Ann Wolfe: Raw and uncut

Photo by Stacey Verbeek

Photo by Stacey Verbeek


There were over 31,000 in attendance at Minute Maid Park on Saturday night who witnessed Saul “Canelo” Alvarez’s brutal stoppage of James Kirkland, which punctuated three entertaining rounds of action. It was everything last weekend’s bout between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao wasn’t: fast-paced, violent and heartstopping.


But one particularly interested observer was in the midst of the frenzy in Houston.


Ann Wolfe.


The trainer, who had been mysteriously displaced by Kirkland in favor of Rick Morones and Bay Bay McClinton, watched her former pupil get viciously knocked out by an overhand right from Alvarez. As blunt as she is intense, she wasn’t pulling any punches in giving her assessment of the fight and Kirkland’s preparation.


When asked if Kirkland – often his own worst enemy – did this to himself, she answered succinctly, “No comment. Y’all know the answer to that.”


As for her emotions?


“What my emotions was, to see my family hold their faces, to see my son cry, to see James like that. To see his mother upset like that, see everybody upset. It wasn’t ‘I told you so; I’m happy because that happened to you’ – it was fucked up,” said Wolfe, about 20 minutes after Kirkland was stopped. “I don’t know no other words; it was fucked up seeing that because it could’ve been prevented. Not saying if I was in the corner, he would’ve won because I can’t take anything away from Canelo. That’s water under the bridge; James made his choice, so Canelo fought a good fight.”


On this particular evening, while Kirkland started off quickly, backing up Alvarez into the ropes, his punches were wide and often inaccurate but Wolfe points out, “James is wide a lot of the time. It’s not like he technically [regressed] or whatever. You can tell he didn’t put his ass through hell. You can tell that they didn’t bring his ass up. He was ripped for the weigh-in but, tonight, he looked as flat as fuck.”


What alarmed Wolfe was she had heard Kirkland was acting a bit too jovial before the fight, not like the snarling beast of the past.


Wolfe explained (as only she can), “They told me that James was laughing and talking and smiling this morning. I have him to the point where he will cuss your ass out before the fight. He’s not laughing and talking and smiling; I seen maybe 10 or 20 seconds of the James Kirkland that I knew throughout the fight. I seen little glimpses of it but I know it would fade because I could tell his body wasn’t ready to go through that. Once Canelo started banging the body – and he hurt Canelo a couple times – and then he had him hurt, he couldn’t bang his ass out.”


Wolfe doesn’t train you so much for boxing but for guerrilla warfare. Her methods aren’t just unorthodox; some would say they are downright brutal and sadistic. You get the feeling she would fit right in with the “Game of Thrones” style of combat and torture. But perhaps that type of physical preparation and mental torture made up for the technical flaws of Kirkland, whose style was predicated on pressure and two-fisted brutality.


Call her the Malcolm X of trainers – because she’ll use any means necessary to get a fighter prepared for battle.


“Let me tell you something: If I’ve got to kick him in the nuts a hundred times, I will kick him in the nuts a hundred times and throw him on the ground and beat on him,” said Wolfe with conviction. “If you look at James’ back, he’s got some fucking slave whips on his back because I beat his ass with a jump rope on the back to give him a certain type of pain that he’s not used to.


“I put his ass through HOLY…LIVING…HELL.”


(As she says this, you believe every single word and you understand this lady is not to be messed with.)


“Everybody want to know why I got no fighters; nobody want to go through it,” said Wolfe, admitting that not only is she not for everyone, she may not be for most fighters. And maybe Kirkland, now 31 years old, simply didn’t want to be to trained in such a torturous manner any longer. When he was younger, maybe that’s all he knew. Now he may have simply tired of going through such harsh working conditions.


But it has to be said; the record speaks for itself: Kirkland is 0-2 without Wolfe whipping him – and, according to Wolfe, literally – into fighting form.


Not helping matters is that it was nearly a year-and-a-half since Kirkland was last in the ring (a brutal sixth round stoppage of Glen Tapia in Dec. of 2013, the last time Wolfe trained Kirkland). Perhaps this is vindication for Wolfe, proof that, despite his flaws, Kirkland is a superior fighter with Wolfe in charge.


But please don’t ask her if this was bittersweet in any way.


“No, this isn’t bittersweet – this is fucked up. What’s sweet about this shit?” she stated incredulously. “You’re talking about 13 years of my life, where I could’ve stood up there in Houston, in front of 30,000 people with James Kirkland and we could’ve won because I would’ve made him take a couple of fights before then.”


So was this a money grab by his handlers?


“I don’t give a damn. Anyone that knows boxing knows James could’ve won that fight with me,” she replied with great intensity, “because what he did, when he did punch, he started standing right in front of the man. He didn’t move side-to-side. Everybody thinks I don’t know how to train. James stood right there and I knew once Canelo started chopping the right hand, James would duck down. [Canelo] chop it again; [Kirkland] ducked down. A good corner – which Canelo has – is going to tell him to come up with an uppercut because James is going to continue to drop down when he throws the right hand, instead of slipping over and move around.


“So when Canelo threw the right hand – Canelo didn’t think this for himself – the corner said, ‘Every single time you throw the right hand, he bends down.’ So what Canelo do? Feint the right hand and he threw the right hand and catch him. If he would’ve threw the left hook with that – James would be going to the hospital.”


It’s clear that Wolfe has great respect for Eddy and Chepo Reynoso, who have handled Alvarez from the very beginning of his career. As for the grade she would give Kirkland’s new training team?


“I’d give them a motherfucking F!,” she said simply and emphatically.





– David Itskowitch and Michael Yormark of Roc Nation Sports (which now promotes middleweight champion Miguel Cotto) were in attendance at Minute Maid Park to see Alvarez take care of business. It’s clear; if Cotto gets past Daniel Geale on June 6 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, those two are headed for a showdown in the fall. If Cotto comes out victorious versus Geale, then the question is: Who is the A-side and just where would this fight take place?


– Alvarez made it clear he would like to fight at least once a year in the state of Texas. He has drawn nearly 70,000 in his last two outings in the “Lone Star State” against Austin Trout and Kirkland. If you haven’t done so already, put seeing Canelo in Texas on your boxing bucket list. You’ll be around a lot of boxing fans and will experience an electric atmosphere. I always have a great time covering boxing there.


– I heard some people compare this weekend’s fight to Marvelous Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas Hearns. Uh, yeah, let’s pump the brakes on that. This was a very entertaining affair but largely one-sided and the result was never really in doubt. That said, it should be appreciated for what it was and how badly it was needed in contrast of the disappointment that was Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao and its ensuing aftermath.


– Would Kirkland have won with Wolfe training him? Maybe not but I think the track record is telling and it shows that “Mandingo Warrior” is a meaner, leaner fighting machine with her in charge. At the same time, it wouldn’t have mattered who was in the corner with that last right hand Kirkland absorbed while his back was to the ropes. But on the flipside, when Kirkland was at his savage best, he was the consummate pressure fighter with a distinct viciousness. Without Wolfe, he might have become…well, as Mickey Goldmill told Rocky Balboa, a bit too “civilized.”


– 50 Cent – who promotes Kirkland – made comments about reuniting his fighter with Wolfe but honestly it looks like this relationship has come and gone. Regardless of the results this past weekend, Kirkland just may not want to train in the fashion he did with her. But I do wonder if Wolfe will ever have a pugilist of this caliber again. I hope she does; I find her to be one of the most fascinating people in boxing and people like her make this gig so interesting.


– Houston had a problem in Frankie Gomez, who came in overweight and his fight with Humberto Soto – which was supposed to be his coming-out party on HBO – was scrapped. And he didn’t just miss weight; he came in at 147.5, 6.5 pounds over the contracted weight limit. So yeah, he basically skipped a weight class – so the more things change…the more they stay the same for Gomez, whose discipline has been questionable from the very beginning of his pro career. The Golden Boy Promotions brass is also a bit miffed at Freddie Roach (who was not present) and left wondering why they were not kept abreast of this situation heading into the fight.


The question now is will GBP take a hard line with Gomez or will they enable him the way Top Rank Promotions did with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., thus creating a perpetual problem child? Golden Boy President Oscar De La Hoya pointed out that this stage, stuck right between the Mayweather-Pacquiao replay and a live main event featuring Alvarez, was one coveted by a multitude of fighters and Gomez squandered it.


Personally, I tell Gomez that, in two weeks, he has to come into the Golden Boy offices and weigh himself – right in the middle of De La Hoya’s office – and if he doesn’t hit 145 pounds, they simply will not schedule his next fight – and then send him to Ann Wolfe immediately.


-After the weigh-in on Friday, I had a chance to speak quickly to Bernard Hopkins about Gomez at the hotel bar/restaurant at the J.W. Marriott, the hotel headquarters for the promotion. Needless to say, Hopkins, who is still looking to fight at age 50, wasn’t happy about the situation.


What really struck me was what was on his plate: a piece of salmon with a side salad and water. Trust me, folks; Hopkins eats like this literally every single day of the year, while he’s training for a fight or not. Being a professional prizefighter isn’t just about having good habits; it’s really about the lifestyle.





De La Hoya announced at the post-fight presser that his impressive, young bantamweight prospect, Joseph Diaz Jr., who pounded out a workmanlike 10-rounder over Giovanni Delgado, may have suffered a torn bicep…Taishan Dong should be nicknamed “Section 8” because he’s a huge project…Glen Tapia just may not have much punch resistance…Whether you think he beat Ricky Burns or not, Omar Figueroa Jr.’s prime may already be in his rearview mirror…Went to Goode Company BBQ in Houston; it was solid…Who’s going to the upcoming Gennady Golovkin fight at the Fabulous Forum?…So how many class-action suits is Pacquiao facing now?…I can be reached at and I tweet (a lot) at I also share photos of stuff at and can also be found at




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