Update Kirkland was stopped just now in the first round. Hopefully, it’s the end for him

Former boxing champion Ann Wolfe defined her identity as a boxer.  In the ring, she was a nasty devastating puncher— many believed that women boxers were scared to fight her during her career. 

When she left the sport, Wolfe transitioned into a role as a trainer and she took her duties seriously; she displayed the same energy and demanding work ethic from her fighters which were all men. 

If the fighter called himself the best, Wolfe’s expectations were that he demonstrated this regularly during training and on fight night.  And when needed, Wolfe wasn’t afraid to add extra motivation—she once told a fighter in between rounds, “you took his nuts, now take his heart.”

Ann Wolfe

Wolfe admitted that she was “emotionally crazy.” By the time she took over as head trainer for former world contender James Kirkland, she taught Kirkland intensity, no fear and no respect for his opponents.

“She’s going to beat your body down and tear it to nothing and build it back up. You are going to feel so strong,” Kirkland said during an HBO Documentary in 2009.  

Wolfe validated what Kirkland said, “a lot of males will say ‘how can you train a man because a woman is kind of soft’? she said. “When it comes to training and comes to killing and destroying an opponent, I try to bring a fighter to that red zone; that kill zone where you try to kill them [his opponents],” she said. “If you are weak, you will die; if you are strong, you live; that’s how the world goes around.”

Kirkland eventually split from Wolfe and boxing due to legal issues.

 In 2009, Kirkland was on probation for an armed robbery conviction in 2003 and spent 30 months in prison.

After his release, Kirkland was arrested again after being pulled over for possession of a firearm by a felon.  He was convicted and spent 24 months in prison after pleading guilty to the firearm charge.  And in 2013, Kirkland was arrested for assault and put in jailed once again.

“I am a good guy.  I made a mistake, a devastating mistake,” he said during a 2009 interview for a program that HBO aired called 2 days Portrait of A Fighter. “I was on the verge of getting a title shot and blew it; words can’t explain how I wanted a new life. People can look at me and say that’s a great kid instead of this dude just got out of jail.”

Kirkland and Wolfe

Kirkland reunited with Wolfe, and the fighter-trainer continued their winning streak until the team parted ways for good. When Kirkland was trained by Wolfe, he was undefeated (26-0); after their split, he lost twice—one of them in devastating fashion to Pound-4-Pound-king Canelo Álvarez. 

“When it comes to Ann, I feel she’s a good trainer, but it’s just a personal thing, and I am going to leave it at that,” he told HBO during a fighter’s meeting in 2012.

Since the Alvarez defeat, Kirkland (34-2, 30 KOs) makes his return to the ring tonight after two years when he challenges Juan Macias Montiel (21-4-2, 21 KOs) in a scheduled 10-round middleweight bout (on Fox TV).

HOUSTON, TX – MAY 9: Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (black/green trunks) and James Kirkland (black/red trunks) during their 12 round super welterweight fight at Minute Maid Park on May 9, 2015 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Ed Mulholland/Golden Boy/Golden Boy via Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***Saul Alvarez; James Kirkland

Why Kirkland accepted a daunting task in facing Montiel as his first fight back is somewhat confusing. But from  Kirkland’s logic, his inactivity isn’t of concern.

“We worked on a lot in the gym, things that this kid [Macias] has in him,” he told writer Francisco A. Salazar during an interview with The Ring magazine. “We stayed sharp in the gym, but we focused on facing tall fighters.  I believe this is the type of fight I need and I’m truly prepared. I’ve been on weight, even as I try not to eat too much chicken and tamales,” he said.

Boxers are notorious for putting the blame onto their trainers when they lose or their careers stall. Kirkland will have Rick Morones as his trainer tonight— Kirkland’s third since leaving Wolfe.  

But Kirkland told Salazar that Morones has added something different.  

“I told myself that I had the perfect team [even without Ann],” Kirkland said. “I had a solid training camp, but it was on things I was working on. When I was working with the new trainer [Rick Morones], it felt like I was training with two left feet [ before that],” he said.

Kirkland is 37-years-old and has been in tough fights throughout his career. But once again, Kirkland takes it in stride “…Age is just a number. Being old doesn’t have anything on you. I had people challenging and doubting me on whether I can go back to the ring and fight. I had great sparring partners for this camp. I spent tons of hours getting ready. I know more about rehydrating correctly and what to give my body when it needs it.”

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