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Forgotten Warriors: James Kinchen


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Also known as "The Heat". Kinchen was a top contender in the middleweight and super middleweight divisions of the 80's and managed to knock down Tommy Hearns once and had him in big trouble. One can always think about how his career would have looked had he managed to put Hearns away, because then he would have won a world title. Kinchen was a good slugger and a tough guy who also could box well enough to beat some of the more crude guys. In all of his fights while prime, Kinchen gave a good account of himself and was only stopped once in his prime-by the dangerous puncher Juan Domingo Roldan. He stood just under 5'10 (176 cm) and fought from an orthodox stance. This is the story of James THE HEAT Kinchen.


He was born in San Diego on March 1 1958 and trained out of McKinney, Texas, as amateur. There, he won 3 Golden Gloves and 3 Southwestern AUU championships and finished his career at 127-12. He made his professional debut on August 8 1980, winning by first round ko. After winning 12 straight fights, he drew against the 2-0 Everett Conklin, whom he then stopped in the rematch by KO6. In November 1983, he beat Murray Sutherland by UD10-Sutherland would go on to win the first IBF super middle title soon thereafter. He drew against the solid Jorge Amparo in September 1984 and then fought Alex Ramos for the USBA middle title on November 24-he went on to knock out Ramos in 9 rounds in a fight televised by NBC. He was now 33-0-2, when he faced his first defeat fighting James "Black Gold" Shuler, then a very promising talent, whose career would end suddenly and tragically later. Kinchen dropped a close split decision to the 20-0 Shuler, who would go on to lose by first round ko to Kinchen's future adversary Hearns. He started 1985 by decisioning the very capable slugger Buster Drayton in 10 rounds and then stopped Frank Minton twice, first by TKO9 and then by KO7, before fighting Iran Barkley at Cobo Arena in Detroit on October 17; it was a wild slugfest where Kinchen was down briefly in the 8th and in the end got on the wrong end of another split decision. Even worse, on April 6 next year, he faced Juan Domingo Roldan of Argentina and the fight was a true slugfest, Roldan developing a small nosebleed during it, but Kinchen developed a bad swelling under his eyes and in round 9, his trainer Eddie Futch entered the ring apron and the fight was stopped. After losing controversially by disqualification in 3 rounds against journeyman Larry Musgrove, his career seemed to be on a downward trajectory.


Briefly, he entered the light heavyweight ranks and won the California state title there by UD12 against Tim Williams, but soon decided to vacate it and fight as a super middleweight instead. On October 13 '88, he beat Marvin Mack by UD12 to win the NABF title, which was the biggest one he would ever hold. This then qualified him for a fight for the vacant WBO title and his opponent was noone else but Thomas "Hitman" Hearns. The fight amazingly took place less than a month after the Mack one, since Hearns' original opponent Fulgencio Obelmejias pulled out with a rib injury. The fight happened November 4, at Las Vegas Hilton. For Hearns, this was an opportunity to pick up a world title at his fifth weight class. For Kinchen, this meant everything. A chance to finally achieve something big and show the world what he was capable of. After 3 rounds that were dominated by Hearns' crisp punching, midway through round 4, Kinchen drove the considerably taller Hearns to a corner where he first hit him with a right and then nailed him perfectly with a left hook. Hearns hit the canvas immediately and although he made the count, he looked on shaky legs and retorted to holding, which then cost him another point. He came back in the next round, but Kinchen kept having his moments and in round 8 he hit him with many punches to the body and head with Hearns against the ropes. It looked like a very close fight, however, many thought that because of the knockdown and the point deduction, the decision would go to Heat Kinchen. In the end, the scorecards were shouted out: judge Larry Rozadilla 114-114, judge Bill Graham 115-112 and judge Cindy Bartin 114-112-Hearns won by majority decision. Many people that watched the fight were not satisfied with the decision, but the opinions were mixed, also among the sports journalists. Associated Press and UPI both had Kinchen winning, 114-112 and 114-113 respectively, but KO Magazine and The Ring Magazine had Hearns ahead 114-113 and 115-112. Whatever the truth, this would be the fight where The Heat peaked and he would lose his next fight to Christophe Tiozzo by UD10 and then was stopped in 1 round against Virgil Hill, fighting for his WBA light heavy title. Kinchen started out well and hurt Hill with a left uppercut to the head and a right hook to the body, but was then hit and staggered by a surprise left hook and was then put down with a follow up barrage. He got up but was soon stopped on his feet. That was October 24 1989 and definitely the end of James Kinchen as a world class fighter. Although he beat Jorge Amparo in his next fight, he had nothing left to give as a serious contender and his last attempt at a world title against the IBF light heavy champion Charles Williams ended in a 2-round demolition, where he was down in the first round and stopped after only 23 seconds of the second. He still wouldn't retire but won one more fight before again being stopped in 1992 by TKO8 by Ernesto Magdaleno. That was his final fight.


His record is 48 wins with 33 ko's, 9 losses and 2 draws. His younger brother, Robert "Lil Heat" Kinchen, also boxed as a pro and retired with a record of 3-0. Kinchen is now a pastor at the Helping Hands Baptist church in San Diego. He is now saving souls, instead of knocking them out. James Kinchen was an exciting and hard-fighting warrior who always gave it his best and was involved in some very exciting fights. He was also on the losing end of some very close fights against some of the best fighters of that time. And for that-he is a FORGOTTEN WARRIOR!

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