In 2008 and 2009, Alfredo Angulo and James Kirkland appeared to be on a collision course -- with the emphasis on collision. They campaigned in the same weight class, they were bombs-away sluggers and at one point they boasted a combined record of 40-0 with 34 knockouts, including 26 in the first three rounds.
But the spring of 2009 proved brutal for both. In April, Kirkland was arrested -- then jailed -- on a weapons charge and the following month Kermit Cintron collared a flu-ridden "El Perro" by decision in a title eliminator. Worse yet, in the fall of 2010 it was discovered that Angulo had entered the U.S. illegally and was returned to his native Mexico.
Each man has since overcome his adversities -- at least in part -- and returned to the ring with mixed results. Since losing to Cintron Angulo has scored five wins, all by knockout, while Kirkland's road has been rockier -- four wins, all by KO, but also a shocking one-round TKO loss to 35-year-old Nobuhiro Ishida sandwiched between the victories.
Will Angulo and Kirkland produce the anticipated fireworks? And if so, who will prevail? Their respective CompuBox histories offer these clues:
The Common Opponent: Joel Julio was knocked out by both -- Kirkland in six and Angulo in 11 -- but the numbers suggest Kirkland was more dominant. Averaging 76.5 punches per round to Julio's 51, Kirkland swept all categories: 459-306 (overall punches), 125-93 (total connects), 136-101 (jab attempts), 31-14 (jab connects), 323-205 (power attempts) and 94-79 (power connects). The only solace for Julio was that he was slightly more accurate, landing 30.4 percent overall to Kirkland's 27.2 and 38.5 percent of his power punches to Kirkland's 29.1. That's because Kirkland's all-out attack is also high-risk; after all, anyone who throws 53.8 power punches a round -- 42.8 percent above the junior middleweight average -- will expose himself defensively. The only question is whether the opponent is skilled enough -- and calm enough -- to exploit those openings.
Angulo was less dominant against the Colombian boxer-puncher. Although Angulo threw more punches (880-762), he trailed 167-175 in total connects, 54-45 in jab connects despite throwing 92 more (420-512) and led just 122-121 in power connects. Angulo's 80-punch-per-round attack was similar to Kirkland's pace, but he placed himself in somewhat less danger by averaging 46.5 jabs per round (13.8 percent above the norm) and 33.5 power punches (nearly identical to the 33.7 standard).
Points of vulnerability: Kermit Cintron proved that a thoughtful, yet high-volume, attack is the way to beat Angulo, albeit an Angulo that was under the weather. Cintron averaged 91.2 punches per round to Angulo's 79.8, yet jabs comprised 61.9 percent of his offense. That allowed Cintron to neutralize Angulo's high-volume attack and keep the
fight at long range. Cintron out-threw Angulo 1,094-957 (total), 678-543 (jabs) and 416-414 (power punches) and out-landed him 316-277 (total), 149-122 (jabs) and 167-155 (power).
Their accuracy overall was identical (28.9 percent each) and Angulo's jab was slightly more precise (22.5 percent to 22.0) but Cintron's power punching was more on target (40.1 percent to 37.4).
Kirkland's most obvious weakness is his chin, especially early. Allen Conyers dropped Kirkland in round one before being stopped in the same round, and Ishida scored three knockdowns in 112 seconds. Three weeks before meeting Ishida, Kirkland was briefly stunned by a Jhon Berrio right before the "Mandingo Warrior" ended matters in round two. Angulo has proven himself to be dangerous at all points of a fight, but most so in the opening rounds. Can Kirkland's body stand the stress?
Irresistible Force vs. Irresistible Force: Both men not only are capable of setting a fast pace, they can also sustain it for long periods. Angulo threw 80 punches per round over 11 rounds against Julio and 79.8 over 12 rounds against Cintron despite not being at full strength. Kirkland averaged 90.9 per round in decisioning Ossie Duran over 10, 76.5 over six against Julio and 66.5 over eight against leather-tough Brian Vera. These men will work hard for their money, no matter how long their fights last.
Prediction: Pain....and plenty of it. Their high-octane styles virtually guarantee an explosive, thrilling encounter that will end in knockout. Kirkland has the heavier hands but also the more questionable chin. If Angulo can withstand Kirkland's opening assault -- and that's a big if -- his fortitude and slightly superior versatility will prevail. The venue -- Mexico -- also helps Angulo's cause. Angulo KO 3.
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