James Kirkland has fallen into the tragic demographic of boxers who have to fight out of the ring in order to earn the right to fight in it. These legal disputes are notorious in boxing and they’re as countless as they are inevitable. But it makes it worse when a fighter is unable to compete due to litigation and has his prime consumed in the courtroom.
Kirkland spoke to Thaboxingvoice.com on his legal woes and his hopefulness of fighting again once these legal matters are cleared up. Even though there are no fights on the horizon, he continues to prepare his body for the inevitable return to the ring.
“They have a new gym out here in North Austin and I’m up here training at that gym. I’m basically training myself; a lot of the things that you don’t want to do you know you have to so you can make it to that level. All those things I did with Anne Wolfe I continue to do,” Kirkland said.
Although he is currently without an official trainer, James is optimistic that he will eventually find the perfect fit for him.
“In the meantime I’ll be in better shape until when I finally get with a coach that knows my style and knows how I like to be pushed to the next level and bring the best out of me.”
Kirkland is very confident in his lawsuit against Golden Boy Promotions and discussed how he linked up with attorney Sekou Gary — the same attorney that represented Yuriorkis Gamboa in his attempt at free agency.
“I’m just letting them push the buttons because I know 100% on the promotional side we’re going to get the verdict; we’re going to get the win. I’m looking at all the evidence and the only person that wouldn’t be able to understand the situation in the contract would be a blind person. It’s evident that the situation will go our way.
“I saw what happened with Gamboa and decided to get in touch with the attorney (Gary). I had to scramble for money and people putting up their houses to pay this attorney,” Kirkland said.
James says his attorney is also very confident in the case and has assured him that it is only a matter of time before he receives the verdict he is aspiring to reach.
“My attorney says the only problem that we have in this contract is time. We see a bunch of time that doesn’t need to be wasted, but the contract is 100% beatable, my attorney says it’s a knockout case and he doesn’t [use that term often].”
James has also said that his attorney feels that his case against Golden Boy is much clearer than that of Gamboa’s case with Top Rank.
“He said Gamboa’s situation was completely different and he still got him out of that one. My attorney doesn’t want to disclose how we’re going to do this through the media and I don’t want to expose Golden Boy. I like Golden Boy, the only person I have an issue with is Michael Miller. Its’ different with me and Cameron Dunkin, he got kicked out of the situation and Miller took advantage because he had a tight relationship with Golden Boy,” Kirkland said.
Even with animosity running high, James insists that he has no ill feelings in towards the heads of Golden Boy Promotions. He explained that he felt partially to blame for his own situation due to the lack of education he had on the business of boxing.
“It’s not that I dislike De La Hoya and Golden Boy Promotions because they’re wonderful people. I feel that at a certain level you’re supposed to be getting paid and there is a worth in boxing. They saw me fight for nothing numerous times.
“I fought a lot of fights that I didn’t get paid proper and it was a lack of knowledge on my part. My job was always to train and perform in the ring and I never knew the ins and outs of the boxing world. Now I did my research and I found out that I was getting the end of the stick when I should’ve got the whole stick.”
It’s hard to imagine a situation where Kirkland and Golden Boy continue doing business together after it is all said and done. However, James believes that there will be opportunities for him to move on and he is convinced that many within the boxing ranks feel for his situation — although he made it clear that he is not discussing terms with anyone until his legal matters are behind him.
“There are so many people that have talked to me on that end of the table. I feel like everybody in the boxing world looks at my position and they say ‘Kirkland, I want to be able to do this with you or work this with you and I’ll be able to do this and that,’ and everything can sound good, but at the end of the day it’s just on paper and I just can’t discuss any business until after the legal business is settled. I can’t really discuss business with anyone until after the lawsuit goes through. But I feel that there are a lot of people that would want Kirkland a part of their team.”
These legal issues aren’t the only ones that have plagued James; his past is riddled with serious legal problems stemming from a robbery charge in 2003. James was also convicted of a felony firearm possession and was sentenced to 2 years in prison back in 2009, but was released in September 2010. He seems to be putting that stuff behind him and is making strides in correcting his behavior.
“I’ve been hanging around positive people, like role models. I was my own downfall in this situation. I made an error in life, but everybody makes mistakes. I regret it to the upmost and I would never jeopardize my freedom or being able to be around my kids.”
Although James is able to keep things in perspective with Golden Boy, he feels that the root of the problems stem from his relationship with his former attorney Michael Miller. He described some pretty unsettling business as it pertains to what he felt was going on with Miller and his dealings.
“I just feel in my heart this is what was going on where Golden Boy came to Michael Miller and said ‘hey look if you can get Kirkland to sign this right here we know you got other fighters and we’ll put them on and you’ll have 6 fighters fighting and get a percentage from all of your fighters so just tell Kirkland this is the fight.’ I thought Michael Miller had my best interest at heart to say ‘that’s not right, Kirkland is worth way more.’ But [Miller] made a decision to tell me ‘Kirkland, if you take this fight Golden Boy automatically give you a million dollars next fight,’ I heard that damn near 6 times already.”
James said in the interview that Golden Boy reached out to him through his attorney in order to smooth things over — probably in hopes of making an eventual match between Kirkland and “Canelo” Alvarez. However, at this point it seems that James is playing for keeps and is adamant about not making the same mistakes throughout the remainder of his career.
“Even if you can try to resolve the situation the contract has been breached, there was a problem before I even signed. [Golden Boy] came to my attorney and brought it to his attention that they could work something out and the money they came back with was almost the amount I was asking for in the first place, which they were going to pay Victor Ortiz. Say they fix the problem now and me and Alvarez fight and I beat him, who’s to say they won’t do it in my next fight,” Kirkland said.
I truly hope that these issues get resolved in a timely manner. Kirkland is one of the most exciting and dynamic fighters in his division; that’s saying a lot in the warrior filled weight class that is 154lbs. Time is of the essence and a fighter’s prime isn’t always determined by age so much as it is opportunity.
Kirkland already suffered a setback in his career with his jail stint and when he came back he was forced to take a step back in competition from where he left off. It hasn’t been too long since his last outing — a not so spirited bout against Carlos Molina back in March of this year — and we’ve seen fighters take much longer layoffs. But it stands to reason that this layoff hasn’t even begun to grow legs.
Assuming Kirkland’s case is rock solid — which is impossible to know until it actually plays out — it may take longer to pursue than anyone could predict. In these types of cases, even the crudest pessimists can undershoot the length of litigation.