Last summer, coming off a
string of eye-opening, upset victories against the likes of Norberto Gonzalez,
Richard Gutierrez and Henry Crawford, Antwone “The Truth” Smith was one of the
sport’s rising young prospects. This hardnosed grinder from Miami, Florida had
seemingly come out of nowhere and it looked like he was on the cusp of doing
some big things. Then last July, he was slotted in what was supposed to be a
showcase versus Lanardo Tyner in Atlantic City, New Jersey, as the co-feature
In stunning fashion, Smith
faded badly down the stretch and was stopped by Tyner in nine rounds.
"That was just a big
misunderstanding; I guess it was immaturity," Smith explained to Maxboxing
earlier this week before facing Kermit Cintron tonight from the Ameristar
Casino St. Charles Event Center in St. Charles, MO. "For years, I would
always wait until the last minute to lose the weight and I did it again then
and then, it just all caught up with me in one night. I was out there; I lost
the weight, then when I got to Atlantic City, I got sick because all of the training
was in air conditioning, so it was bad. It was the worst couple days of my
Smith knew early on he just
didn't have it that night.
"I kinda knew before
but I thought [Tyner would] get tired. But in the second round, my body wasn't
responding," said Smith, who has since rebounded with two victories
against rather soft opposition to run his record to 20-2-1 with 12 KOs. "I
wasn't able to put out the same; I definitely wasn't able to absorb the same
amount of punishment, so it was just a horrible night. After the second round,
I knew it was going to be a long night."
Instead of taking over down
the stretch with his steady pace, Smith, who fights a bit like a smaller
version of Glen Johnson, was instead run over. The question is, should he have
even been allowed to go on that night? His manager, Don Herron, admitted,
"It was questionable. He was sick and we didn't want to pull out that night
on television. It was a hard call. It was a no-win situation. If it hadn't have
been a television fight, he wouldn't have fought."
Herron added, "He was
sick; he was cramping. I had to tote him to the room from the restaurant."
Ignorant to all of this during
this period of time was Smith’s promoter, Lou DiBella, who says he was kept in
"If my own people had
been honest with me- including his manager- and if the kid, frankly, in all
honesty, would've been honest with his manager, we never would've gone through
with the fight. You don't throw up three times the day before the fight and
fight. They misled me intentionally, honestly, because Antwone didn't want to
pull out at that point. I also think my people may have not been aware of how
sick he was but even if he threw up one time, I should've been called
immediately because he was on the cusp of HBO and fighting sick did him in.
We're going to find out on Friday night; is he the guy we thought he was before
he was sick? Was he that guy that had that run of big wins on ESPN or not? I
expect a much better Cintron to show up that showed up for his last fight and
if Antwone pulls this off, then he's basically back to where he was.
"If he doesn't, he's back
to the drawing board to reassess his career,” DiBella asserted. “What makes it
such an interesting fight is it's impressive that Cintron insisted on this
fight so shortly after that performance with [Carlos] Molina and with 'Kerm,'
'Kerm' can be one of the best fighters in the world, as he's proven and
'Kerm' can emotionally not be there. But if he's there, this is an
In retrospect, it's easy to
say that Smith shouldn’t have been allowed to even climb up those steps that
fateful night. However, the reality today is, with so few precious TV slots
available for young boxers to ply their trade to a national audience, these
opportunities are tough to pass up.
"Let me say this,"
said DiBella, addressing that issue, "it was a ‘ShoBox’ fight and the
co-feature was strong (Mike Jones-Irving Garcia) and we would've put something
else in. Look, to be honest, I've always delivered great stuff to ‘ShoBox’ and ‘Gordie’
(Gordon Hall, executive producer of the series) knows that. ‘Gordie’ also knows
that if I have to protect my fighter, then that's the right thing for me to do
and if everyone knew the truth, I don't think there would've been any pressure
from Showtime to go through with it. Look, I had a stomach virus recently. You
throw up three times, you're going to feel like sh*t. And you think you're
going to fight a fight? That's gotta be absurd."
The experience has not
shaken Smith's confidence. He states, "It's not like I didn't know what
happened. It was just about me losing the weight so fast and then, I guess, a
lack of discipline. So it was really nothing. I've been hit by bigger punches;
I've fought better fighters. You can look at his record after me. It was just a
bad night." What's interesting is that in an age where undefeated records
are protected like Faberge eggs, Smith says he still would've gone through with
the bout "because I still feel I had a good chance of winning, especially
against that guy. I thought I'd still be able to pull it off even though I was
in the condition I was."
The 24-year-old Smith
doesn't think the loss damaged his career all that much.
"I feel like I'm the
same person. Everybody has mixed emotions but you gotta remember; I'm still
young. I'm still growing, still learning. It's just an amateur mistake. I put
that behind me and look to the future," Smith said. Perhaps he can chalk
this up as a bad night so easily because he had already suffered a loss in his
sixth professional outing (losing a decision to Ed Paredes over six innings). Five
bouts later, he was held to a draw against Nasser Athumani.
An emphatic victory over
Cintron and Smith will be back on the right track. This is a high-risk,
high-reward bout for both men. Some are surprised that Cintron (who lost
decisively to Molina on July 9th) decided to return so soon but not
Smith. "Nah, I knew he was ready. He got a bad taste in his mouth. He's
trying to get right back to his winning ways but I'm trying to do the
Expect the trademark Smith
attack, which isn't long on style but substance.
"It's not just steady
pressure," he explained. "It's smart aggression, effective
aggressiveness. I don't throw too many punches unless they're setting up or I'm
trying to land 'em. I'm just going to be smart in there, picking off shots at
close range and, yeah, steady pressure."
Smith says all systems are
go- including his health.
"Nah, nah, like I said,
last fight, I didn't have an excuse. I thought I was very honest leading up to
the fight. I told the people at Showtime I wasn't at my best. I told 'em I was
sick. I don't know if you watched the fight. They repeatedly announced it
throughout the fight. It wasn't no excuse; it was a fact. You asked it; if I
could do it again, I would."
So either the Tyner fight is
an aberration or Smith's simply a boxer who Dennis Green would say isn't who we
thought he was during his strong run leading up to the debacle.
DiBella stated, "I
think it's all going to show itself Friday. I'm going to think - if he can beat
Cintron- nothing of it. It was a total blip on the radar and the kid just made
a noble but foolish decision to go through with the fight."