Kirkland's return on Hopkins-Kovalev card?


Junior middleweight slugger James Kirkland, who has fought just one time in each of the past two years, is seemingly ready for his annual ring appearance.

Kirkland is the leading candidate to be featured in the HBO-televised co-feature of the Bernard Hopkins-Sergey Kovalev light heavyweight unification fight on Nov. 8 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Kirkland (32-1, 28 KOs), a 30-year-old southpaw from Austin, Texas, and one of boxing roughest sluggers, has not fought since last December. In that HBO fight, he stopped Glenn Tapia in the sixth round of a slugfest.

HBO has tried multiple times throughout the year to work out a deal with Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, Kirkland's promoter, to get Kirkland back on the air, but coming to terms has been very difficult because Kirkland has turned down several offers.

Two of the names that have come up as a possible Kirkland opponents are the crowd-pleasing Javier Maciel (29-3, 20 KOs) of Argentina and former junior middleweight world titleholder Zauerbek Baysangurov (29-1, 21 KOs) of Russia.

Kirkland's camp told ESPN.com he is out of the running to face Canelo Alvarez in December. He had been one of three candidates mentioned by Alvarez promoter Oscar De La Hoya. But Kirkland's camp views a possible fight with Alvarez as a pay-per-view fight, and Alvarez's next fight will be on premium cable (HBO or Showtime, which has not been decided yet).

Another fighter De La Hoya mentioned was junior middleweight titlist Demetrius Andrade, but that is highly unlikely, even before Andrade was approved to face Matt Korobov for a vacant middleweight belt. That leaves the likely Alvarez opponent as former welterweight titlist Joshua Clottey, who is -- by far -- the weakest and least interesting of the three names De La Hoya mentioned.