LOS ANGELES, January 8, 2017 – Four-division champion Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico is a sure bet for the Boxing Hall of Fame after he decides to hang up the gloves. At age 36, that day is not too far away.
Former junior middleweight champion James Kirkland of Austin, Texas would like to see several more victories in his 30s before he too decides to call it a career.
One of them will take a big step in the direction of their immediate goals at the expense of the other on February 25 in Dallas, Texas. The fight will air on HBO PPV, the first pay per view event of 2017 in boxing. After spending all of 2016 out of the ring, the fight is fittingly called “The Return.”
Cotto (40-5, 33 KOs) and Kirkland (32-2-1, 28 KOs) are both coming off losses in 2015 at the hands of the same man, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Alvarez scored the consensus 2015 Knockout of the Year over Kirkland in May, who came into the ring without his unconventional but highly effective trainer Ann Wolfe, a mistake in retrospect. Despite the loss, Kirkland showed his toughness staying the ring two rounds past the point any other man would have been finished off.
Cotto was Alvarez’s next opponent in November, and lost a competitive decision he still believes he won, while showing the skills that made him Puerto Rico’s greatest champion. His jabs were fast and kept Alvarez at bay many times when he needed to avoid punishment. He connected well, but he could not hurt the larger, younger, stronger Alvarez the way he was getting hurt by Canelo’s power shots.
This matchup is more intriguing than it might first appear. Both want to make their case for continuing their careers with a strong performance. Kirkland told Ringside Seat, “I feel like getting an opportunity to face Miguel Cotto was somebody that I looked up to in boxing. Seeing his career, on the tremendous change he has brought to the game. For me to be able to get the opportunity to show what I can bring and take my boxing skills to the next limit is something I can definitely put down in my boxing ability and things that I have accomplished in boxing.”
Cotto said he’s also looking forward to making a statement. “This fight is going to be the newest chapter in my career. I’m going to take it and going to handle it in the best way possible, I’m going to do my best first with (trainer) Freddie (Roach) in the gym, and the night of the fight to make my family proud this night.”
Kirkland, who is once again training with Ann Wolfe, knows he needs a good performance after his last appearance in Texas. “Since the last fight, learning and looking back and seeing the fight and the mistakes that I made, for a lot of different things, I’m definitely eager to get back in there and show my fans, that hey look, Kirkland is still a rising star, he’s still someone that’s going to make a stamp on boxing. And just to put on the gloves, show Texas and everybody out there I’ve still got the love and passion for boxing.”
Showing the most enthusiasm for the matchup was Cotto’s trainer, Freddie Roach, who said he’s enjoyed getting back in the gym with Miguel, and attested to the strength of his left hook during training in a colorful way not exactly kosher for this news website.
“If Miguel Cotto didn’t have a lot left, I wouldn’t be here,” said Roach. “He’s always in shape and he keeps himself close to weight, all the time. He’s tremendous. He works hard. If he didn’t look great in the gym, I wouldn’t let him fight. I care that much about him. He will be 100% ready for this fight and if he’s not 100% for this fight, it won’t happen.”
Roach said Kirkland made the right decision returning to Ann Wolfe. “James Kirkland always fights better with Ann Wolfe in his corner. He’s doing everything possible to be the best in this fight and we’re going to do the same.”
Michael Yormark, president and chief of branding and strategy for Roc Nation, said he was pleased to stage the fight at the new Ford Center at The Star, a new state-of-the-art, 510,000 square foot indoor athletic facility shared by the Dallas Cowboys, the City of Frisco, Texas and Frisco’s high schools. The facility seats 12,000 people. It will be among the first events at the new facility following a three-day indoor track meet.
“We knew that Jerry (Jones, Dallas Cowboys owner) was looking for a high-profile event to bring as the first professional sporting event to The Star,” explained Yormark. “We sat down with Jerry and his team and asked if he would be interested in doing this fight and he said absolutely.
Yormark said he’s confident of a good turnout. “Let’s not forget that the Cowboys have the largest Hispanic following in the NFL. We know that is going to help us sell tickets; it already has. Jerry Jones is clearly one of the greatest promoters in the world whether it’s the Cowboys or any event that he brings into one of his venues. He is the best of the best and his marketing team is second to none. You add all of that together and you’ve got a great, no-lose combination. Then you have a great, action packed fight. This was the right venue at the right time, in the right market with the right partner.”
Cotto and Kirkland have extended a lot of respect toward each other during their bicoastal media tour. Cotto said, “You have to be professional the whole way … The only place we are going to be enemies is in the ring February 25th. I wish him the best camp he could ever have. I’m going to do the same here in LA. All we want is to go there and present a good show for the fans. I know I’m going to put in 150 percent to do it, and that’s the way I am.”
In response to criticism about Cotto vs. Kirkland being a PPV event, Yormark is adamant it belongs there, is priced right at $49.95 and a value for what is sure to be an action-packed fight for as long as it lasts, going so far several times as to guarantee a knockout.
It’s possible this could be the last fight for whichever man loses, and Cotto has made it clear 2017 is his last year in the sport no matter what happens. Ringside Seat asked Cotto if he’s given thought to his legacy in the sport once he retires.
Cotto replied, “My legacy? I can’t control what people can say about me after I’m retiring. But all I do in life is for my family, for my kids, and that’s is going to be my legacy, what they think about me.”
“The Return,” Cotto vs. Kirkland airs on HBO PPV on Saturday, February 25, starting at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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