One thing that is pretty interesting about boxing is just how much of an impact an unexpected shock can give the sport. Not every upset leads the fighters to greatness, but today's "What a shock" looks at an upset so big it ended up leaving the winner on the radar of fans around the globe right through the end of his career. It also ended up destroying the aura of invincibility the other fighter had.
April 9th 2011
MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Nobuhiro Ishida (22-6-2, 7) Vs James Kirkland (27-0, 24)
Coming in to this bout James Kirkland was the "Mandingo Warrior", a huge punching bad boy. He was a wrecking ball and was looking to make up for lost time. He had been an emerging contender in 2008 before out of the ring issues slowed his climb to a world title fight. After ending 2008 with a 24-0 (21) record he would go on to stop Joel Julio in early 2009 before being out of the ring for almost 2 years due to issues with the law. After returning in 2011 Kirkland had notched two blow out wins in the space of 13 days to get some more traction in his career before meeting with little known Japanese fighter Nobuhiro Ishida a few weeks later. This was supposed to be another easy win for Kirkland against a little known Japanese fighter who was expected to get blitzed and allow Kirkland to shake some more ring rust and look good in the process.
Available as a 35/2 under-dog Nobuhiro Ishida was supposed to be the next fall guy for Kirkland. He was supposed to be there to make Kirkland look good on a card headlined by Marcos Maidana facing Erik Morales. With just 7 stoppage wins in 28 bouts the 6'1" Japanese fighter was given no chance. He had only fought outside of Japan once before, losing to Saul Alvarez's brother Rigoberto Alvarez in Mexico 6 months prior to facing Kirkland, and his best wins up to this point were two decisions against Venezuelan puncher Marco Antonio Avendano. Coming into the bout he hadn't beaten a single fighter that American fans would recognise at the time and hadn't scored a stoppage in over 3 years and was now 35 years old.
The commentary made it known what was expected here. They explained it was a "stay busy fight for Kirkland", "build Kirkland back up to the top" and a "showcase fight". Their was no buttering this up from Max Kellerman and the folks at HBO who were clear. This will be easy for Kirkland.
Despite coming in as a man being given almost no chance by anyone Ishida shocked everyone by putting Kirkland down with a left hand after around 20 seconds, incorrectly called by Jim Lampley as a counter right. Ishida would keep the pressure on Kirkland and drop his man again after just 70 seconds. Kirkland got back to his feet but Ishida continued to land counters as Kirkland tried to fight back. In less than 2 minutes Kirkland was dropped for a third time. This resulted in Joe Cortez stopping the bout, giving Ishida a monstrous upset win, and his first ever opening round T/KO victory.
The post fight showed just how over-looked Ishida was with HBO having no translator on hand to help interview Ishida before speaking to Kirkland. Things were then made worse with Kirkland suggesting it was a poor stoppage, drawing loud boos from the crowd.
After this bout Ishida would go on to have an interesting run of fights which saw him facing off with Paul Williams, Dmitry Pirog and Gennady Golovkin all in the space of 2 years. He would later challenge for the Japanese Heavyweight title, losing to Kyotaro Fujimoto, before retiring and setting up his own gym in Japan.
Kirkland on the other hand fought at recently as last year, and since losing to Ishida he has gone 7-1 (6), with his only loss since Ishida coming to Saul "Canelo" Alvarez.
Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).