The Austin Chronicle

Kirkland Knocks Out Cortes in Second Round

By Christopher Bond, September 8, 2008, 4:25pm, The Score

On an evening that saw ESPN’s Friday Night Fights come to Austin, many curious boxing fans wondered why all the hype about Austin’s own James Kirkland. He has a lofty 22 wins with 0 defeats, and 19 KO’s. As the main event neared, Kirkland could be seen in his locker room laughing and joking – he seemed relaxed. His opponent, Ricardo Cortes, is a man with a respectable 22-2 record with 15 KO’s. Before the fight, Cortes was lounging on a couch with his legs crossed. Was he nervous or was it all business?

The atmosphere was electric, and the fans were on their feet. Cortes came out first, looking relaxed and bouncing on his toes. When Kirkland’s rap intro music came on the speakers, it seemed as if the roof of the Austin Music Hall was going to blow off. The pride of Austin boxing was fighting on the world stage, and he looked focus.

When the bell rang, Kirkland came right after Cortes, as he usually does with any opponent. Kirkland landed several big combos early. Cortes countered with a few shots, but Kirkland landed several hard blows that made Cortes’ eye swell within the first two minutes of the fight.

During round two, Cortes wasn’t so lucky.

One minute 30 seconds into round two, and Cortes was in trouble. Kirkland landed several heavy combos, stunning Cortes and knocking him down. Like an animal fighting for survival, Kirkland pounced once he saw his prey stunned. It was over after 1 minute and 59 seconds as the ref stopped the fight. Cortes was still fighting back, and it seemed a bit premature to stop the fight. Although, if Kirkland was allowed to continue pounding on Cortes, the slender Californian might not have walked out on his accord.

ESPN’s Brian Kenny agrees. “Yes! He stopped (the fight) early,” Kenny said emphatically. “I said it on air. In a World Class, 10 round event, sometimes guys get carried out. But, another 45 seconds, and the fight would have been over anyway.”

I caught up with Kirkland after the fight and asked him about his performance. “I didn’t expect him to have as much power as he did,” said Kirkland. “He’s a ‘come on’ type of fighter.”

Kirkland was blunt in his disappointment of his outing. “I’m nowhere near happy with my performance,” he stated. “I made a bunch of mistakes.”

Wow! Kirkland knocks out a guy who has 22 wins under his belt in the second round of a 10-round bout, and he’s unhappy with his performance. That’s scary for his opponents. Brian Kenny agrees. “He’s special,” Kenny told me after the fight. “He’s a year away from being a world champion.”

It looks like Austin might have something special on their hands.

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