match against that particular Golden Boy cash cow will, in the best of scenarios, take a while to materialize. Alvarez is scheduled to defend against Kermit Cintron on November 26, and rumours indicate he may face Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in the first half of 2012. Some alternatives to keep Kirkland busy in the meantime include Vanes Martirosyan, Paul Williams, or even the winner of Cotto-Margarito II.
Angulo’s future is harder to assess. Signing a contract with Golden Boy promotions and enlisting the services of world-class trainer Nacho Beristain seemed to indicate he’d finally found the springboard he needed to finally make the jump to the big leagues. Instead, rebuilding will be the name of the game, at least in the short-term. That’s what happens when you peak early: you pay the price.