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Kirkland eyes possible big-name return

James Kirkland, left, has been inactive since his exciting December knockout against Glen Tapia. Chris Farina/Top Rank

One of the more common questions I get these days from #FightFreaks in the non-Mayweather/non-Pacquiao category is: "What's up with James Kirkland?"

Kirkland, of course, is the wildly aggressive and wildly entertaining junior middleweight power puncher with a shaky chin, and that always makes things interesting when he's in the ring.

He was last seen doing a number on Glen Tapia in December, engaging him in a tremendously exciting and competitive fight for three rounds and then beating Tapia down for three more rounds until the fight was finally stopped in the sixth round. It was a big win for Kirkland (32-1, 28 KOs), 30, of Austin, Texas, to bump off the undefeated prospect.

Rather than capitalize on the slugfest that had so many fans talking about him, Kirkland, for what seems like the millionth time, wound up in a layoff and in a snit with his handlers, trying to break contracts with his managers and trainer Ann Wolfe (who has a small percentage of his managerial contract).

That led to yet another layoff, although it's better for Kirkland to have that kind of layoff than some of the others he has had in the past when he was in prison.

So I checked in with Michael Miller, Kirkland's co-manager, on Thursday to see what was going on with the fighter. Miller said the managers had their contract upheld by a judge in March and that they and promoter Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson are trying to line something up for him.

"It's frustrating to watch him sit," Miller said. "James wasn't communicating very well with his promoter, 50 Cent, or with us. But we finally said, 'Why don't we all work together and try to put it back together,' and that's where we are."

Kirkland figures to land a major fight before the end of the year, considering former junior middleweight titlist Canelo Alvarez plans to fight in November, and newly crowned middleweight champ Miguel Cotto intends to fight in December. They both need an opponent and Kirkland would make sense for either.

Miller, who has a good relationship with Eric Gomez, the vice president and matchmaker for Golden Boy, which used to promote Kirkland, said they have been talking about a possible Alvarez fight.

"Eric and I have kicked around the idea of a Canelo fight," Miller said. "We talked about if Canelo was offered would we need a tune-up fight? Kirkland doesn't need a tune up. I said talk to 50 Cent and see if we can put it together. If not, we'll listen to other offers. We're open to suggestions. If Cotto makes sense, of course, we'd listen.

"But the fight Kirkland has wanted is Canelo. He has wanted it forever. He screwed himself two years ago, but he's still motivated to fight Canelo and would take it in a heartbeat."

In May 2012, days after Paul Williams was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident and his September 2012 fight with Alvarez was canceled, Kirkland accepted the fight as a substitute opponent.

But days later, Kirkland dropped out saying his injured shoulder was not 100 percent. But he also said he would go through with the fight for more money. The fight ultimately went to Josesito Lopez.

Miller is hoping to revive the fight with Alvarez or land Cotto.

"We'd prefer Canelo, but Cotto would be fine too," Miller said, adding that he saw Kirkland last weekend and that he was in good shape and weighing about 175 pounds.

Miller also manages junior middleweight Alfredo Angulo, who was stopped by Alvarez in the 10th round in March and has lost two fights in a row by 10th-round stoppage.

Angulo (22-4, 18 KOs), who lost a fantastic fight to Kirkland in 2011, is training with Virgil Hunter in the Bay Area and looking for a fall return.

"I'm hoping to get him on the Floyd Mayweather undercard with Mayweather's approval," Miller said of Mayweather's Sept. 13 rematch against Marcos Maidana. "When I was talking to Eric about Angulo [who is with Golden Boy], that's when Canelo and Kirkland came up," Miller said.