- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Junior middleweight contender James Kirkland is getting out of prison ahead of schedule, co-manager Cameron Dunkin told ESPN.com on Wednesday.
Kirkland's original release date of Oct. 2 has been moved up to Sept. 17, Dunkin said.
"Sept. 17 is my birthday, so that's the greatest birthday present I could have right now," Dunkin said. "I'm so happy."
Kirkland (25-0, 22 KOs) was one of the hottest rising stars in boxing before going to prison near his hometown of Austin, Texas, in April 2009 after pleading guilty to gun possession by a convicted felon.
Kirkland will be released into a halfway house, where he will be for six months, Dunkin said. Dunkin said he thought the reason for the release coming earlier than expected was because a spot at a halfway house had become available.
"He'll go to the halfway house, but he'll have the right to travel and the right to train and fight," Dunkin said.
Dunkin said Kirkland, 26, intends to fight as soon as possible after his release, and Dunkin has already spoken to his promoter, Golden Boy, about a plan.
"I've been talking with [matchmaker] Eric Gomez and [CEO] Richard Schaefer about when he's going to fight," Dunkin said. "We think we can get him a fight in October and get him going."
Schaefer said he hoped Kirkland would fight twice before the end of the year.
"The plan would be to have him fight a couple of times before the end of the year, starting maybe in October," Schaefer said. "We'll see what works best for him, but then have him fight again in December, maybe on one of our [untelevised] HBO undercards and maybe HBO could show highlights of his fight. After that, hopefully, James and his management feel he is ready to pick up where he left off, which was terrorizing the junior middleweight division."
Dunkin said Kirkland weighed 173 pounds at last check with his clothes on and would have no problem getting close to his weight class of 154 pounds once he begins serious training.
He has not fought since stopping Joel "Love Child" Julio in the sixth round on HBO in March 2009. He was supposed to fight on the pay-per-view undercard of the Manny Pacquiao-Ricky Hatton fight in May 2009, but the fight was canceled when he was arrested.
Kirkland was on probation for a 2003 armed robbery conviction when he was arrested after buying a firearm, using his own identification, at a gun show near Austin. The weapon was discovered during a traffic stop and because Kirkland was a convicted felon, he was barred from possessing a gun, making his offense a serious one.
"It was wrong, what he did, and he had to pay for it," Schaefer said. "Hopefully, now he will be able to resume his career and learn from what has happened."
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com.