|James Kirkland: “No man at 154 can beat me”
INTERVIEW By Gabriel Montoya, (June 16, 2006)
I’ll always remember where I first saw James Kirkland. It was the kind of day you look back on laying on your deathbed surrounded by your family. I was sitting in the media center of the Thomas and Mack Center waiting to get my seat assignment. This being my first time covering a fight, there was a mix up with my credentials and I was graciously invited by the woman handling the situation to stuff my face at the buffet. So there I am, surrounded by several writers I read, a buffet of Mexican food, and a wide screen TV in the corner showing the first of the night’s 6 round bouts.
Austin, Texas native James Kirkland, 22, with an impressive record of14-0 with 12 wins by way of knockout, began boxing early. Boasting a stellar background of 134-12 in the amateurs, Kirkland showed knockout artist tendencies early, earning and defending the silver gloves championship four years straight .He also made it to the finals in the Golden Gloves Nationals but lost via controversial decision loss to James Patterson. Torn between opting for a shot at the Gold in the Olympics, James instead proudly shouldered a financial load at home, pitching in however he could and turning pro soon after.
Mike Swann of 15Rounds.com, who interviewed Kirkland in March, says “I think that Kirkland is going to develop into a top flight contender, possibly a champion. I think he's in good hands with Cameron Duncan, Shaw and Co.”
The killer Showtime backstage feed and the Mexican food were boxing heaven, except for the fact that there was no sound. All I could hear in this hangar-like, makeshift café was the sound of idle chatter, the clicking of keyboards and the crowd roaring in the distance, as Doug Fischer from MaxBoxing.com says to no-one in particular “that‘s James Kirkland“ and I go “oh… DAAAAMN“ as Kirkland wades in with Hagler versus Hearns-like ferocity and pummels Ray Cunningham to the canvas.
“Marvin Hagler,” Kirkland says with a laugh from his home in Austin, Texas, when I ask who his favorite fighter is. “I took a lot of stuff from that man.“
“You fight like him,“ I agree, my mind thinking back to poor Ray Cunningham. Cunningham, coming off a five-fight winning streak, was no match for the poised attack of the southpaw puncher/boxer Kirkland.
“The way I train,“ Kirkland says, “and the ability that I have… there is no man at 154 that can fight me and beat me. I figure the only way I lose is if I beat myself by not training, not working hard.”
"He 's a special kid,“ says Gary Shaw, Kirkland’s promoter. “He can hit you with two hands with KO power. Right now there are only a handful of people who know James Kirkland, but trust me by this time next year, a whole lot more will know about James Kirkland."
Back in the media center Kirkland is opening the show in style. “That guy’s all hyped up,” Doug Fischer says as Kirkland intelligently wades in for the finishing blows, destroying Cunningham before he even had a chance to begin. At 2:16 of the first round, I had seen all I needed to be convinced James Kirkland is a rising force in the junior middleweight division.
“I will fight anybody to show that I am the best at the 154 weight class,“ Kirkland says with a quiet, resolute confidence. “Gary Shaw has helped Winky Wright, Jeff Lacy, he moved them the right way. He doesn’t take anything away from anybody. I never heard anything bad about him. So that’s why I decided to [sign with Shaw]. He’s super nice, he’s super cool. I like him.“
Shaw promised he’d fight Kirkland often and keep him busy. And he has done just that. Kirkland has fought three times in 2006 alone. He will next be fighting on the Jermaine Taylor vs. Winky Wright undercard in Memphis this weekend against George Klinesmith, a mere three weeks since the Cunningham assassination.
“I feel I am on the right track,” says Kirkland. “I am going to let Gary Shaw move me the way he wants to move me. I am an intelligent fighter. I know how to pick and pack and pack and destroy.
“I spar with heavyweights, junior middles, light heavies, whatever,” continued Kirkland, who has been known to spar with two men at the same time. “It keeps you on your toes. They rock me or whatever but I know that no man has the power to knock me out. Bap, bap, bap and I turn and hit the other one.“
When Kirkland speaks there is no hint of bragging in his voice. It is just plain, honest fact. And this spells bad news for Klinesmith this Saturday night, when the Austin Assassin comes to town.
The author would like to thank his associates in Las Vegas, NV, Aleana Sharp and Mr. Chill, for setting this interview up. Without their help, this story would have never happened.