Alvarez vs Kirkland - Saul Alvarez and James Kirkland face offTonight at the Minute Maid Park, Texas, a tasty Alvarez vs Kirkland clash will be headlining in front of the Houston crowd. Saul Alvarez will be looking to remain top-dog of the 154-pounders (bar Floyd Mayweather), and James Kirkland will be looking to smash his way back into the division via huge upset.

Before the action takes place, Alvarez will enter the ring with 44 wins, 31 knockouts, 1 loss, 1 draw, and Kirkland 32 wins, 28 knockouts, 1 loss.

So how will the action unfold? Who will be victorious?

Of course, many fans and analysts are picking Alvarez to bag the win here. And we’re not going to argue with that pick. It’s true Alvarez vs Kirkland is predictable – or at least on the surface. Fortunately there are enough unknowns and questions to still make this is an excitement-worthy contest, however.

Though Kirkland is known for being a mostly unrefined dance partner, he’s also very dangerous after building momentum and establishing his raw power. But more on that in a bit.

First thing’s first. BoxingBase.com’s prediction: Alvarez by late stoppage, somewhere around the 9th, 10th round. This is not slugger vs slugger as some in the boxing fandom are calling it. More accurately, it’s slugger (Kirkland) vs boxer-puncher – and we favor the latter on this occasion.

James Kirkland: Strengths and Weaknesses

Now let’s dig into why. As mentioned above, Kirkland is a strong, strong fella. If you remember his big win over upcoming prospect Glen Tapia back in 2013, then you’ll know how much of a hand full this cat can be. That fight was utterly violent in nature, ending when the referee saved the constantly smothered Tapia from being mauled further.

Kirkland’s bulldozing, heavy-pressure style is his ticket to success against Alvarez, as it has been throughout his career. It also remains his biggest weakness, however, given his tendency to walk onto big shots while throwing caution to the wind. This, if anything, will likely be his undoing in this fight. (Kirkland’s only conqueror, fringe contender Nobuhiro Ishida, scored three consecutive 1st round knockdowns due to this flaw)

If Kirkland wants to capture victory, this will be the hardest of his career to pull off. Especially given his ‘troubles’ outside the ring, which may have been the cause of his 17-month inactivity. He’ll have to try and hurt Alvarez early, truly shake him up, maintain momentum, and ultimately take him to a dark place where a knockout will present itself.

Kirkland winning by knockout? Unlikely. But if he’s going to win, this is his biggest chance.

Saul Alvarez: Strengths and Weaknesses

Let’s get this clear: Alvarez is no slugger. He bangs, yes, but his boxing brain, economic punching and combinations are not nearly praised enough. His power is likely matched by Kirkland, sure. But it’s how he executes those punches that will make the difference here.

The more fights this guy has, the smarter he seems to get. Each punch usually has a specific target and reason to exist, and his body shots are some of the best in the business. Alvarez also possesses the quicker hand speed which usually surprises opponents.

What are Alvarez’s weaknesses? The young Mexican isn’t exactly known for being mobile in the ring – but then again, this would upset his style which is to hold ground and wait for opportunities. However, like Kirkland, this means Alvarez also won’t be hard to find. Alvarez can be elusive with head movement, but he is there.

Given Kirkland throws everything but the kitchen sink at his opponents, it’s possible Alvarez could take too many shots, or at the least, a fight-changing blow that could land him in trouble.

In short, it’s simply too difficult to not foresee an Alvarez win here. We’ve seen him struggle with movers such as Austin Trout and Erislandy Lara, but it’s doubtful he’ll have too many problems tonight. Kirkland will be right there in front of him. No search party will be needed. It’s Kirkland that will eventually be eating the majority of shots – especially if he fails to employ any kind of defensive strategy.

We also have to remember Alvarez is literally Golden Boy Promotion’s ‘Golden Boy’. Their biggest cash cow. Mexico love him, as do most boxing fans – certainly the serious ones. Would Oscar De La Hoya and his team put Alvarez in with anyone they thought might upset the ‘Canelo’ train? It’s likely they know there is certain risk in this fight, but are very confident of Alvarez’s abilities.

Remember, Alvarez is still a candidate for Mayweather’s final opponent in September. And dollars rule in boxing. Our guess is they’ve done their homework, and may see this as a fight akin to Alvarez’s fight with Angulo.

(See the Alvarez vs Kirkland Weigh-In and HBO’s Alvarez vs Kirkland Video Preview)

Alvarez vs Kirkland: Prediction

Saul Alvarez TKO, round 9-10

In an entertaining affair of slugger vs boxer-puncher, Kirkland will assert himself early and make Alvarez uncomfortable – possibly very – forcing the Mexican star to think. It’s not all one-way traffic, but after 3 or so rounds of smothering, Alvarez will begin to land big shots and combinations due to his superior technique and ring craft.

What then unfolds may be similar to that of Alvarez vs Angulo – except with the likelihood of multiple knockdowns. Given Kirkland’s warrior instincts, he will hang around a little too long for his own good, but will be relieved of unnecessary punishment by the referee in round 9. At the latest, 10.

Whatever happens on the night, we just hope Alvarez vs Kirkland lives up to expectations. Boxing certainly needs a good all-action fight following Mayweather vs Pacquiao.

But what about your take on the clash? Are you rooting for ‘Canelo’ or the ‘Mandingo Warrior’? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to check back in at BoxingBase.com to read the full report.

The BoxingBase.com writing staff provide worldwide boxing news, coverage and analysis – they can be contacted via email and social media.

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