HBO BAD - Mar. 7, 2009

James Kirkland vs Joel Julio

Ortiz vs Arnaoutis
Guerrero vs Yordan

Reckless and Relentless, Kirkland Stops Julio

Mar 7, 2009

Headlining a fast and furious Boxing After Dark card tonight at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, James Kirkland systematically broke down Joel Julio in their junior middleweight battle of wills, forcing the referee to step in and wave off the contest directly after the closing bell of the sixth round. It was a convincing, brutal victory for Kirkland, and yet it was no one-sided affair, not by a long shot.

In fact, Julio, who suffered a badly cut and swollen right eye, must be wondering right now in his bruised and beaten thoughts what exactly it would take to beat James Kirkland right now, because he hit him with all manner of chin-snapping bombs across the six rounds of their fight tonight, the type of clean, accurate power shots that generally bring mere mortals to their knees.

Clearly, though, James Kirkland is no mere mortal. Known as "Mandingo," Kirkland seems all but certain to be destined for massive stardom in the boxing world, because he is just the kind of fighter that fans hunger to see in action. He pursues relentlessly, he punches with constant ferocity and he practices with reckless dedication what the great Budd Schulberg once aptly described as "the manly art of no defense." To those doubters who wondered if Kirkland could get away with such recklessness against an explosive puncher like Julio, Kirkland answered tonight with a resounding "NO DOUBT!", taking everything Julio dished out and moving ever forward, Terminator-style. In what was considered by all to be a huge step-up fight for Kirkland on his path to stardom, he not only rose to the occasion, but did so in exhilaratingly violent fashion.

And Kirkland wasn't the only star-in-the-making who finished a fight with authority on tonight's card. In the evening's second bout, after an uncharacteristically cautious first round, Victor Ortiz caught Mike Arnoaoutis right on the button with an overhand left early in the second that sent Mighty Mike staggering backwards for cover. Seeing his man hurt and cowering against the ropes, Ortiz unleashed a punishing barrage, at one point snapping Arnaoutis's head with a thunderous uppercut that seemed to have Arnaoutis out on his feet. The referee stepped in soon after that shot and put a stop to the contest at 1:28 of the second round.

Buddy McGirt, Arnaoutis's trainer, took issue with the referee's intervention, saying, "He got caught with a good shot but they shouldn't have stopped it." Nevertheless, Arnaoutis was without question seriously hurt and not firing back when the ref stepped in. It was the first time that Arnaoutis ever has been stopped in his career, making it a doubly impressive victory for Ortiz. Like Kirkland, Ortiz was considered to be making a decided step up in competition tonight, and if this was the biggest test yet of his skills, to say that he passed with flying colors is to put it mildly. With tonight's display of speed, focus and lights-out power, it's hard to imagine how many more fights Ortiz's handlers will be able to find for him against anyone but a truly elite opponent. On that count, Ortiz made it clear in his post-fight remarks that he's prepared for that challenge whenever it comes. "I think I'm ready for the next step up," he said. "I'm a new champion on the rise and I'm not stopping for anyone."

Like the Ortiz/Arnaoutis fight, the opener of tonight's three-fight card also ended midway through the second round, but in highly disappointing fashion. The bout between Robert Guerrero and Daud Yordan was stopped by the ringside physician at 1:47 of the second round and ruled a no contest. This was due to a cut suffered by Guerrero over his right eye from a vicious but accidental head-butt that came as both fighter lunged towards each other to punch at the same time. It was a deflating moment for the energized crowd (announced at 6,765), because Guerrero, who hails from nearby Gilroy, CA, was the clear fan-favorite on the evening, drawing a roar that shook the arena when he made his walk to the ring. But head-butts are an occupational hazard whenever a conventional fighter, in this case Yordan, faces a southpaw like Guerrero, a point made by Yordan in his post-fight interview. As for Guerrero, all he could express after the fight was massive disappointment. "This sucks," he said, "but I was cut and I couldn't see anything." It was a shame for fighters and fans alike, because based on one and a half rounds of evidence, the contest had the potential to be a doozy, with Guerrero pressing forward and working the body while Yordan countering with sweat-spraying head shots.

Watch 2009-03-07 James Kirkland vs Joel Julio

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