Five pretty good fighters highlight HBO's triple-header this weekend. First up, James Kirkland-Joel Julio. Kirkland is a little bit older than Julio, but his career is actually where Julio's was some three years ago. The Austin native is a big-punching stud who's turned a lot of heads, but has never been tested. In 2005, Julio came up short in his first test against Carlos Quintana (when he was fighting at 147), and after stringing together some wins at 154, he lost again last year in a title fight to Sergei Dzindziruk. It would be easy to write him off as a semi-disappointment, but I think it's more a question of styles. A good mover who can jab and counter-punch will always give Julio problems. Kirkland is a very different type of fighter. He's an explosive southpaw with the type of power that discourages you from looking away from the action for even an instant. At the same time, he tends to square up when attacking, and he gets hit by a lot of right hands, even against ordinary fighters. That weakness plays right into Julio's strength (click here and fast-forward about 20 seconds for an example), but Kirkland's punching has been more than enough to compensate for his flaws thus far. I get the feeling that they could fight 10 times, and they would split the wins down the middle. After some hemming and hawing, I think Julio walks away with his hands raised tomorrow with a late knockout.
Victor Ortiz and Mike Arnoutis face off in another solid matchup. Arnoutis is an up-and-down fighter, capable of going from great to mediocre from one bout to the next. I think he'll look good in spots, and if the Arnoutis who fought Ricardo Torres shows up, it might be a rough night for Ortiz. But Ortiz, last year's ESPN Prospect of the Year, is a sharper puncher than Torres. Based on what little I've seen of him, he also seems to have more dimensions to his game. Even if the best Arnoutis shows up, Ortiz will chase him to a decision win.
Lastly, I like Robert Guerrero to win by early knockout in his defense against Daud Yordan.