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Kermit Cintron Returns

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It’s been over a year since we last saw welter-to-junior middleweight contender and former titleholder Kermit “The Killer” Cintron, 32-3-1 (28). He returns from a 14-month layoff this Saturday night on Showtime in a co-feature bout against the veteran Carlos Molina. In the main event, Brandon Rios takes on Urbano Antillon in a SoCal lightweight grudge match that is sure to have the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA rocking. The last image we have of Cintron was in this very building against Paul Williams. It is not one any boxing writer or fan in attendance or watching on HBO will soon forget. It defied explanation. It is a moment seemingly frozen in time and yet another odd turning point for two men whose bad luck seemed to run parallel to each other.

 

 

 

The fight had almost happened on at least two occasions over the course of two years dating back to July 2007 when both men were active at welterweight. The first time Cintron and Williams were signed to fight, in February of 2008, Cintron pulled out due to injuring his hand in a November 2007 bout with Jesse Feliciano.

 

 

Both men would make terrible choices in replacement opponents. Williams would go on to get outboxed on the February date by Carlos Quintana, who he would immediately rematch and knock out. Cintron agreed to rematch the only man to have beaten him at this point, Antonio Margarito. The “Tijuana Tornado” would stop Cintron one round later, the sixth, this time.


After the second loss to Margarito, Cintron’s career took some serious twists. He rebounded with a win over Lovemore N’Dou, followed that with the weirdest draw of all time with Sergio Martinez in a fight many feel Cintron lost twice. Cintron came back from that with his most complete fight as a professional, outboxing Alfredo Angulo over 12 rounds in May 2009. That fight made him the number one contender for Martinez who held the WBC junior middleweight belt at the time. Martinez had other plans rather than rematching Cintron, so he stayed busy in October of 2009 with a win over Juliano Ramos. Finally, in May of last year, the fight with Williams presented itself.
 
Both men were in great positions in their careers. Cintron was presented with a winnable fight while on something of a roll. Williams, fresh from a “Fight of the Year” with Sergio Martinez the previous December, had momentum but had taken some serious shots with Martinez. The timing for this fight could not have been more perfect.
 
The fight began tight and tentative at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA. The crowd was light but tense and the fighters tried to get the each other to lead. That alone made the tension grow. Each punch seemed to matter just a little bit more. Cintron boxed on the outside, working his long range game, staying patient in the hopes that Williams would charge him.
 
Cintron’s trainer, Ronnie Shields, told me during a recent appearance on Leave-it-in-the-ring.com radio show that it was his belief that the longer Cintron boxed and countered Williams, the harder it would be for the lanky southpaw to restrain himself. Williams is aggressive by nature but leaky defensively. The plan was to make him rush in and walk into a Cintron right hand power shot. 
 
“That was the plan,” Cintron told me last week from Houston where he was finishing up a then-seven week training camp. “Let him come in so I can catch him with a big shot because when he comes in, he comes in all stupid, all wide open. When he starts throwing those stupid punches that he throws, he leaves himself open for any shot. When I caught him with that big right hand, I saw his knees buckle. I thought, ‘OK, I got him.’ I tried waiting for him to come back in for a big uppercut but it didn’t really happen that way.”
 
By the fourth round, the fight was perhaps 2-1, Cintron. He had countered effectively and worked his jab just enough to take the first rounds on my scorecard. The third round seemed to be where Williams was finding his rhythm and range. In the fourth, Cintron’s plan either worked or Williams’ plan was to explode into the middle of the fight. Either way, Williams came out of the gate fast, landing a long left hand that put Cintron into the ropes. The fight that had threatened to break for three rounds had finally broken through.
 
“With the fight, I was having a great night,” explained Cintron. “I was doing what I was asked to do by my trainer. I felt like I was winning the fight. Until the fourth round, he caught me with a good left. I was on the ropes and I came back with a counter and caught him with a big right hand that buckled him.”
 
With that right hand, Williams’ knees did indeed buckle. He moved backward for a moment and the two men began to let go. They moved to just off center ring near a neutral corner and then “I kind of threw a right hook type punch,” said Cintron. “He ducked down and I put my forearm behind his head. I was pressing down on him. I learned that from Bernard Hopkins. Pressing down on somebody, let him fight his way back up so they get more tired. So that’s what I was doing. I was pressing on him and next thing you know, he falls. And because of all the pressing down, when he fell, my momentum just had me going.”
 
Williams went down and Cintron launched forward through the ropes, hitting the table on his way down. He would kind of rise and then hit the floor soon after. What followed has been debated ad nauseam.
 
“And you know, next thing you know, I am out the ring, gasping for air,” Cintron explained. “As I went out the ring, I hit the monitor on my back on the my lower right side. It knocked the wind out of me. So I am on the ground, gasping for air, trying to catch my breath and the doctor is asking me if I am OK to continue. Well, at that moment when I was gasping for air, my answer is going to be shaking my head and saying, ‘No.’ He asked me twice. He asked me twice and both times I shook my head saying, ‘No,’ you know?”
 
The fight would be called off when Cintron could barely move from the floor where he landed (either because he was told to or because he could not move is up for debate). However, in a story days after the fight on May 10, 2010, the L.A. Times’ Lance Pugmire wrote a story on where the ringside physician, Dr. Paul Wallace, explained why he stopped the fight. 
 
 
"I did say I wanted the fight stopped because the fighter twice said he could not continue," Dr. Wallace told The Times in Pugmire’s story. "He was asked, ’Can you continue?’ and he said, ’No.’ Twice. If he had mentioned to me something like, ’Give me a moment ...’I understand; these are warriors. Any hint that he still wanted to participate, we would’ve given that to him. We would have got him up and given him a second evaluation."
 
Cintron explained that because he had the wind knocked out of him and the accident was no fighter’s fault, as per the rules of the California State Athletic Commission, he had five minutes to recover.
 
From the CSAC rulebook:
 
516. Method of Scoring When There Is an Injury Not Resulting from a Foul.
 
If the referee determines that the injured fighter was responsible for his own injury, the referee will not penalize his opponent in any manner. In this case, if the referee or ring physician determines that the injured fighter is unable to continue, he will lose by "technical knockout".
 
If the referee determines that no fault was attributable to either fighter, the referee shall allow the injured fighter 5 minutes to recover. If, at the end of the recovery period, the referee or the ringside physician determines that the injured fighter cannot continue, the bout will be decided on the scorecards if a majority of the rounds have been completed (including the round in which the injury occurred) or, if a majority of the rounds have not been completed , the bout will be called a technical draw.
 
Now this rule may seem a bit technical but here is the thing; Shields, Cintron  and then-promoter Lou DiBella thought this scheduled 12-rounder was under the unified rules of the Association of Boxing Commissions. Since the fight was a 12-round special attraction and not a title fight, the CSAC, in the rules meeting right before the fight, declared the fight under CSAC jurisdiction. Those rules call for a five-minute recovery period.
 
“I’m trying to catch my breath and at the same time I am thinking, ‘I’ve got five minutes to recover so I am going to take my time,” said Cintron. “Next thing you know, I started getting my wind back and I am trying, about to get up and [the doctor] tells me to stay down, that the fight was over. I’m telling him that I was fine. I am ready to continue. You know, ‘Let me get up. Don’t take this fight from me.’ He said, ‘No. The fight’s already over.’ I knew right there and then that they were going to take the fight away from me. I wanted my five minutes. I had the right to five minutes to recover.”
 
The significant rule change applied to the scoring in the event of an accident like the one that eventually occurred. Under ABC rules, four rounds have to be completed for scores to be tallied. If not, the fight is a no-contest. Under CSAC rules, three rounds have to be completed; they score whatever was fought of at least the third round on and a decision will be rendered.
 
“I told you this at the fight,” recalled Shields. “I protested before the fight about this three-round deal. Before the fight, Kermit’s lawyer and the commission had a meeting before the fight. When they came in, they said, ‘After three rounds…‘I said, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, a three-round mandatory? This is a 12-round fight. This is not a six or ten-round fight. This is a 12-round fight.’ They said, ‘But it’s not a championship fight so if anything happens and it has to be done, they go to the scorecards after three rounds are completed.” To me, that was fishy right from the beginning. They decided since it was a 12-round fight but not for a title, they would not use the unified rules. Why do you have unified rules if you can’t use them state-to-state?”
 
Williams would win a majority decision by scores of 40-36, and 39-37 with one judge scoring the fight for Kermit 40-36. “P-Will” would rematch Sergio Martinez in November of 2010 and get stopped in two rounds in a “Knockout of the Year” performance.
 
Cintron would go on to do nothing but stay at home, nurse his wounds, not so much from the fight but from the pain and criticism over the way the fight with Williams ended. The loss began a long period of reconnecting with his family, his life blood outside boxing.
 
“After the fight, I took off because I was disgusted with the whole situation. I felt like I got robbed big time. I feel that the judges f**ked me over and I feel that the doctor f**ked me over as well as the California Commission,” admitted Cintron. “But at the same time, I wanted to spend time with my family, with my kids and my wife. I was actually able to spend all my time with my kids and my wife. That was every day, 24/7. Everything is all good.”
 
Most importantly, Cintron could center himself, get his life in order and prepare to return.

“You know, I kind of have moved on from that situation,” said Cintron. “In the beginning, I was hurt by it. Bummed out, you know? But I finally moved forward from that. I just have to start getting my winning streak back. If I start winning fights, I know I will eventually get a big fight again.”
 
Away from the game, it had to hurt to watch Martinez finish in November what Cintron felt he was on the verge of in May.
 
“Exactly. I was just pretty much saying, ‘Ain’t this a bitch?,” half-laughed Cintron. “Here I am when I was fighting him, I had him buckled. I know it was a matter of time. I was giving him to the sixth round. I knew I was going to catch him and hurt him. When I saw that fight, man, I was pretty much, whatever. I knew I won my fight with Paul Williams and I was going to knock him out. It didn’t happen because of the way it ended up. Do I give Martinez credit for knocking him out? Yeah, but I think I helped with that situation. To me, I feel like I softened up his chin a little bit but it is what it is.”
 
Cintron, formerly with DiBella Entertainment, was released by DiBella to make way for Cintron to work with the larger Top Rank. That move was a surprising but honorable one from DiBella. The promoter had hit a wall trying to get big fights for a fighter like Cintron, who is game but seemed to be blackballed a bit after the Williams debacle.
 
“Lou DiBella called me one day and said, ‘Look, I am trying to get you big fights. For whatever reason, it is hard to get the purse that you want,’” explained Cintron. “I am willing to make a deal with Top Rank, so you can go with them. I know going with Top Rank, you can get the biggest fights and you have a wife and a family to take care of. And I feel I am not doing the obligation that I have to get you the big fights. So him and Top Rank came to a deal and I thank Lou DiBella for being the bigger person in that situation. He could have just sat me on the shelf and waited until my contract was over. He didn’t have to release me because there were no promotional problems. I also want to thank Josh Dubin and James Prince because they were part of it as well.”
 
Cintron spent most of his time off working strength and conditioning coach Randy Yocum back east where he lives. When he went off to Houston to train, Cintron resumed work with Savannah Gym resident strength coach Brian Caldwell. Between those two men and his wife, who in Cintron’s words is a “health freak,” he has managed to keep his weight down and stay in shape this whole time. By the second week of his current camp, Cintron was 155 pounds.
 
Cintron seems excited to return. The time away seemingly rejuvenating him.
 
“I think the break from boxing did me great,” said Cintron. “When I came back, I felt great. I felt reenergized and so far I am having a great camp. I honestly I picked up where I left off. When I first came back, I was a little bit off rhythm, of course, but I felt like I started where I left off.”
 
Shields was honest when asked if rust will play a factor in Cintron’s fight with Molina.
 
“[Kermit’s] been off a year now. Let me tell you something; I don’t believe in rust,” said Shields. “Can it happen? Yes, it can happen but if you have a guy who trains his heart out, I don’t see rust as a factor. It’s all about him getting in there and doing what he is supposed to do. In this game, you can’t have excuses. You can’t say, ‘Well, I didn’t fight for a whole year.’ Well, you know what? You should have fought before. There’s no excuses in this sport. I’m tired of hearing excuses and I tell all my guys the same thing: ‘No excuses.’ Look, you could have had other fights but you didn’t want to. You know what? It is what it is. Now you have to get in the gym, train hard and you have to fight. It’s as simple as that.”
 
All told, this camp will be roughly nine weeks and Cintron feels he is as ready as he can be. To be the co-feature to a major fight on Showtime is icing on the cake.
 
“It feels good. I’m back. I just have to look spectacular, make sure I win my fight,” said Cintron, who seemed to understand that he is rounding that last bend of hope for a prime run. “Even if I wasn’t a co-feature, I would be just as happy because I’m back. I’m back from a long break and I just wanted to fight. I am happy that Showtime gave me the opportunity to be back on TV.”
 
In Carlos Molina, 18-4-2 (6), Cintron faces a veteran who is tough, not exactly easy to hit but aggressive enough to make a fight of it. Molina, on many fans’ cards, beat junior middleweight prospect Erislandy Lara- who faces Paul Williams on Saturday on HBO- back in March. He ended up getting a draw and an opportunity like this. I asked Cintron if he had discussed Molina and Williams with Lara, who is also trained by Ronnie Shields.
 
“We kind of talked a little bit,” said Cintron. “He knows what he has to do. He saw my fight against Paul Williams. He saw what I was doing to get the better of Paul Williams. I saw the fight with Carlos Molina. To me, it didn’t seem that Lara was in great shape for that fight. He looked like he came in just to fight, like he didn’t train for the fight. It was a really close fight. I had it a draw, which it was. You have to give credit to the judges for that. He knows what he has to do just like I have to be prepared for my fight.”
 
When breaking down Molina’s style, Cintron said, “Molina comes to fight. He is on a long fight streak. He comes to fight. He tries to steal the rounds from you. He is a little slick because when he comes in, he holds but he will connect while you are holding. We have a plan for him. I don’t think he is better than Margarito or Angulo but he is a fighter that comes and tries to win the fights.”
 
Regarding Molina, Shields said, “Molina is a real awkward guy. He is very, very awkward and this is a guy who has never been stopped before. He is a good fighter, so we can’t take anything away from Carlos Molina. But what I do think? Kermit is the better fighter. And on that night, July 9, Kermit has to show everyone, ‘Look, I have had setbacks but now, I am at the place where I really need to be, the place where I want to be.’ Against Carlos Molina, he has to show that against a good, tough, veteran. Molina is a veteran. He is a very good, smart, cagey fighter, so it’s not going to be a walk in the park. It’s going to be a tough fight, so that is what we are training for. He has been in Houston for seven weeks already. He is looking great. He is ready to go.”
 
Cintron’s losses have come when an aggressive pressure fighter gets in his grill. The man who has clearly beaten him twice, Margarito, stopped him twice just that way. The big question on everyone’s mind will be “What effect did the Williams fight and its fallout have on Cintron?” Shields says he sees no signs of trouble. In fact, he sees a sign of growth and positive change in Cintron.
 
“That’s something we will have to see on July 9,” Shields explained. “Has his demeanor changed in the gym? No. he comes to the gym and he trains hard. We put together a good game plan. We will do our best to follow it and what’s going to happen, fight night, who knows? It’s up in the air. I think the crowd will play a big factor in the fight because some people like Kermit, some people don’t like him but there is one thing I learned in this sport: You are not going to please everybody, so you just have to please yourself. This is what Kermit wants to do. He wants to get out there and he is going to fight his fight, as simple as that. I feel in my heart that Kermit is going to beat Carlos Molina. Whether he knocks him out or not to me, it makes no difference.
 
“He is at a point where he is asking me for more rounds,” continued Shields. “He wants to be the best fighter he can be. If Kermit has changed any one thing, he’s not trying to prove anything to anybody. He is just trying to be the best fighter he can be now.”
 
Should he win, Cintron has several doors open to him. Cintron said that while this 152-pound fight is about him getting used to dropping weight, his true goal is to return to 147 to finish what he started twice now.
 
“I wanted to unify the titles [at 147[and I didn’t get the opportunity to,” said Cintron. “That was one of my goals was to win a title at 147, unify and then move up a weight class. But because no one at 147 at that time wanted to fight me, that is how I ended up getting the Martinez fight. Lou had asked me about four weeks out. He asked me if I wanted to fight Martinez. I said, ‘Hell yeah, let’s take the fight.’ By the time the deal was made, I only had three and half weeks of training. So I came in and fought my butt off and ending up drawing with Martinez. I just feel at 147, I have unfinished business. I wanted to fight the best at 147 and there are a couple great fighters at 147 that I want to fight.”
 
You can email Gabriel at maxgmontoya@gmail.com, follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gabriel_montoya and catch him on each Monday’s episode of “The Next Round” with Steve Kim. You can also tune in to hear him and co-host David Duenez live on the BlogTalk radio show Leave-It-In-The-Ring.com, Thursdays at 5-8 PM PST. Gabriel is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.


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