Take that, HBO! ESPN PPV the best 30 bucks I’ve ever spent on boxing
By Coyote Duran (April, 25, 2005)
And I’d do it again in a heartbeat, providing the level of competition and the quality of fights were at least the same. Hell, this card had it all: a heavyweight fight between two size mismatched, yet all-guts contenders; the return of a former pound-for-pound king against a young, hungry prospect; and the ongoing rise of a hard-hitting welterweight titlist fending off a mighty, broad-shouldered warrior. Most of all, it made up immensely for a card that was shorted one lightweight title fight.
Photo © German Villasenor
Brock and McCline put on a show, baby!
In a night full of ‘crossroads’ fights, the opening bout of crossroad fighters didn’t disappoint. At times, it almost looked cartoonish to behold. The gargantuan two-time title challenger Jameel ‘Big Time’ McCline, 265, and the undefeated ‘Boxing Banker’ Calvin Brock, 218, ushered daylight into dusk with quite an entertaining struggle to prove who is, indeed, a valid force in the heavyweight division. For McCline, 31-5-3 (19), this was a do-or-die battle whereas for Brock, 25-0 (20), it was a rung up the ladder to serious contention. If you want to be funny about it, it was David and Goliath all over again. This time, however, David was an in-fighter and Goliath threw big looping shots.
Brock was the definition of ‘brave, little man’ for he rushed in headlong most of the time, leading with a strong left. McCline would counter with heavy, wide shots that would connect every now and then and even opened up a small but not terribly serious cut over Brock’s left eye. Unfazed, Brock would go back to work, testing McCline’s body in the second round and jabbing his way into the latter half of the second heat, working best in the pocket. The third looked to be a grand turning point when the powerful McCline floored Brock with a hard right over Brock’s left ear but really failed to take advantage of his good fortune for Brock returned with a vengeance and, on my card, won the round.
Knockdowns not withstanding, the action was pretty much back and forth. Brock’s cut wasn’t a factor and McCline’s power never really overwhelmed the brave Brock. If both men were fatigued by the final bell ending the tenth, it didn’t show much. McCline would use his considerable size advantage to muscle Brock a little more but both would end the fight with a great exchange punctuating a surprisingly delightful heavyweight battle. (Oxymoron, huh? Yeah, I know!) So surprisingly good, in fact, that I scored it a draw, 95-95. The judges saw differently (and I couldn’t really argue) with scores of 96-94, 96-93 and 97-93 all in favor of Brock.
The Sugarman cometh (and stayeth)!
The third bout of the evening was a showcase that I’m certain many were glued to. Was ‘Sugar’ Shane Mosley, 40-4 1NC (35), back to stay? Will coming back to welterweight make the difference or will there be no coming back to pound-for-pound lists, alphabet titles and multi-million dollar paydays? Will young prospect David Estrada, 18-2 (9), 148, deflate the tires of the Mosley parade float? Will I continue to ask ridiculous rhetorical questions in order to create unnecessary dramatic prose?… I guess not.
So we all wanted to know if the Mosley speed would come back to the welterweight division as well as its owner. Well, Mosley’s speediest days were as a lightweight but he could move as a welter so the thought was intriguing. Mosley, also148, would open the fight by dancing a little and measuring with a jab and continuing to work the jab in the further opening rounds while looking for the opening that would prove to be the key to opening Estrada’s defense: a good left hook to the body. The fourth heat was the intro showcase for the Mosley weaponry as well as giving us a brief recollection of what used to be two of the swiftest paws in the sport. And they weren’t half-bad against Estrada. One hot left to the Estrada body and the math was solved. Estrada started getting used to holding and Mosley again attacked the body right before the end of the fourth.
Estrada moved to Plan B, lunging with combinations, but not before Mosley further worked the left, up and down the body. Estrada’s confidence would look less apparent as the battle moved along. Estrada would lunge more and Mosley would elude accordingly. ‘Sugar Shane’ would find that he wouldn’t have to alter his game plan much. Opening rounds with a jab started things nicely and would change from left to right every once in awhile. In the sixth, Mosley would shoot a series of rights in order to land the vaunted left and Estrada would hold in order to get his house in order only to get warned in return by referee Robert Byrd for holding and hitting.
Just a random thought: as established a trainer/advisor as Angelo Dundee is, why lie to Estrada and tell him Mosley is “sucking wind” when he certainly has set the pace all night? Well, I suppose when you spend half the fight hollering yourself into a minor stroke, it’ll affect your mind sooner or later. Meanwhile, it looked less and less like Mosley was listening to trainer John David Jackson and more to his father, Jack, hollering advice from the audience. Hmm… curious.
In the ninth, Estrada began to act more and more out of fatigue while Mosley acted more and more out of irritation. Mosley kept pumping the jab and finding the target. Estrada threw the occasional wild shot and popped Mosley upstairs with a great left only to be answered with another left to the body by Mosley. By the end of the round, Dundee was having a full-blown stroke-and-a-half. The tenth and final heat saw an opening of wild exchanges. Estrada was throwing with desperation while Mosley eluded deftly and worked quick lefts. About midway through the action, both men traded one shot at a time and both were starting to really feel the stress of taking it to the limit. This applies more relevantly to Estrada who, needless to say, has never been in a ring with a Shane Mosley. Estrada continued to move forward trying to find that one good shot while Mosley resorted to lunging with combinations. Both men moved the action into the corner and traded shots out until the end the fight.
In the end, it didn’t take a polished judge or scribe to declare a winner. My scorecard read 98-92 Mosley while the three official judges in attendance scored the fight 97-93, 99-91 and 98-91. What’s more important relating to the outcome of this fight is that Mosley didn’t beat some ‘gimme’ or tomato can. He beat a kid who many thought would beat him. This was the perfect test for a man trying to re-validate the ownership of the moniker ‘Sugar’.
Cintron falls to Margarito!
It was the meeting you’d expect to see between two genuinely good guys. Not just well-mannered cats, mind you, but two ‘good guys’ in the mythological comic-bookish, television crossover sense. You know, the fight where one hero says to the other, “We don’t need to fight.” And the other hero replies, “Yes, but we have to fight.” It was the Justice League of America vs. The Avengers! It was Batman vs. The Green Hornet! It was Mato Nanji of Indigenous vs. Henry Garza of Los Lonely Boys! It was… well, you get the gist of it. It was the meeting that had to happen and the clash everyone saw coming.
Kermit Cintron, 24-1 (22), the reigning NABF welterweight and WBO Interim titleholder, wanted this fight. He wanted it so badly that he cancelled a stay-busy fight with Steve Martinez (who actually replaced Argentina’s Sebastian Lujan, a recent Margarito victim) to do it. Cintron, 146 ½, had been suffering metacarpal problems and had various operations to alleviate them all with the intents and purposes of seeing Saturday night and his first shot at pay-per-view stardom. Meanwhile, Antonio Margarito, 32-4 1NC (23), the actual WBO welterweight titleholder, would go on to defend against Lujan on ESPN2 Friday Night Fights, beating Lujan by TKO when Margarito’s punching power literally separated Lujan’s left ear from his head (this would’ve made me think twice, but I’m not Cintron).
So on went the show with the amalgam of ‘The Great Puerto Rican Hope’ and ‘The All-American Boy’ facing his biggest challenge, a highly underrated, overlooked Mexican titlist with a want and a need to be seriously regarded among the ranks of the Judahs, De La Hoyas and Mosleys of the world. This was The Big Dance for both these men.
There was much to be assumed before the fight from the commentators making an issue of Margarito, 147, being dry and not warmed up, to Jeremy Schaap sharing Cintron’s carbohydrate intake (both points proved later to hold as much water as a duffel bag made out of Kleenex.). You’d think, however, that Kermit’s pre-fight intake involved Jolt Cola for he entered the ring an amped and hopping dervish. Soon after, the reigning and defending WBO titlist Margarito would enter the ring his usual confident, smiling self and would exude an unmatched calm as if he knew where the fight would go and how it would end.
Cintron opened the first by measuring Margarito with a jab and testing the Mexican’s defense with a quick left hook. Cintron would throw a series of combos with little effect. Margarito came back to test the body and fire lefts at Cintron’s head, which he shook off quickly. Margarito would kick things off in the second by taking it to the young, interim titlist with combinations, some effective, some not. Cintron would move to jabbing but Margarito would take advantage of Cintron’s open body and open fire. More and more, Margarito was picking his spots with ease and finding them nicely.
Margarito’s body work continued into the third while Cintron would quickly learn the ‘art of the clinch’. Kermit would try the jab again but Margarito would return with hot combos and smother Cintron on the ropes, overwhelming him with pressure. What might’ve been a turning point (or not) in the battle to Margarito’s favor was when a left opened up a cut over Cintron’s right eye. Now, I didn’t consider the cut to be a hindrance for Cintron because anyone who saw his battle with Otilio Villareal back in 2002 saw Cintron go monkey-nuts when cut, but then again, it was administered by an elbow. Margarito’s shot combined with his pressure and sheer will to show the world who was boss, might’ve very well made the difference. Nonetheless, Cintron would become tentative and nervous.
The fourth would truly and obviously serve as the turning point of the fight. Cintron would attempt to work combos and lefts to Margarito’s head but the titlist would deftly and brilliantly minimize the effects defensively while feeding a straight right to Kermit’s grill. Margarito threw a combo and Cintron returned fire, but the lanky Puerto Rican opened himself up to a hot right that toppled him hard. After making it to his feet, Cintron absorbed another barrage that dropped him deep into a desperate grapple to regain his legs. Cintron would try to recover with a hard straight right, a jab and a right/left combo, but the steam is visibly dissipating.
In some crafty, calm way, Antonio Margarito saw the end in sight. He didn’t just sit on his fourth round knockdowns and figure he was going to coast to victory. He needed this win and he needed it decisively, kids. And so began the fifth round. Margarito continued the assault with a left/right combination that was greeted by a Cintron jab and hook. Cintron would gamely but unsurely charge headlong with a left/right combo of his own that only serves to piss off Margarito and he smothers his challenger into the ropes, beating him to the punches. Cintron would show some huge heart and throw some straight shots, but he found himself on the ring floor for a third time. Once more, the strong kid out of Reading, Pennsylvania would rise to his feet to throw another combination and once more, find his way to the canvas.
That’s when something not terribly shocking, but humanly emotional shone through. The broad-shouldered knockout artist became all too commonly terrestrial and looked at his own corner. You could almost read it in his eyes. It wasn’t, “I give up.”
It was more like, “What do I do?”
That’s when it happened. Exactly true to the caring, father-figure archetype he’s always been, trainer/co-manager Marshall Kauffman called an end to the pain. Not physical pain, mind you, but the pain that goes hand in hand with defeat. Once Kauffman entered the ring with conditioning coach/co-manager/big brother Joe Pastore, all those emotions came out hard and Kermit Cintron became a shy, vulnerable young man once again.
When the smoke cleared, all I could think was, “Wow.” This is what boxing is all about. This night is what makes this sport THE greatest sport of all. It covered everything. It showed us that a heavyweight fight could be exciting. It showed us that some legends that most of us think are past their best… really aren’t. It showed us that some who are seen as bulletproof are anything but. (Note to Kerm: The pressure’s off. You’ll be back, kid.) And that some who are grossly overlooked and taken for granted should also be anything but.
And lastly, many, many thank yous at ESPN for showing boxing fans that there really is a network that gives a damn about us fans and our very limited pay-per-view expenditures. It was the best 30 bucks I’ve ever spent on boxing.
Let’s do this again sometime, shall we?
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