Is James Kirkland Coming Back?

By Ted Sares on October 7, 2013
Is James Kirkland Coming Back?
“It’s so easy to take the easy way out. It’s so easy to lay down. It’s so hard to get up."

You are the warrior who stopped Alfredo Angulo in one of the most exciting and courageous ring efforts ever witnessed…

“I don’t wish him any harm, and I wish he hadn’t gotten into trouble…He has to come to terms with himself. I hope he can live up to his potential.”—Ann Wolfe

“Whether he ends up signing with 50 Cent or not, Kirkland needs to get back into the ring as soon as humanly possible. Time is definitely not on the side of the fighter once pegged for world domination.”—Paul Magno (Yahoo)

The volatile junior middleweight contender has not been in the ring since March 24, 2012 when he won a highly controversial DQ over the torturously boring (but tricky) Carlos Molina. Towards the end of that fight, he finally woke up and showed signs of the old “Mandingo Warrior” when his highly capable trainer Ann Wolfe urged him on with strong language and he responded in kind.

Since then, however, he has legally detached himself from just about every person who accompanied him on his rise to stardom, including Golden Boy Promotions which went out of its way to support James, trainer Wolfe who just might be the most honest person in boxing, and longtime mentor Pops Billingsley. This legal, contractual, and promotional wrangling has cost him even more prime career time. In the meantime, he has virtually fallen off the boxing landscape.

I won’t get into his already-vetted time lost due to incarceration because this is not about recriminations. What’s done is done. The thing is, he was once marked for superstardom and world domination but that was then and this is now and now time is fast running out.

Enter 50 Cent

But wait, this just in: According to an article by Ben Thompson on Fight Hype dated September 19, 2013, Kirkland recently met rapper-turned-boxing promoter 50 Cent in New York and reportedly signed a “3-year deal” with SMS Promotions. According to an unidentified source, they are hoping to put him on HBO “soon” without a tune-up. Thompson suggests that he even might become an opponent for Miguel Cotto if Cotto gets by Delvin Rodriguez. See:

Well, Cotto did get by Rodriguez with a crushing TKO and his team could now see Kirkland as the perfect opponent given both his time away from the ring and given his fan-attraction.

Adding substance to the 50 Cent hook up is the fact that a recent photo taken at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford shows Kirkland, 50 Cent, Yuriorkis Gamboa, Billy Dib, and other members of the rapper’s SMS Promotions boxing team posing together mid-ring prior to Dib’s less than scintillating Friday Night Fight against Mike Oliver. The photo was taken by ringside photographer, George Jimenez of GeoIMAGEZ.

Listen Up, James

“To see a man beaten not by a better opponent but by himself is a tragedy.”—Cus D’Amato

“It’s so easy to take the easy way out. It’s so easy to lay down. It’s so hard to get up.”—Bernard Hopkins

The “Mandingo Warrior” (and many even believe his nickname is insensitive) needs to heed some no-nonsense advice as follows:

Hook up with a solid team like you once had; it’s essential to your success. Case in point: Tyson’s career began a descent after Cus.

You are now a promotional free agent. Sign up with a solid group and a solid adviser and stay the course, keeping in mind that 50 Cent is independently wealthy and can well afford to take a gamble on someone like you. Conversely, he can dump you like a bad habit if you revert to bizarre behavior or become unhinged, and if he does, there will be few, if any, options remaining for you.

A potential champion is hiding somewhere in there, James, but you need to allow it to emerge by making better choices; you have had opportunity after opportunity. Stupidity usually trumps talent. Leave your current environment of Austin, Texas and work on ridding yourself of any demons that might be lurking about. In this connection, avoid making off-the-wall claims that someone somehow forced you to take two black pills that sedated you prior to the Molina fight. No one buys that.

Avoid becoming another boxing “what if”; another wasted talent. Learn from what happened to others like Reuben “Ratman” Bell, Ike Ibeabuchi, Ricky Womack, Tony Ayala, and Mike “The Bounty” Hunter.

Avoid biting the hand that feeds you. Oscar De La Hoya personally went out on a limb for at your sentencing a few years ago. Loyalty is a value. 50 Cent is not a boxing man and would react differently than Oscar.

Getting right back into the mix without at least one tune-up will be a bad mistake. Shed the rust safely. Skills don’t improve while remaining idle.

You were about to lay some serious damage on Molina late in that fight. You have won four in a row and are still an impact player. Many fans (including me) want to see you back in the ring. It’s time to take an inventory on your positives. Remember, you are the boxer who rampaged through the 154 lb. division prior to your incarceration. You are the warrior who stopped Alfredo Angulo in one of the most exciting and courageous ring efforts ever witnessed.

Sometimes getting to the sunshine can be a lifelong trek; some make it, others don’t. Some don’t even realize it when they get there.

Many remain in your corner and like one of your tweets said, “The future looks good!”

Make that come true.

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James Kirkland Highlights

HBO Ring Life: James Kirkland

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  1. Larry Link 09:34am, 10/16/2013

  2. Larry Link 08:45am, 10/12/2013

  3. Tex Hassler 06:08pm, 10/11/2013

    Kirkland has the tools to make it to the top but he may be lacking in disire and the ability to work hard training.

  4. Ted 06:57am, 10/11/2013

    bk don , you are forgiven.

  5. Ted 06:55am, 10/11/2013

    But that’s the point. Cotto gets to fight a guy who he catches at just the right time. Rusty and stale but still an impact player. Risk-reward is very much in Cotto’s favor. He then can move on to an even bigger payday and retire in the Rain Forests of Puerto Rico, eat Mofongo, and slurp umbrella drinks for the rest of his life.  Sounds like an exit plan to me.


    Taking a bad beating at the hands of FMJ, Pac, or Canelo that could risk his long range health.

    If I’m 50 Cent, I make the Mandingo fight happen.

  6. bk don 06:26am, 10/11/2013

    The last comment i attributed to TEd was My fault.

  7. ted 06:25am, 10/11/2013

    “coddled” I dont’ think that’s fair to say. He’s 32 years old and clearly on the back end of his career. James kIrkland isn’t some sort of bogey monster you can accuse him of ducking. The guy hasn’t fought in over a year and the last time he did he lost, i don’t care what outcome on record is listed as. Kirkland needs to prove that he deserves the payday against Cotto. Y should Cotto take short money, to fight a guy w/o a belt or high ranking?

  8. Ted 06:18am, 10/11/2013


  9. Peter Silkov 05:13am, 10/11/2013

    Sounds to me like Cent is just going to use James as an opponent if he is being put in with Cotto after no tune ups.  I cant understand why Kirkland would dump everyone who was supporting him like Golden Boy and Wolfe… it makes me wonder whether the Molina fight made him realise his limitations and deep down he just doesn’t really want it any more.

  10. Ted 05:04pm, 10/10/2013

    Kirkland needs a tune up or he will be crushed. If he gets one and is impressive, he would most definitely pack the house because 50 Cent has the money to promote it to death. Cotto vs. Kirkland is a natural.

    Unless Cotto wants to be coddled.

  11. bk don 02:19pm, 10/10/2013

    No way in the world Cotto fights Kirkland. I’ve gotta believe there’s zero chance of that happening. Cotto only has a few fights left and he’s not wasting it on a guy w/o a title or who isn’t going to help sell some ppv’s. I actually heard a rumor Kirkland could face the Jersey kid Glen Tapia on the Rigo undercard on Dec 7. I would like to see that one.

  12. Ted 11:45am, 10/09/2013

    I hope you are wrong, Kid

  13. kid vegas 11:37am, 10/09/2013

    Sorry to say, but I think James is through.

  14. Ted 09:35am, 10/09/2013

    Cotto gets slaughtered by Canelo but against Mandingo, that might be the perfect storm for Miguel. Catches him just at the right time and puts him away for good.


  15. Don from Prov 09:08am, 10/09/2013

    “march to the beat of their own drum until the music is played out”

    Indeed and says it all unless Kirkland PROVES differently

  16. Ted 07:53am, 10/09/2013

    And unpredictable = the opposite of Rigonomics!!!!!!!

  17. Jack 07:30am, 10/09/2013

    Ted, you are absolutely right in that assessment. The bottom line, which James Kirkland shows up??????? Whatever anyone’s opinion is, if they are right, they got lucky, because this guy is unpredictable!!!

  18. Ted 07:08am, 10/09/2013

    Many of these posts, either directly or by implication, suggest Kirkland is still an impact player.

    He still can be “can be” rather than a “what if.”  It’s up to him.

  19. Jack 07:01am, 10/09/2013

    Even though the Ortiz vs Kirkland is a good matchup ( with both their heads screwed on straight, if that is possible ), I doubt very much that Ortiz would take that fight???? So many matchups are hard to handicap when one or both fighters have a history or just a recent history of being up or down. What I mean by that is: ( let me use Cotto as an example ) He had the 2 loses against very good opponents, which lead a lot of people to question whether or not he was becoming “shop worn”. A logical opinion given age, number of tough fights etc., but he rebounds with an excellent performance against a somewhat outclassed opponent. Now, most guys would like to see him against Canelo. That is an interesting and could be a very entertaining fight, but which Cotto shows up? We can all speculate and half will be right and the other half wrong, but we don’t really know for sure unless we are on the “inside”. You can’t base your opinion on the BS that comes from the promotion because it’s all about promoting the fight to make money ( rightfully so ), it’s a business. If I was forced to bet on that matchup, I would have to go with Canelo ( as much as I like cotto as a fighter ). He has youth, better stamina in the later rounds and possibly an edge in power. Also, Cotto’s style is made to order for Canelo, unlike Floyds. Just some “food for thought”.

  20. MRBILL-HARDCORE XXX 04:47pm, 10/08/2013

    Molina was screwed blue against Kirkland…........ That D.Q. was bogus….....

  21. Pete The Sneak 04:34pm, 10/08/2013

    rax, all good points regarding Cotto mate, and yes, I can see Miguel taking it to Kirkland pretty badly. But why risk it? While Kirkland is still a name for sure, Martinez/Canelo are bigger. A fight with Kirkland for Cotto is a no win. If he pounds and beats up Kirkland, then he beat a washed up, unstable, head case of a boxer. Should Kirkland somehow catch Cotto, or take him to the limit and make him look bad, then Cotto just got lucky against an overmatched Rodriguez and should consider retirement. Either way, Kirkland is someone who is not going to do anything for Cotto at this point in his career. As for your idea of Kirkland/Ortiz, man now that is definitely a fight that would be sizzling. Two very hittable, fragile minded type guys throwing leather like crazy. Yes, now that would be a crossroads fight for both of them and I would love to see that. Peace.

  22. Ted 03:26pm, 10/08/2013

    Rax, that would be a great fight as well. Ortiz vs. Kirkland. I wonder how hey would bill it?

  23. raxman 02:42pm, 10/08/2013

    I’ve got zero sympathy left for Kirkland. he made the mistake of leaving wolfe and got ko’d by feather fisted ishida. so what does he do? he gets smart goes back to wolfe and gets off his back to beat angulo. my sympathy ended the moment he repeated his mistake and left wolfe a second time. I disagree with Pete the sneak re cotto and agree with Djata Bumpus - Kirkland has southpaw banger poor balance. his right and might came from the conditioning and mental connection that ann wolfe gave and had with him. without her the cotto trained by roach would destroy Kirkland. push him onto the back foot where he can’t fight and break him down. its a great fight for cotto as kirklands name still has weight and I hope it happens for cotto’s sake
    But the fight i’d like to see for Kirkland would be Ortiz. Vicious Victor vs the Mandingo Warrior in a battle of the mercurially talented and mentally fragile - the winner would be a great fight for canelo - as was meant to happen a couple of years ago

  24. Pete The Sneak 11:09am, 10/08/2013

    LOL…That’s some pretty heady analogies Mike. The Jerry Quarry/ ‘Candy Slim’ Merritt 1973 comparison as to why Cotto would want to fight Kirkland closes the subject for me…Peace

  25. Mike Casey 10:50am, 10/08/2013

    Pete, you read these things very well. If I’m Cotto’s manager, I’m not even considering Kirkland as an opponent. That’s akin to discovering an unexploded bomb in your garden. It probably won’t go off, but what if it does? If you’re Jerry Quarry back in ‘73, why fight a conundrum like Jeff Merritt?

  26. Djata Bumpus 10:46am, 10/08/2013

    His balance is poor, because his feet are all over the place, in the clips shown above…Still, I commend Kirkland and his peeps for their sincerity, but the old style of concentrating too much on winning fights with the body, as opposed to using the mind, will only leave him, in the long run, beaten, battered, and broke….It’s a damn shame!

  27. Pete The Sneak 09:25am, 10/08/2013

    Guys, appreciate the positive feedback, but I think you folks said it all beautifully in a lot less words…As it is, to further expound on Toro’s excellent article on Kirkland, if I’m Miguel Cotto, I would steer clear of any mention of him fighting Mandingo. Too much risk and too little reward. Despite Kirklands out of the ring issues, the guy is always a threat inside of it. The last thing Cotto needs at this point in his career is a drag out toe to toe ‘Donnybrook’ with a perhaps re-invigorated (you never know) Kirkland who may very well call upon the spirits of the ‘Angulo’ Kirkland to exorcise any current demons that are residing within him. Miguel should just focus on getting Canelo and/or Sergio Martinez to cap off his illustrious career. Win or lose, these would at least be bigger money fights and (arguably) PPV worthy as opposed to a comebacking yet potentially dangerous Kirkland. Peace.

  28. BIG WALTER 09:08am, 10/08/2013

    I’ll believe it when I see it. Too many disappointments with this guy as far as I’m concerned.  Put up or shut up.

  29. Jack 09:08am, 10/08/2013

    Ted, good insight and perspective in a great article. Joe, good examples of talent wasted with your mentioning Tua and Ike. That fight ranks in the top five of heavyweight “action fights” in the past 25 years. Both guys blew their careers, one more emphatically than the other. Ike by incarceration and David by lack of discipline and dedication. Good examples of the 75/25 rule!!!!

  30. David Ball 08:31am, 10/08/2013

    Sage advice and words of wisdom from Ted and Pete, truly hope JK gets it together but like Joe I tend to doubt he ever does. Who knows what he is doing to his mind and body right now? He certainly isn’t in the gym learning and taking care of himself.

  31. Jack 08:21am, 10/08/2013

    Pete, you did it again, excellent post!!!!! You hit the nail on the head. Bottom line with Kirkland isn’t if, but when? The people that put everything on the line for him more than once are sorely disappointed. I wish him well, but I can tell you where the “smart money” is. It has been said many times that boxing is 75% mental and 25% physical. James, is a good example. Unfortunately, that is the reality of the situation, Good Luck!!!!

  32. Ted 08:20am, 10/08/2013

    Thanks, Mike. I am delighted you noted that.

  33. Mike Casey 07:23am, 10/08/2013

    You know, Ted, I loved the look of this kid when he was charging up the ladder. Pete’s comments here are indeed very insightful. It would be great to see James turn it around and start wreaking some healthy havoc again in the right place! Nice article from a writer who genuinely gives a damn about his fighters. Well done, Bull!

  34. Joe 06:45am, 10/08/2013

    James is one of these cats that “could” be really special if he had the discipline required to be a great Champion.  Unfortunately I don’t think he has the fortitude necessary to climb to the top of the mountain and remain there for more than a second or two.  I wish the man the best and hope he gets a few more nice payday.  Frankly I think that’s all I can hope for as a fan of his at this point in his career.  And by the way, is “The President” still in a Nevada prison?  Talk about potential Tua vs. Ike was a super heavy battle back in the day and that KO of Bryd was just silly.

  35. Ted 05:08am, 10/08/2013

    Superb post Pete, simply superb. I hope James reads this.

  36. Pete The Sneak 05:04am, 10/08/2013

    Toro, nice write up on Mr. Kirkland. He can only be so lucky if he were to heed this advice. Unfortunately, personalities like Kirkland, regardless of their talents have a high resistance to all things common sense. They will march to the beat of their own drum until the music is played out. I’m no psychoanalyst, and I don’t know why that is, but we’ve seen it so many times in this game and conversely I don’t see Kirkland changing regardless of who he’s with. Am I hoping otherwise? Absolutely! But history is the best teacher. To me, he was on top of his game with Ann Wolfe training him. A person by the way, who went through her own personal hell and is one who went against the aforementioned sad history and accomplished some incredible things. What better example for Kirkland to have around him? I truly wish him well and the best thing for me (and James) would be to one day not have to say I told you so. Peace.

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