Commentary

Kirkland happy to be free to fight again

Updated: October 1, 2010, 11:17 PM ET
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

James KirklandAlexis Cuarezma/FightWireImages.com Home, sweet home. James Kirkland will be back where he belongs, in the gym.

Junior middleweight contender James Kirkland was released from Bastrop Federal Prison outside of his hometown of Austin, Texas, on Thursday and planned to resume training immediately, co-manager Cameron Dunkin told ESPN.com.

Kirkland (25-0, 22 KOs) will spend the next few months at a halfway house in Austin, but will be allowed to train. Dunkin said he will also look for a part-time job.

"He's out. He's very happy and had a chance to see his two kids," Dunkin said. "He'll be in a halfway house in Austin. He's already checked in there. He'll go through the weeklong orientation process. He's going to look for a job to start earning a check. But he'll be able to go and train as long as he's back by the curfew. He's going to start training immediately.

He's unbelievably happy to be out [of prison], as you can imagine. He doesn't want to go back there ever again."

Kirkland, 26, was one of the most fearsome rising 154-pound contenders in the world when he was incarcerated in April 2009, after pleading guilty to gun possession by a convicted felon.

He was supposed to be released on Sept. 17, but it was delayed because of a lack of beds at the halfway house.

"I've never seen him this happy, this jovial, this talkative," said co-manager Michael Miller, who met with Kirkland a couple of hours after his release. "I'm telling you, he's saying all the right things. He said, 'Michael, I understand my past and my mistakes. I can't wait to get back in the gym. I missed it and I can't wait.'"

On Friday, Kirkland issued a statement on his release through promoter Golden Boy.

"I can't wait to get back in the ring and pick up where I left off," Kirkland said. "I apologize to all my friends, family, team members and fans for everything that happened, but I promise that I will make everybody proud in the coming months and years."

Kirkland's return to the ring was expected to take place Nov. 6 in Newark, N.J., on the untelevised portion of Zab Judah's HBO fight against Lucas Matthysse. However, with the release coming two weeks later than expected, Dunkin said Kirkland won't return on that card. Instead, Golden Boy Promotions will put him on a December card to give him more time to train and adjust to life out of prison.

"We're not going to push him," Dunkin said. "There's no reason to push it. We'll go ahead and have him fight in December and make sure he's right. There's no reason to rush it."

One of the biggest questions surrounding his comeback is whether Ann Wolfe will continue training him. It doesn't look like it. Kirkland's arrest was a big issue between them.

"When I saw James, I told him, 'You two need to work this out, whatever your issues are,'" Miller said. "I don't know exactly what the issues are and I'm glad I don't know. But he knows he needs to visit with her and they need to get things cleared up one way or the other. I'd like nothing more than to hear, 'We've settled our differences and we're going forward.' But I don't know."

If she doesn't return to the corner, Wolfe will still be paid her 7.5 percent interest in his management contract, Dunkin said.

"James is going to find a gym in Austin and I'm sending him equipment," Dunkin said. "The trainer stuff, we have to talk about that. We don't know who it's going to be."

Miller said Kirkland weighed 172 pounds when he was released and "looked like he could fight tomorrow."

He has not fought since stopping Joel "Love Child" Julio in the sixth round on HBO in March 2009. He was scheduled to fight on the pay-per-view undercard of the Manny Pacquiao-Ricky Hatton fight in May 2009, but was arrested shortly before the fight.

Kirkland was on probation for a 2003 armed robbery conviction, in which he was arrested after allegedly buying a firearm, using his real identification, at a gun show near Austin. The weapon was discovered during a traffic stop. Because Kirkland was already a convicted felon, he was barred from possessing a gun, making the offense more serious and resulting in the jail time.

Jones closing in on title shot

Mike JonesChris Farina/Top Rank Mike Jones is inching closer and closer toward a shot at a title.

If welterweight Mike Jones defeats Jesus Soto Karass on Nov. 13 on the Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito HBO PPV undercard, it could pave the way for a title bout against Kell Brook. Brook's promoter, Frank Warren, said he has spoken with Top Rank's Bob Arum, who co-promotes Jones (22-0, 18 KOs) with Russell Peltz, about matching the Philadelphia contender with England's Brook (22-0, 15 KOs), after they each have one more bout.

With Pacquiao owning a welterweight belt but facing Margarito for a vacant junior middleweight belt, a potential Jones-Brook bout would be for the WBO's interim title. For that fight to happen, Jones will have to win in November and Brook would have to win a fight on Dec. 11, which will take place on a major show Warren is promoting in London to commemorate the 30th anniversary of his promotional career.

Brook is coming off his biggest career win, a fifth-round knockout of Michael Jennings in a Sept. 18 title eliminator.

"I'm so close to fighting for the world title now, and I'm really excited," Brook said. "If it's going to be Mike Jones next, then bring him on. I've got no fear of anyone that Frank puts in front of me. I look at his record and his long list of knockouts and I know that it would be one hell of a fight, but I know I would come out on top."

Peltz said the Jones side is interested in the fight and he has talked to Warren's office about it.

"I told them that Mike has his heart set on [fighting at] Cowboys Stadium on Nov. 13 and nothing short of a truckload of money was going to change that," Peltz said. "Frank decided to call Bob anyway. Bob called me Tuesday and we discussed it, and we both felt it was better to wait until next year. We spoke about a possible HBO date in the first quarter of 2011, about Mike fighting closer to home, perhaps in Philly or Atlantic City or New York. A lot will depend on how Mike performs in Dallas."

Quick hits

• Heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko (55-3, 49 KOs) is still in the market for an opponent when he makes his 10th title defense on Dec. 11 in Germany. Manager Bernd Boente told ESPN.com that the two leading candidates to get the fight are Alexander Dimitrenko and Derek Chisora. Dimitrenko (30-1, 20 KOs), who is based in Germany but, like Klitschko, is from Ukraine, suffered his only loss to Eddie Chambers in a July 2009 title eliminator. Chambers went on to face Klitschko in his next fight, and was dominated before being brutally knocked out in the 12th round. Dimitrenko, 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds, has a thin résumé but matches up well physically with Klitschko. England's Chisora (14-0, 9 KOs) is inexperienced, but he has back-to-back knockouts against opponents known in England -- a ninth-round knockout of Sam Sexton on Sept. 18 and a second-round knockout of former title challenger Danny Williams, who was stopped by Vitali Klitschko in a title fight but owns a knockout win against Mike Tyson. Boente said if terms are not reached with either of those fighters, former cruiserweight champ Jean-Marc Mormeck of France is back in the picture.

• Former junior lightweight titlist Jorge Barrios (49-4-1, 35 KOs) has a new opponent for his comeback fight in his native Argentina on Friday night (Telefutura). Instead of Humberto Martinez, Barrios will face late substitute Wilson Alcorro (28-12-3, 18 KOs) of Colombia in the scheduled 10-round lightweight bout, Barrios' first since November. Barrios was sidelined because of legal problems, stemming from his alleged involvement in a fatal car accident in January in which a pregnant woman was killed.

• Hot middleweight prospect David Lemieux (23-0, 22 KOs), an emerging star in Quebec, returns Oct. 29 in Montreal to face Hector Camacho Jr. (52-3-1, 28 KOs), promoter Yvon Michel told ESPN.com. "In principle, we have a deal with [Camacho's] manager but the contract has not been signed yet," Michel said. The fight will be Lemieux's first since knocking out former title challenger Elvin Ayala in the first round on June 11. A wrist injury forced Lemieux to withdraw from an Aug. 28 ESPN2 bout.

• When former light heavyweight champ Antonio Tarver makes his heavyweight debut against Nagy Aguilera on Showtime's "ShoBox" on Oct. 15 in Miami, Okla., another former titleholder will be making a comeback on the untelevised portion of the card. Kendall Holt (25-4, 13 KOs), a former junior welterweight beltholder, will face journeyman Octavio Narvaez (7-9-1, 4 KOs) of Nicaragua in an eight-round welterweight bout. Narvaez has lost six in a row. Holt will try to end a two-fight losing streak, after losing by decision in a title unification match with Timothy Bradley Jr. followed by a surprising sixth-round TKO loss to South Africa's Kaizer Mabuza in a title eliminator in February. Prospect Shawn Porter, who is dropping down to welterweight, will open the telecast against Hector Munoz. There are other prospects on the Gary Shaw-promoted card, too. Super middleweight Anthony Dirrell (Andre Dirrell's brother), cruiserweight Lateef Kayode, junior middleweight Ronald Hearns (son of Thomas Hearns) and junior middleweight Denis Duglin will all fight.

• On Nov. 8, ESPN2's "Salute to America's Heroes" Veterans Day boxing special (8 p.m. ET) from the military base in Jacksonville, N.C., will be headlined by lightweight John Molina against Raymundo Beltran. On the undercard, 2008 U.S. Olympian Shaun Estrada will fight in a six-round super middleweight bout.

• Junior welterweight Rock Allen (15-0, 7 KOs), the 29-year-old 2004 U.S. Olympian and son of high-profile trainer Naazim Richardson, is returning to action. Out since April 2009, Allen will ease into things with a scheduled six-rounder against an opponent to be named on Golden Boy's Oct. 8 "Solo Boxeo Tecate" (Telefutura) card in his hometown of Philadelphia. Junior welterweight Danny Garcia (18-0, 12 KOs), also of Philly, faces former title challenger Mike Arnaoutis (22-6-2, 10 KOs) in the main event. Allan has not fought in his hometown since 2006.

Quotables

"Boxing fans know that the little guys always make for the best fights, and this tournament is guaranteed to prove that again. This is a great opportunity for all of us to prove ourselves in the spotlight, and I am excited that this fight will take place in Mexico with all of the support of my people for the first time in my career." -- bantamweight Abner Mares, who will face Vic Darchinyan in Leon, Mexico, on Dec. 11 in the semifinals of Showtime's four-man tournament featuring some of the top 118-pounders in the world.

"I've always said, and believed in my heart that I am the best bantamweight in the world. Now it is time to prove it once and for all. I'm beyond happy and excited that Showtime is doing a tournament in this weight class. This truly is an opportunity that I never expected, and I am going to take full advantage of it. It is my destiny to win it all." -- Joseph Agbeko, who faces titlist Yonnhy Perez in a rematch Dec. 11 in the other semifinal of the bantamweight tournament.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.