By John J. Raspanti
There’s no quit in Kermit Cintron.
Never was, never will be.
For the past number of years, the former IBF champion has battled injuries and other issues. He broke his hand in 2007, ignored the pain, and fought on.
But his best asset--his power--was damaged.
Cintron would score a single knockout in 11 fights between 2008 and 2013.
He knew that to give the sport he loved one more legitimate shot, he’d have to be healthy.
Cintron defeated Ronald Cruz in 2014. Soon after, he went under the knife to repair damaged ligaments in his hand.
He rested for two years, and thought about his career.
Cintron has been a fighter all his life. As a boy, he saw his mother die under horrendous circumstances.
His father passed away when he was 13.
Cintron started boxing at 19. His amateur career was short--consisting of 27 fights. He turned professional soon after, and racked up eight consecutive victories by knockout.
Due to his punching power, he was soon known inside the ring as “The Killer.”
His first attempt at a world title failed. His second did not.
Cintron knocked out Mark Suarez in 2006 to capture the IBF welterweight title. He defended his title twice before running into Antonio Margerito, who stopped him for the second time.
Nine months later Margerito was suspended for one year after being defeated by Shane Mosley. Prior to the match, Mosley’s trainer had noticed a white substance on Margerito’s handwraps.
The substance was later confirmed be similar to plaster of Paris.
Many speculated that this wasn’t the first time that Margerito had cheated. Cintron offered no excuses and moved on. He decisioned tough Lovemore Ndou and fought to a draw with middleweight champion Sergio Martinez.
Cintron split his next four fights, won a decision, and was unceremoniously stopped in five rounds by Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.
Something had changed. He considered walking away from boxing.
“I contemplated retiring after the Canelo fight,” Cintron told this writer via email. “I had people telling me I didn’t have it anymore. I had lost focus and my love of the sport. Hard to stay focused when people on your own team didn’t believe in you anymore.”
But Cintron wasn’t finished.
“My decision to come back was; I wasn’t going to let anyone tell me I was done. I used my time away from the sport to reflect. My kids told me how proud they were, and why wasn’t I fighting anymore. I decided I would only come back if Joe Pastore trained me.”
Trainer Joe Pastore started working with Cintron 17 years ago. The match was a good one. Pastore believed in Cintron. Issues lead to breakup of the pair, but in 2014, the two men reunited.
“We got together and talked about all the things we should have talked about years ago,” said Pastore. “We got up, shook hands, hugged, and put the past behind us.
Cintron has compiled a record of 39 wins in 44 fights, with 30 knockouts. He held the world title for two years.
But, as he told writer Thomas Gerbasi of boxingsene.com, he wants more.
“I’ve accomplished a lot in this sport and I became a world champion, but I just feel like I didn’t do enough,” said Cintron. “I haven’t done enough yet.”
Cintron returned to action in 2016. His right hand was fully healed.
He won decisions over Carlos Garcia and Edwardo Flores. Cintron was sharp, but at age 37, how much does he have left?
Cintron finds the whole age debate laughable.
“I don’t believe in that over-the-hill crap,” Cintron said. “Over the years, people are coached to believe things that perhaps aren’t even true. To all the fighters that are in their thirties, and have been told they don’t look the same—or that they’re over-the-hill, here’s a lesson for you.
“Speak what you want, only what you want. Don’t speak what you don’t want. I feel better now than I ever have.”
Trainer Pastore agrees with his charge.
“Kermit has always lived a clean life,” said Pastore. “No drinking, no smoking, and no drugs. Never! We lived together for four years. His life was eat, train, eat,rest…repeat. It’s like that to this day. Not to mention, he’s also a superb athlete.”
Late in 2016, something else appeared.
Cintron’s power, which had diminished with his hand problems, came back. He knocked out Manny Woods in seven rounds, and needed only three to starch Rosenberg Gomez.
“I’m starting to feel like myself again,” Cintron said. “The killer has been coming out in other words. The better the competition, the better I’ve looked. I’m enjoying boxing again. Having Joe Pastore in my corner has helped tremendously. He brings out the best in me."
For Pastore, seeing is believing.
“Kermit is really beginning to look like his old self,” Pastore said. “I would say the best thing now is Kermit is rediscovering his identity as a fighter. Kermit is a hellacious puncher that can also box.”
So “The Killer” has returned. But maybe more importantly is the belief in him from his team, and the constant love of his family.
Cintron will be back in the ring March 17th against hard-punching Walter Castillo at the Santander Arena in Reading, PA.
“March seventeenth is going to be a great night,” said Cintron. “Walter Castillo is a tough opponent. He’s going to bring it and leave it all in the ring. That’s how he fights. I finished 2016 with a bang and I’m going to start 2017 with a bang.”
Long live “The Killer.”