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In 2008 and 2009, brawlers Alfredo "Perro" Angulo and James Kirkland were terrorizing the junior middleweight division. They were becoming HBO staples, moving toward title shots and exciting boxing fans with their all-action styles and a series of electrifying knockouts.
There was a constant buzz about a future big-money showdown between the two. It had all the makings of a can't-miss action fight between rising stars.
Over the past two years, however, both fighters have seen their reputations take big hits. Yet they still figure to produce a fireworks-filled fight when they meet Saturday night (HBO, 10:15 ET/PT) at the Cancun Center in Cancun, Mexico. Put it this way: Angulo-Kirkland doesn't figure to be Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson.
"No matter what the outcome is, we know this fight is going to be a very, very entertaining and a great fight," Golden Boy promoter Oscar De La Hoya said. Also on the card, middleweights Peter "Kid Chocolate" Quillin (25-0, 19 KOs) and Craig McEwan (19-1, 10 KOs) will meet in a scheduled 10-rounder.
Although Angulo-Kirkland isn't the big event some once envisioned -- it's not even for a world title -- both fighters still possess the instincts to brawl and both still crack with the best of them.
It's also perhaps a bit of desperation time for both fighters as they seek to get their once-promising careers back on track.
Angulo (20-1, 17 KOs), 29, of Mexico, saw his career crater after he knocked out former titlist Joachim Alcine in the first round in July 2010. Mired in promotional and immigration problems, Angulo went idle for 13 months before returning in August to record another easy first-round knockout, against Joseph Gomez.
In between, he had a nasty breakup with promoter Gary Shaw before signing with Golden Boy. He was also deported to Mexico. Angulo still isn't allowed to enter the United States, which has badly hampered his career and is the reason this fight will be held in Mexico.
Angulo's breakup with Shaw came after the fighter turned down a big-money offer to face middleweight champion Sergio Martinez, which incensed Shaw. Angulo, who was in the U.S. at the time, rejected the deal around the same time his immigration problem was about to force him out of the country. But even while in Mexico, he didn't fight.
"The layoff was very, very frustrating and I blame one person. I blame one person," Angulo said through a translator. "I don't want to name any names, but one person that didn't want [me to fight] when there were opportunities for me to fight. There were different situations where I could have fought, but that one person, for whatever reason, did not want [me to] fight because I guess he wanted to punish me, so he didn't fight me."
|Alfredo Angulo hasn't fought often lately, but when he has the action has been a fight fan's dream.|
Angulo was talking about Shaw, who eventually sold his contract to Golden Boy last summer.
Because of the layoff, Angulo, who split with trainer Clemente Medina and is now being trained by Hall of Famer Nacho Beristain, has fought fewer than two full rounds in the past 19 months.
"As far as affecting me and only fighting 1½ rounds, I train hard. I proved it [against Gomez]," Angulo said. "That was supposed to be a tough fight, but I was ready. I was in great shape, I was strong, and I ended up finishing the fight early. I've always said that I was born to fight, and I think that I'm going to prove it again on Saturday night and you guys are going to see for yourselves that I was born to fight."
Kirkland (29-1, 26 KOs), 27, of Austin, Texas, is in a bit more of a desperate situation than Angulo.
He was rolling to a title shot in 2009 before being sent to prison for 18 months on gun charges that were particularly serious for Kirkland because he was on parole for a previous felony. He wound up sitting out for two years. When he returned, he split with longtime trainer Ann Wolfe in favor of Kenny Adams and moved to Las Vegas.
Kirkland won two fights in March, but in his third fight back in April, he was knocked down three times in a shocking first-round upset knockout loss to unheralded Nobuhiro Ishida.
Kirkland left Adams, went back to Austin, reunited with Wolfe and won two fights in a row against soft opposition. Now he will face the rugged Angulo with his career as a serious contender perhaps on the line.
He said he believes the move back to Wolfe has made a big difference for him.
"I'm taking nothing away from Kenny Adams. He has a certain style that he teaches his fighters, but I'm a totally different fighter," Kirkland said. "I'm a pressure fighter. I'm a pound-for-pound fighter. I'm an all-around fighter. But when it comes to being able to be pushed to the next level, I got that from Ann Wolfe. I didn't get that from Kenny Adams. So the whole not enough sparring, not enough work, not the best conditioning, anybody can drop to a certain weight if they're motivated -- but to be able to have all the tools to be able to do it, you have to be trained by a person that you feel comfortable with, the person has to be at the same level. And that's how it was with Ann Wolfe.
"But in the Ishida fight, I was nowhere near prepared for that fight. I didn't train the way I'm training for this fight. I'm prepared for battle. I'm prepared to go 12, 13 as many rounds as possible. But one thing we know, it only goes 12. We will see who's going to be strongest or who's going to put out more effort and more work. I'm going to be able to show the world what I'm capable of. I know what I trained for. I know what this fight brings to the table. If this all turns out right, my mind frame is to destroy, seek and destroy, and use class and skill with it. And that's how the fight's going to go."
ESPN Deportes will carry Saturday night's heavyweight fight between contender Cristobal Arreola (33-2, 28 KOs) and Raphael Butler (35-11, 28 KOs), who meet in Leon, Mexico (9 ET) -- the first pro fight that Arreola, a Mexican-American, will take in the country where his parents were born.
Arreola said fighting in Mexico is something he has wanted to do since watching Julio Cesar Chavez defend the junior welterweight title against Greg Haugen in Mexico City in 1993 before a boxing-record crowd of more than 130,000.
"It's an honor to fight in Mexico and is my dream since I saw Chavez-Haugen," Arreola said, "and I will not disappoint."
Boxing's busiest heavyweight contender, Arreola is seeking his sixth consecutive win since dropping a majority decision to Tomasz Adamek in April 2010. Arreola said he is looking for a knockout of Butler, who is 1-5 with a no-contest in his past seven fights and has been stopped six times overall.
"My respects to all judges, because they do a very hard job, but really I do not want to see the judges having to score the fight, and I'd imagine Butler feels the same," said Arreola, who is in line for a possible title opportunity against Wladimir Klitschko next year. "I guarantee that I want to end it with the referee counting to 10. I think at the end of the night, I will go out with my hand raised. I'm not like Muhammad Ali, saying I'm going to win in a specific round, and I have much respect to my opponent, because it is dangerous to be in the ring, but I'm ending it early."
Flyweight titlist Brian Viloria (29-3, 16 KOs) likely will make his first title defense, a mandatory, against Mexico's Giovani Segura on Dec. 10 in the Philippines, Viloria's manager Gary Gittelsohn told ESPN.com.
Gittelsohn said he has been working on the deal with Zanfer Promotions' Fernando Beltran, who promotes Segura with Top Rank.
|If the final touches are put on a bout between Brian Viloria and Giovani Segura, right, it would match two of the top lighter-weight fighters in boxing today.|
"From Brian's point of view, he is already training for the fight," Gittelsohn said. "I think Segura is also training. There is nothing on paper yet, but we think we have a deal. I've seen so many things not on paper disappear, but Brian wants this fight. He is preparing for the fight. We are far down the road. We've agreed on principle terms for the fight, so I think it will happen."
In July, Viloria, a Filipino-American from Hawaii and a former two-time junior flyweight titlist, claimed a flyweight title by outpointing Mexico's Julio Cesar Miranda.
Segura (28-1-1, 24 KOs) is a hard-punching former junior flyweight champion who is moving up in weight.
"I think the fight is definitely worthy of HBO's 'Boxing After Dark' or Showtime," Gittelsohn said. "It's a great fight between two guys who you know are going to give a special effort. They are name guys in the lighter divisions that usually don't get the exposure on the premium cable networks. But if you're a programmer, this is a no-brainer. You're going to get a great television fight that will probably end in a knockout. It will be all action, no holding. It's a damn shame that it comes at a very congested part of the year and that it's very difficult to find a slot on American TV. Around the world, we will be able to sell this fight. There's a lot of excitement in the Philippines and Mexico, where they are paying premium dollars for the fight."
Gittelsohn said he still hopes to find some sort of American outlet for the fight, even if it means a small pay-per-view.
Two of Japan's top fighters are due back in the ring in the coming weeks.
Former featherweight titlist Hozumi Hasegawa (29-4, 12 KOs), also a longtime bantamweight titleholder, hasn't fought since he was upset via fourth-round knockout by Mexico's Jhonny Gonzalez in April. But Hasegawa, who contemplated retirement, returns Dec. 17 in Kobe, Japan, to face Mexico's Felipe Carlos Felix (18-0, 10 KOs).
"I wish to enjoy fighting again by showing my own performance," Hasegawa, 30, said in a translated statement.
On Dec. 31 in Yokohama, Japan, junior lightweight titlist Takashi Uchiyama (17-0, 14 KOs) will defend against interim titleholder and mandatory opponent Jorge Solis (40-3-2, 29 KOs) of Mexico, Ohashi Promotions announced.
Uchiyama will be making the fourth defense of the 130-pound belt he claimed by scoring a 12th-round knockout of Mexico's Juan Carlos Salgado in January 2010.
Also on the New Year's Eve card, featherweight titlist Celestino Caballero (35-4, 23 KOs) of Panama will defend against Japan's Satoshi Hosono (21-1, 15 KOs), a former Japanese national champion. Caballero, a former unified junior featherweight titleholder, will be making the first defense of the featherweight belt he won Oct. 14 in Argentina, where he outpointed Jonathan Barros in a rematch of Barros' controversial victory in July.
• Showtime formally announced its Dec. 31 "Showtime Championship Boxing" card, and the main event will be the fight that has been in the works for the past few weeks. It will match light heavyweight titlist Tavoris Cloud (23-0, 19 KOs), who will be making his fourth defense, against former light heavyweight and cruiserweight titleholder Zsolt Erdei (33-0, 18 KOs) of Hungary. They will meet at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, Calif., for the unusual New Year's Eve card (9 p.m. ET/PT). In the opening bout, junior featherweight titlist Rico Ramos (20-0, 11 KOs), who is from Southern California, will make his first defense against mandatory challenger and interim titlist Guillermo Rigondeaux (8-0, 6 KOs), the former two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist. The card brings together three promoters: Dan Goossen, who promotes Ramos and secured the site, Don King (Cloud) and Lou DiBella (Erdei).
• When originally announced, Showtime's telecast Saturday night (9 ET/PT) from the Pepsi Coliseum in Quebec City was slated to only include one bout -- super middleweight titleholder Lucian Bute's defense against former light heavyweight champ Glen Johnson. However, Showtime announced this week that it has added a second bout to the telecast. The card will now open with junior welterweight Pier-Olivier Côté facing Jorge Luis Teron (25-2-1, 17 KOs), 26, of the Bronx, N.Y., in a scheduled 12-round bout. The 27-year-old Côté (17-0, 11 KOs), of Quebec City, is one of Canada's rising prospects. In May, he fought on the Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley undercard in Las Vegas. "I want to thank my promoter, InterBox, and also Showtime for giving me this opportunity. Although I don't feel any added pressure, I really want to turn in a dominant performance," Côté said.
• To get fight fans prepped for the third fight between welterweight titlist and pound-for-pound king Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez on Nov. 12 (HBO PPV), the HBO2 service will replay the fighters' two epic battles, both of which resulted in controversial decisions, on Friday night (11:30 ET/PT) and Saturday morning (11 ET/PT). The fights will also be available on HBO On Demand. Their 2004 featherweight championship fight ended in a draw, and Pacquiao claimed a split decision in their 2008 junior lightweight championship fight. As an added feature, Pacquiao will provide live Twitter commentary on Friday night at 11:30 ET as the replay of Pacquiao-Marquez I unfolds. Fans can participate here.
• Just hours after Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez III is in the books, HBO's attention will turn to the final pay-per-view fight of the year, the Dec. 3 rematch between junior middleweight titlist Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito. To that end, "Face Off With Max Kellerman: Cotto-Margarito" will debut Nov. 13 at 8:45 a.m. ET/PT on HBO. With Kellerman serving as the moderator, the fighters engaged in a gripping session. They were face to face, answering questions from Kellerman, and also address each other and their fans in a heated confrontation. There is bad blood between Cotto and Margarito stemming from Margarito's victory in 2008, a 12th-round knockout to win a welterweight title, in a fight later tainted by the controversy of Margarito being caught trying to enter his next fight against Shane Mosley wearing loaded hand wraps. Many, including Cotto, believe Margarito got away with wearing illegal wraps for their fight. "Face Off" will air numerous times on HBO and HBO2 and also be available on HBO On Demand and HBO GO.
• One of the most significant pairs of fight-worn ring trunks is up for auction -- the red velvet shorts Muhammad Ali wore in his first legendary heavyweight championship fight with Joe Frazier on March 8, 1971, at New York's Madison Square Garden. SCP Auctions has the trunks, along with numerous other boxing items, in an auction that ends Nov. 19. The trunks, which are signed by Ali in three places, originally belonged to the estate of Drew Bundini Brown, who was Ali's longtime assistant. The minimum bid on the trunks is $10,000 but had already gone several thousand dollars higher in early bidding. The 763-piece auction also includes numerous pieces of baseball and basketball memorabilia, including dozens of pieces from the personal collection of basketball icon Julius "Dr. J." Irving, including his championship and all-star rings, uniforms and MVP trophies.
• Chronically inactive cruiserweight titlist Guillermo Jones (37-3-2, 29 KOs), who won the belt in September 2008, will make only his second defense against Mike Marrone (20-3, 15 KOs) at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla., on Saturday night (WealthTV 8 ET/PT). Although Jones, of Panama, hasn't fought since October 2010, he sounded in fine form promoting the fight this week at an open workout and at the final news conference. Among his quotes about the fight: "My message to Mike Marrone is simple: Don't make it harder than it has to be. Don't make me hurt you more than I have to. Don't be too brave." Jones later added, "The tiger is hungry. ... I have a message for Mike Marrone: If your body is ready to get bitten, the cat is ready to bite, and the cat is very hungry. I'm ready to bite." Marrone, who is from Vero Beach, Fla., and figures to have the crowd on his side, said, "I have had nothing bad to say about Guillermo. I thank him for this opportunity. You may notice I'm a little lighter for this fight, down from heavyweight. I have trained hard and I feel fast and strong. I will give Guillermo Jones all I've got. I don't feel like an underdog. I feel this will be an even competition."
• Light heavyweight titlist Beibut Shumenov (12-1, 8 KOs) announced that he and promoter Dan Goossen have settled their lawsuit and agreed that their promotional contract is terminated. Goossen also acknowledged the settlement. Shumenov, a 2004 Kazakhstan Olympian based in Las Vegas, hopes to land a fight with another of the top 175-pounders. "I want to fight the best to be considered the best 175-pounder in the world," said Shumenov, who has Hall of Fame promoter Don Chargin serving as his adviser. "I've heard that [Nathan] Cleverly, who won the WBO title after [Juergen] Braehmer was stripped, and [titleholder] Cloud have mentioned my name, but truth be told, we have never been contacted by either one of their promoters to unify. All of these guys talking about unifying, well, if they really want to make it happen, all they have to do is contact us. I told [former champion Jean] Pascal that I'm from Kazakhstan, he lives in Canada; so, we should fight in the capital of boxing, Las Vegas. Same goes for Cleverly, who is from the United Kingdom. I'm getting ready and looking forward to a fresh new year. Hopefully, one of the other light heavyweight world champions will put his title belt on the line against mine in a unification fight in 2012."
• Former junior welterweight champ Ricky Hatton will make his debut as a trainer on Nov. 12 when he leads welterweight Adam Little (3-0, 1 KO) into a four-rounder against an opponent to be determined at Oldham Leisure Centre in Oldham, England, and Hatton said he is nervous. "I will be nervous and anxious when Adam has his first contest with me in his corner because all eyes will be on me," Hatton said. "Just because I have been a good boxer doesn't mean I am going to be a good coach. Some of the best trainers in the world weren't great boxers. Just like I was when I was a fighter, I will love the challenge. I am confident in my own ability and have a lot to offer my fighter. I will be throwing every punch with Adam because he has put his faith in me. I don't want to be in the corner of any fighters where they think I am there for a paycheck." The fight comes on the card topped by Denton Vassell's Commonwealth title defense against Samuel Colomban.
• Super middleweight prospect Anthony Dirrell (23-0, 20 KOs), 27, of Flint, Mich., will face Canada's Renan St Juste (23-2-1, 15 KOs), 39, in the headline bout of the Dec. 2 edition of "ShoBox: The New Generation" (Showtime) at the Chumash resort in Santa Ynez, Calif., promoter Gary Shaw told ESPN.com. According to Shaw, the bout will be a title eliminator that would set up the winner to fight for the belt held by Carl Froch, although Froch will face Andre Ward in a title unification match Dec. 17 in the Super Six World Boxing Classic final. Dirrell is the younger brother of Andre Dirrell, a super middleweight contender in his own right and former Super Six participant.
• Former heavyweight titlist Sergei Liakhovich (25-4, 16 KO) has begin training with Floyd Mayweather Sr. in Las Vegas. Liakhovich suffered a badly broken nose in a ninth-round knockout loss to rising contender Robert Helenius on Aug. 27 in Germany, but is anxious to return. "I am not the type of person that can just sit around and wait. I have to keep busy," Liakhovich said. "I needed to get in the ring and train. I feel I must always learn. I have what it takes, and with the right teacher I can win the championship again. You have to use your mind as well as your body. Floyd can teach me the tricks to take my power and use it as a lighter, smaller fighter would. I feel he can take me to a new level." Said Mayweather: "I see a lot of potential in Sergei. He's a tough guy. He just needs to fine-tune and refine. I can help him do that. I can help him slip and slide, give him the footwork, the slickness he needs to outclass the big heavyweights. We have just begun. Once he really starts training with me, you're gonna see a whole new Sergei."
• Super middleweights Adonis Stevenson (15-1, 12 KOs) and Aaron Pryor Jr. (16-4-0, 11 KOs) will meet Dec. 10 on the David Lemieux-Joachim Alcine undercard at the Bell Centre in Montreal. Stevenson, who is from Quebec, is coming off a first-round destruction of Dion Savage on the Sept. 17 Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Victor Ortiz undercard. Pryor, the son of Hall of Famer Aaron Pryor Sr., is 2-2 in his past four bouts against quality opponents -- Thomas Oosthuizen (decision loss), Librado Andrade (decision win), Edwin Rodriguez (decision loss) and Dyah Davis (decision win).
• Former heavyweight titlist Oliver McCall (56-11, 37 KOs), who was supposed to face Polish prospect Mariusz Wach on Saturday night at the Mohegan Sun resort in Uncasville, Conn., is out of the fight. The Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation did not license McCall, who is 46, because of a problem with his prefight MRI. Filling in for McCall is Jason Gavern (21-8-4, 10 KOs). "That's the norm for me," Gavern said. "I'm the opponent in most of my fights. I get the call late, and they think they'll walk through me because I'm coming on two or three days' notice and I end up surprising everyone. That's the plan this time, too. I'm blessed to have this opportunity."
"The reason I'm here at this press conference is because I don't have anything to hide. I'm a young man that does not get involved in any scandals or trouble of any sort. I repeat: If I had something to hide, I would not be here right now at this press conference. That's all I have to say."
-- Junior middleweight titlist Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, at a recent news conference announcing his Nov. 26 defense against Kermit Cintron in Mexico City, days after he was accused of beating up junior flyweight titlist Ulises "Archie" Solis in a street fight
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at danrafaelespn.