DISHING IT OUT: On Klitschko-Charr, James Kirkland, Amir Khan, and Alexander-Bailey

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It’s fitting that junior-middleweight roughneck James Kirkland has accused trainers Ann Wolfe and “Pops” Billingsley of giving him two black pills that left him in a stupor prior to his disqualification victory over Carlos Molina last March. Kirkland’s recent purging of his camp strikes one as a decision concocted under the influence, the type of rash move made by an unruly brat filled to the gills with liquid courage or hopped up on pharmaceuticals. According to an article by Gabriel Montoya of Maxboxing.com, Kirkland was drug tested by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation for his March 24th fight with Molina. While unable to produce a urine sample prior to the fight—instead urinating blood, a sign of dehydration—Kirkland provided a sample in the aftermath. The results of that sample prompted no further action. If the pills in question were ingested by Kirkland, their virulent contents escaped detection. Wolfe and Billingsley have held their tongues on the issue. Given the results of the drug test, the two trainers may have recognized that some comments needn’t be dignified with a response.

Questions of veracity aside, the pill incident seems to have given Kirkland grounds for severing ties with his trainers. But he didn’t stop there. Securing the counsel of lawyer Sekou Gary, who expedited Yuriorkis Gamboa’s split from promoters Top Rank and Arena-Box, Kirkland issued walking papers to managers Mike Miller and Cameron Dunkin, and promoter Golden Boy Promotions.

If Miller speaks for the group, those shown the door won’t leave quietly. Commenting on being relieved of his services, Miller said, “I’ll be damned if I’m going to step aside. I’m not going to step aside unless somebody’s going to buy me out. I think that the four of us feel that way.” And extricating himself from Golden Boy Promotions isn’t likely to prove any easier for the Kirkland, who recently re-upped with his team, and who is signed with Golden Boy through 2018. To invalidate his contract with Golden Boy, Kirkland would have to prove that the promotional company acted without his best interests in mind. Putting aside the naive—that a promotional company is guided by their fighter’s best interests—and looking at GBP’s handling of Kirkland’s career, the fighter has little to stand on. His promoter stood by him during his stint in jail, his shocking stoppage at the hands of Nobuhiro Ishida, and offered him a fight with Teen Choice Award Champion Saul Alvarez. Kirkland may learn that his reckless aggression doesn’t translate as effectively in litigation. If, however, Kirkland is positioning for a rumoured move to TMT Promotions, surely the ostentatious crew bankrolling “The Money Team” can find the pocket change to liberate him.

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In the aftermath of his July 14th loss to Danny Garcia, junior welterweight Amir Khan has questioned his relationship with trainer Freddie Roach, stating, “The time has come for me to be #1 in my training camp.” Primacy is likely to elude Khan so long as he shares trainers with Manny Pacquiao and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., and issuing veiled ultimatums asking Roach to part with two proven earners aren’t likely to be embraced. While accepting responsibility for the Garcia loss, Khan believes accommodating Roach’s stable is a deleterious concession. He wants his camp to focus solely on him—a reasonable request for a man preparing to deliver and absorb corporeal damage.

But the potential split from Roach raises a few questions. Has Roach’s commitment to other fighters had a detrimental effect on Khan’s development? Against Garcia, Khan started well (indicating sound preparation), but willingly engaged in some rather ominous exchanges as early as the second round. Khan attributed this tactical boner to being too brave for his own good. Such foolhardy aggression can be curtailed to an extent, but if it is hardwired into Khan’s cognition—as he himself says it is—a change in trainers isn’t likely to curb it. The question of whether Khan has actually maximized his potential under Roach is also worth asking. Khan has elite hand speed, but he isn’t an elite fighter, and he hasn’t met the expectations that accompanied his turning pro after winning a silver medal in the 2004 Summer Olympics. Roach may shoulder some of the blame for these failed expectations, but he can’t be expected to cook gourmet meals without the proper ingredients. Whatever the answers to these questions may be, there is surely a fragility that accompanies a stoppage loss, and perhaps more attention is what Khan needs to feel secure heading into his next sanctioned assault. Such security doesn’t necessarily translate into improved performances, however.

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Victories over the likes of Robert Hawkins (winless in his last ten fights), Owen Beck (winless in his last eight fights, with six stoppage losses), and Danny Williams (knocked out in two rounds by the barely crude Dereck Chisora) have earned Beirut’s Manuel “Diamond Boy” Charr (21-0 11KO) a September 8th fight with Vitali Klitschko. The Klitschkos have been maligned for being boring, and for not fighting worthy competition. Those are dubious claims: the Klitschko brothers have knockout percentages exceeding 80%, and they have cleaned out their division before capacity crowds.

But those who lob such denigrations aren’t likely to be silenced by Charr’s prospects. Charr, in a revelatory moment proclaimed, “Many think I will come to lose but I am coming to win,” turning pundits and prognosticators on their ears with his novel agenda. What is significantly more interesting than the tired clichés of sacrifice and iron volition, is Charr’s admission that he is broke.

Here is Charr, courtesy of Boxingscene.com: “In my last fight against Taras Bydenko, I was 60,000 Euros in debt. Now I am penniless. My apartment, my car and my food is being financed by friends.”

Klitschko opponents tend to revisit their fervour while being pulverized with impunity. But the desperation so often referred to by fighters might be genuine in the case of Charr. His financial distress could lead him earnestly into the fray in Moscow’s Olimpiskiy. This bold strategy should get Charr knocked out if the aging champion’s body doesn’t betray him (an increasing possibility); but watching a guy go for broke is entertaining, and entertaining is what boxing is supposed to be. Of course, Klitschko–Charr could just as likely deteriorate into another uneventful, protracted beat down by Klitschko, whose only real competition is Chronos. Klitschko–Charr will be shown tape-delayed on HBO prior to the clash between Andre Ward and Chad Dawson. Both Ward and Dawson are stars in the eyes of Showtime and HBO and are decorated fighters by current standards. Still, their claims to celestial real estate will seem feeble in light of the atmosphere of the Klitschko fight.

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On the same night as Ward-Dawson and Klitschko-Charr, Devon “The Great” Alexander will continue his cautious invasion of the welterweight division. Alexander, whose inaugural bout at 147 pounds was a ten-round HBO main event against junior welterweight gatekeeper Marcos Maidana, has targeted Randall Bailey. Bailey, having recently treated Mike Jones to complimentary rhinoplasty while relieving him of his IBF trinket, is 37 years old with 50 fights under his belt. He throws punches with the frivolity of a miser, and is undersized at welterweight. It is surely this combination of age, offensive frugality, and a title, that prompted Alexander’s choice of Bailey as his next opponent. But when Bailey lands, he turns the lights out. Alexander can be hit with right hands, and his tendency to short-arm his punches often makes the bark that accompanies each blow worse than its bite. Against a frightening puncher like Bailey, Alexander’s defensive flaws and his lack of commitment to punching (which extends fights) could have concussive consequences. Perhaps another first-class passenger on the entitlement train will get bumped off the rails.

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Make sure to check out The Living Daylights, a boxing site like no other. You know, sort of like The Cruelest Sport.

Tags: AMIR KHAN Ann Wolfe Devon Alexander Freddie Roach GOLDEN BOY PROMOTIONS JAMES KIRKLAND Manuel Charr Randall Bailey Vitali Klitschko

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