This coming Saturday Minute Maid Park in Houston, TX will see the return of Mexico’s Saul “Canelo” Alvarez as he takes on the challenge of James Kirkland. Golden Boy is working with several local promoters to bring together what is a sixteen fight live event, with the feature fights airing on HBO in the United States. Heading into this twelve round non-title bout, Alvarez is a strong (-600) favorite over Kirkland, who returns at (+450). There is no over/under posted yet for this twelve round Super Welterweight bout. Alvarez and Golden Boy had originally scheduled this fight for May 2nd, however they moved the date a week so as not to clash with the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. Alvarez considers himself a draw on par with either of those two, but taking on that fight proved to be more than Alvarez and Golden Boy wanted to face. Alvarez’ next fight was originally scheduled in Las Vegas as well, however the site was moved to Texas, where Kirkland is from and also a place “Canelo” can count on his Mexican fan base for support. Alvarez is (44-1-1) and this will be his third fight since he absorbed his first career loss, to Floyd Mayweather Jr back in September of 2013. Since then, he has gone (2-0), stopping an over-matched Alfredo Angulo in ten rounds and surviving a Split Decision win against Erislandy Lara. Alvarez was vying for a big fight, with the name of Miguel Cotto being bandied about, but when negotiations for that fight became extended, Alvarez opted to fight Kirkland instead. If the Cotto fight had happened, the combined drawing power of both men would have made it a “big fight” and it would have commanded a lot of attention. Kirkland is not that type of draw, but he is a dangerous fighter who will be fighting in his home-state in what for him is a major step-up fight. At (32-1), he brings a good bit of experience to the table and he has always had a lot of talent. Kirkland is now 31 years old, and he is hoping that he finally has matured and may be ready to fulfill his potential. Kirkland has had multiple setbacks in his career. He did not box at all in 2004-2005 after starting his career off (11-0) due to spending time in jail, and legal problems re-surfaced in 2009, costing him the 2010 calendar year on the shelf as well. In his third fight back from that layoff, he was stopped in the first round by lightly regarded Nobuhiro Ishida of Japan, which was a huge in-ring setback. He has gone on to win five fights in a row however, and as far as common opponents go, Kirkland stopped Alfredo Angulo faster than Alvarez did, and he showed the guts to get up off the canvas early in the fight to notch the stop in the sixth. Alvarez may have to work harder than he thinks in this one. The co-main event at Super Lightweight features undefeated Frankie Gomez (18-0) taking on veteran Humberto Soto (65-8-2) in what will certainly be a tough test for Gomez, who is still just 23 years old. Soto last lost to Lucas Martin Matthysse in June of 2012, and he has put together a seven fight winning streak since. That includes wins over several decent fighters and it allowed him to capture a handful of regional belts. The show opener will feature the boxing debut of Jesse James Leija Jr., the son of “The Texas Tornado” Jesse James Leija, who retired with a strong (47-7-2) overall record.
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