James "The Heat" Kinchen

James "The Heat" Kinchen Biography

Boxer (1958–)
African-American boxer James 'The Heat' Kinchen lost a controversial championship fight to Thomas 'Hitman' Hearns in November 1988.


Born in Texas on March 1, 1958, James "The Heat" Kinchen won several amateur boxing tournaments before turning professional in 1980. He recovered from a mid-career swoon to earn a WBO middleweight championship bout against Thomas Hearns, which ended with a close loss. Kinchen eventually became a pastor after ending his boxing career, and was elected to the California Boxing Hall of Fame in 2012.

Early Years and Amateur Career

James "The Heat" Kinchen was born on March 1, 1958, in Texas. He began boxing at age 15, with the goal of having his picture featured in his hometown newspaper, The McKinney Gazette. Kinney won his first Golden Gloves title as a light heavyweight, and won the prestigious amateur tournament a total of five times across four separate weight classes.

Kinchen went on to win the National Police Athletic League light heavyweight title in 1978. Although he lost in semifinals of the National Amateur Athletic Union championships in 1980, his performance caught the eye of manager Bobby DePhilippis and trainer Wes Wambold, and he moved to San Diego to be close to their base of operations.

Professional Career

After embarking on his professional career in 1980, Kinchen proved a formidable presence in the ring. His knockout of Alex Ramos in November 1984 landed him the United States Boxing Association middleweight championship, and with a gaudy 34-0-2 record, he expected to have a shot at world champion "Marvelous" Marvin Hagler.

But Kinchen's career took a sudden, surprising downturn. He suffered his first loss to James Shuler in February 1985, and was saddled with back-to-back defeats by Iran Barkley and Juan Roldan soon afterward. A third loss in the span of four fights, to Larry Musgrove in August 1987, seemingly left him headed for boxing oblivion.

Kinchen not only managed to salvage his career by moving up a weight class, he earned himself another shot at a major title. Following the formation of the World Boxing Organization sanctioning body, Kinchen met ring legend Thomas "Hitman" Hearns for its vacant super middleweight belt in November 1988. Despite dropping Hearns in the fourth with a powerful right, Kinchen wound up on the losing end of a controversial judges' decision.

Kinchen remained among the top contenders, but the Hearns fight would be the closest he came to that elusive title. He was quickly knocked out by Virgil Hill in their World Boxing Association light heavyweight title matchup in October 1989, and another championship bout against "Prince" Charles Williams in April 1991 ended in similar fashion. Kinchen fought just twice more professionally, finishing with a loss to Ernesto Magdaleno in April 1992 that left him with a career record of 49-9-2.

Troubles and Recognition

Like many boxers, Kinchen endured financial difficulties after leaving the ring, but he eventually found his footing as a pastor in the San Diego area. 

Although he fell just short of big-time boxing fame, Kinchen's still-impressive career earned its due recognition with his induction to the California Boxing Hall of Fame in 2012.

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