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

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  • TheKhan

    Khan. Silver. 2004.

    • thenonpareil

      Thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/JDrimmer5000 Josh Drimmer

    Please don’t make me actually want to watch Bailey-Alexander, Carlos. Jones-Bailey had one of the best endings to one of the worst fights I’ve seen (Mosley-Mayorga doesn’t even compare), and I can’t imagine going through something like that again, with or without a sweet, brutal finish.

    • thenonpareil

      Hi JD,

      you know Jimmy T. wrote this piece, right? Eh? As for Alexander-Bailey, I’ll say this–and it’s not easy for me to do–Golden Boy has the better card that night!

      • Jimmy Tobin

        I imagine Demarco beating up Molina will be fun, but Ward-Dawson will be absolutely dreadful. Wretched even. Alexander-Bailey will be awful too, with Alexander barking, flicking punches and wrasslin’ while Bailey holds down the “B” button to load up like he’s playing Mega Man 2. But that’s a fight that can end at any second, which is more than Ward-Dawson promises. Mattysse is on the undercard of Bailey-Alexander, and he means to hurt. Don’t know anthing about Olusegun. Hasn’t he been a mandatory for some strap for a year and a half or so? WBC maybe?

        • http://twitter.com/JDrimmer5000 Josh Drimmer

          Apologies for miscrediting authorship like a noobie around here, by the way. Nice write-up, Jimmy.

          It’s a strange bunch of fights in any case; I wouldn’t mind dreaming my way through the weekend, then catching up on the highlights later, but it’s not like I have the willpower to, you know, just go out that night and stay away from boxing.

          • thenonpareil

            Hi JD,

            No problem…Now that Alexander-Bailey is postponed, I guess your willpower won’t be tested after all. Still, Ward-Dawson? I’d rather ride the G train back and forth from Court Square to Church Avenue all night long!

  • thenonpareil

    Hi JT,

    welcome to the glorious world of columns!

    I have nothing against the Klitschkos…The name of this game has always been drawing power and the Klitschkos have it. Over the last 10 years or so, this tradition of attractions getting paid has been overturned in America by the premium cable networks. I never thought that I would ever see two boring guys with no fans and no ratings power–Dawson and Ward–involved in a “Superfight.” It’s astonishing. The Klitschkos have enough charisma to get Germany, Russia, and Poland in an uproar whenever they fight. More power to them. Charr, by the way, fights like a man trapped in amber.

    James Kirkland is a fool. Maybe Wolfe gave him Anti-fool pills. In that case, she did the right thing, although, apparently, they didn’t work.

    This whole Khan thing I’ve been hearing since he lost–that he was going to destroy Garcia, but that he got too brave and bold or whatever is pure nonsense spewed forth by Khan footstools. Garcia had already started making adjustments before he laid Khan out. Way, way, way before he was knocked kicking by Garcia I had been saying Khan would be knocked kicking because of his flaws. In addition to having a Waterford chin, he has a half-dozen obvious amateur flaws that any solid professional will exploit. I like Khan because he’s often fun to watch, but he isn’t some super talent and doesn’t deserve any loopy narratives/excuses about why he got sparked. Garcia knew what to do when he saw a fighter stand straight up in front of him throwing wide shots….punch him in the neck!

    I would love to see Randall Bailey–an honest to goodness professional prizefighter–drill Devon Alexander, who is a TV/P-4-P Monger creation. Bailey is what I call a “narrative” fighter– a guy whose career is interesting because of its ups and downs and because of his unique skill set. That’s why I’m so interested in the 80s, in part, because fighters had far fewer opportunities to fake it than now. There were plenty of fakes back then, too, but they were fighting in Nebraska for $800. I’m much more interested in guys like Bailey, who have paid dues and will fight anybody, than these HBO phonies who all have the same career story: fought 25 no-hopers, beat a policeman for a vacant title, struggled against the only good guys he fought. Alexander has done nothing but beat Urango and an undersized Maidana. Getting smacked up by Kotelink and Matthysse, and quitting against Bradley are not really accomplishments. On the other hand, he has the best bark in boxing.

    • Jimmy Tobin

      p { margin-bottom: 0.21cm; }

      Hi CA,

      Hmmm, yes, column writing. A unique
      experience.

      I bought into the Khan sophistry
      primarily because I thought it’d be easy for him to stay at a
      distance, fire off combinations, and use his legs (the only semblance
      of defence he has) to get out of range. When that didn’t happen I was
      ready to accept his explanation. But in watching the fight a few
      times, you’re right – he’s wide, his chin’s high, he is useless
      inside, and for a guy who throws maliciously, there’s not a lot on
      those shots because he’s skating around on his spindly pegs the
      entire time. He was on borrowed time in the Garcia fight. But I’ll
      always watch him fight because he comes off like a prick (so I wanna
      see him starched) and he comes to fight. I like guys who fight.

      I’m a big Bailey fan. He’s been around
      the block, keeps his gun off safety, and tries to knock guys out.
      He’s a one-trick pony who kicks like a mule, and the way he broke
      down when given the IBF belt is testament to his long and arduous
      career. He wasn’t supposed to win (was probably expected to roll over like an old man) so he appreciated the moment. The
      belt may be farcical, but the path Bailey took to it is authentic.
      He’s a pro. Alexander I never need to watch again. I hope he gets his
      wig pushed back.

    • Adrian Lagos

      Awesome comment. And not only was Maidana undersized but was held like crazy in that fight and wasn’t allowed to fight on the inside. Compuclinch had Alexander initiating 119 clinches(more then Molina-Kirkland) and not being penalized a single point. Smoger did an absolute horrible job and Lederman even called him out on it. Yet spoilers like Alexander and Ward are terrific fighters but Brandon Rios, a terrific inside fighter, is a one trick pony according to the experts at boxingscene.

      • Jimmy Tobin

        That Alexander, who was arguably 0-3 in the three fights preceding the Maidana fight, was allowed to fight a junior welterweight in a ten round fight as a main event on HBO is criminal. Perhaps if he were entertaining there’d be some semblance of an explanation for why this guy gets treated so well. But as you noted with his performance in the Maidana fight, he isn’t. He barks and paws and wrestles. If I want that action I’ll take my dog to puppy school.
        I’m not sure Ward can be lumped in with Alexander. Ward is definitely a spoiler, and he fouls a fair bit too, but he’s psychologically strong, and deals with cuts, butts, and other questionable tactics much better than Alexander (who was run out of the ring by Bradley, and headed that way against Mattysse). Ward throws to hurt sometimes too, while Alexander is retreating before his punches terminate.
        Rios is more nuanced in his approach than given credit for, probably because the distinguishing characteristic of his style (relentless pressure) is romanticized. He’s not a one trick pony, though the trick of professionalism and making weight has seemed a bridge too far recently.

  • http://thelivingdaylights.co/ Andrew Fruman

    Hi JT. Good stuff, nice to see some current scene musings. I agree with most of your column, and most of the comments made so far…. except for the little jabs at Devon Alexander!

    Bailey isn’t a great opponent, but what exactly were Alexander’s options at 147?

    Mayweather: Jail
    Pacquiao: Top Rank, and definitely not considering Alexander.
    Bradley: Top Rank, and waiting on Manny.
    Ortiz: Broken Jaw
    Berto: Suspended
    Lopez: Being served up to Canelo
    Brook: Going the alphabet eliminator route
    Guerrero: Hadn’t yet fought Aydin when the Bailey match was signed

    Who else was there to choose from? Carson Jones, Malignaggi, Jan Zaveck… I think Bailey’s KO of Jones trumps the credentials of that group, so really, what more can we ask from Alexander here?

    And in general, while I get the dislike, because of the silly hype behind Alexander, I don’t think it’s fair to criticize the fighter himself for it. Sure, he’s a little lucky to be getting SHOW/HBO money every time out, but Witter, Urango, Kotelnik, Bradley, Matthysse and Maidana – that’s a good run of fights. So he only deserved to go 3-3 and lost to the better guys, big deal, at least he’s staying busy against relevant fighters, and not just beating up 3rd rate opposition or sitting on the sidelines calling out unrealistic names.

    He’s fighting guys he should be fighting, and doing it regularly… if all fighters followed that pattern, I think the sport would be quite a bit more interesting to follow.

    • Jimmy Tobin

      Hi AF, thanks my man.
      It’s true that Alexander didn’t have a lot of options, and really, I’m glad to see Bailey get another television payday. My problem with Alexander is primarily rooted in his preferential treatment and the fact that he’s becoming a chore to watch. His competition is pretty good considering he only has 22 fights, but his record, which he benefits from, is inaccurate.
      The Maidana fight, which we suffered through together, really burned me because it was like a perfect storm of suckage, a distilled example of much of what I dislike about current boxing. So I’ll give him a mulligan for that one (because you make some good points) with the hope that better things are to come…and I’ll root like hell for the KO King to splatter Devon’s face.

      • http://thelivingdaylights.co/ Andrew Fruman

        I get your frustration with the preferential treatment thing and his record is inaccurate – it’s a shame that a downfall of having a fighter active in his hometown, is the judging that goes with it.

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