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Friday, October 11, 2013
Tapia-Kirkland in the works

By Dan Rafael

LAS VEGAS -- Anyone in the mood for a crossroads fight between two all-action guys with good power? If so, you’ll love this fight in the works: rising junior middleweight prospect Glen Tapia against knockout artist James Kirkland.

The fight is in the process of being finalized -- and there does not seem to be any issues -- for Dec. 7 on an HBO tripleheader from the Adrian Phillips Ballroom at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J. It would be on a card that also will include two fights being finalized: the main event of junior featherweight champ Guillermo Rigondeaux against former bantamweight titlist Joseph Agbeko, and a middleweight fight between former three-time title challenger Matthew Macklin and Willie Nelson.

Tapia-Kirkland, talks for which got serious in the past few days, easily could steal the show.

“I think it’s a real tough fight and we know Tapia is stepping up big,” Top Rank promoter Bob Arum told ESPN.com on Thursday. “But you take a shot. Tapia’s been looking good. He’s a strong kid and Kirkland doesn't have the best chin in the world.”

Tapia, 23, of Passaic, N.J., scored his biggest victory in July, having a breakout performance on “Friday Night Fights,” stopping then-undefeated prospect Abie Han in the eighth round of a terrific fight. Tapia returned Sept. 28 to stop veteran Elco Garcia in the fifth round.

Tapia and manager Pat Lynch are in Las Vegas this week for Saturday’s Timothy Bradley Jr.-Juan Manuel Marquez welterweight title fight and to meet with Top Rank officials to finish their deal. But as far Tapia and Lynch are concerned, the fight is a go.

“Kirkland is a warrior. He goes in to knock you out. I love that,” Tapia told ESPN.com. “Even if I'm the underdog, I’ll show people what I can do. I said yes to this fight from the beginning, as soon as it was brought up.”

Lynch, who managed the late Arturo Gatti for his entire career, said he’s still going over the numbers with Top Rank, but is confident it will be worked out.

“I’m nervous about the fight,” Lynch admitted. “It’s a big step up. But if Glen wins, listen, he could be on his way to stardom. He’s already become a big-ticket seller in New Jersey. You win a fight like this and you go to the next level.

“It’s a dangerous fight, so he’s got to fight a smart fight. But we got a shot to win the fight or we wouldn’t have taken it.”

Top Rank is negotiating with Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, the rap star who now represents Kirkland after his separation from Golden Boy following a lawsuit. Besides the promotional turmoil -- Kirkland, a felon who already had his career interrupted in 2009 by prison time for gun possession charges -- got in more trouble in June when he was arrested on an assault charge.

Kirkland, 29, will be coming off a long layoff, having not fought since a controversial disqualification win against Carlos Molina (who won a world title last month) in March 2012.

But Kirkland (31-1, 27 KOs) is a big puncher and a huge step up for Tapia (20-0, 12 KOs).

“This is a make or break fight. If I knock him out or beat him, I can become a superstar. Lose, and I gotta start over,” Tapia said. “Kirkland is always in shape and I don’t think he’ll be rusty.”

Kirkland’s only loss was a shocking upset to Nobuhiro Ishida, a feather-fisted fringe contender from Japan, who dropped Kirkland three times in a first-round knockout in 2011. Kirkland was also down in the first round of a wild slugfest with Alfredo Angulo in a 2011 sixth-round knockout win.