Healthy and Fit, Antwone Smith Faces Kermit Cintron
By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (Aug 12, 2011) Doghouse Boxing (Photo © ESPN)
Antwone “The Truth” Smith vs Kermit Cintron - ESPN
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 on “ShoBox.”
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 life."
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 the dark.
"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 unbelievable fight."
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 same."
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."
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