Kermit Cintron: The Killer Is In The Hunt Again - Boxing
The Welter Report with Gabriel Montoya (Feb 8, 2008) Doghouse Boxing (Photo © German Villasenor)        
When Main Events announced last week that IBF titleholder Kermit Cintron would fight Antonio Margarito in a rematch with a shot at WBA titleholder Miguel Cotto hanging in the balance, the news sent shockwaves through the welterweight landscape. Top Rank promoter Bob Arum is now in a position to hold two fighters with a belt apiece. Main Events has a fighter looking to go from “underdog with the power to knock you out with either hand” to “big time player with the power to knock you out with either hand”. The move left WBO titleholder Paul Williams, the most difficult match up in the
welterweight land, looking for a path to that Holy Grail land that only Oscar De La Hoya and floyd Mayweather hold court over. Andre Berto still is developing. Oscar’s looking for a junior welter he can beat. Shane Mosley’s looking to un-retire while Floyd’s competing with Zab Judah for the Linear Rainmaker Title of Vegas. The race to see who can be the next pay-per-view superstar in the welterweight division is on like Donkey Kong.

For Kermit ‘El Asesino’ Cintron the dark horse in this race, the path to glory lies beyond a treacherous stretch of tornado country named Antonio ‘The Tijuana Tornado’ Margarito. In their first fight, all seemed well if an uphill battle for the first three rounds. Then everything unraveled for Cintron as he suffered a cut and two knockdowns that led to the fight being stopped. It is a performance that has followed him even as he successfully walked the comeback trail, picking up the IBF title along the way.

Just two weeks away from beginning the most important training camp of his life, Cintron sounds more focused and determined than ever. “This is the fight that I wanted,” he tells me over the phone, his voice more animated than I’ve
ever heard it. “Right here. The Margarito fight. That’s the fight that I’ve always wanted. And I’m finally getting it. I’m definitely going to avenge my loss.”

A month ago, this shot at redemption seemed a long way off. In his last fight against Jesse Feliciano, Cintron suffered a hand injury and a unification bout with Paul Williams began to fall apart in the aftermath. “It happened in the first minute of the first round,” says Cintron. “I landed a good right kind of by his ear. And I heard like a sound… you know when you hit someone in the nose and it has that crunching feeling? It felt kind of like that. That’s when Manny changed the game plan.”

Rather than take a “why me” approach, Cintron found a positive in a desperate situation. “It’s amazing how people always say that I don’t have any second plan or third plan,” he laughs, but with a defiant edge. “My first plan didn’t work. We had to change plans.”

Cintron would forgo his all out assault and close the distance, taking multiple shots to give hard ones. It was risky strategy that put Cintron in danger of a points loss but it paid off late in the fight.

“In the tenth round, I just had enough,” he explains. “I just thought I’d go all out, box him, try to catch him with a check hook, which I did, and hurt him. That was the game plan. Down to the tenth round. [Trainer Manny Steward] just told me to box him, try to catch him with a check hook. At that point when I saw him get hurt, right there that’s when I went all out and ran off like 15 punches. And they all landed.”

Amazingly, Feliciano never dropped. “One thing I can give him credit for is he can really take a shot,” said an impressed Cintron.

All in all it was a gutsy performance in a fight that didn’t win many fans. But performance aside, what would happen next would spark much debate. Following the stoppage, Cintron raised his hands in victory; slumped to the canvas and after a moments delay, fell to his side, writhing in agony. It was a series of events that had many wondering what the deal was. Following the discovery of the injury, the question would be raised, why the delay from victory to pain?

“It was adrenaline leaving my system,” Cintron explained. “They stopped the fight. I raised my hands. I was happy, you know? All of sudden its shooting pain. It’s a lot of pain. It was worse than when I first originally hurt my hand back when I got surgery and all that stuff. It was definitely more pain than when I ruptured my tendons and my ligaments. The injury this time, I had a slight fracture on my pinky, on the top of my right hand, I had strained ligaments on my thumb and badly bruised bone on top of my hand.”

That injury ended the long road of negotiations Williams and Cintron had traveled. While the WBO champ settled on and prepared for a bout with Carlos Quintana, Cintron sat patiently on the sidelines as his team assessed the landscape and decided to move in a more risky but far more advantageous direction. The Williams fight still was on the table for summer. But it was promoter Kathy Duva’s thought that while fighting Margarito will net Cintron half of what he would have made fighting Williams, the ultimate payoff will be worth it.

“In the end,” Cintron promoter Kathy Duva said in a statement released earlier this week, “defeating Margarito and Cotto would put Kermit in a better position than waiting until July or August to defeat Williams. The credibility that he would gain by avenging the only defeat of his career and then going on to defeat Cotto would greatly enhance Kermit's status in the welterweight division and with Cotto's massive Puerto Rican following. Defeating Williams in July or August would only put Kermit in line to fight the winner of Cotto-Margarito, who by then certainly would be miles ahead of him, and everyone else, as the next logical opponent for a mega-fight with De La Hoya or Mayweather.”

While some openly criticized Cintron for moving beyond a Williams fight, the Puerto Rican bomber is positive about the move and insulted that anyone would question whether his injury was legit.

“The [Williams] fight was a done deal. Why would I want to say no to a million dollar purse? This is what it’s about, right? It’s about accomplishing your goals, making a lot of money and getting out of the sport young with enough where you don’t have to work anymore. I mean the fight was a done deal. Too bad my hand was injured. It’s not my fault. It’s not my fault I can punch as hard as I can. There’s proof on the MRIs. I don’t know what else to say.”

The move to fight Margarito may have sparked a rivalry that will ultimately make a Cintron/Williams fight much more compelling down the line. What would have been a business move fight this year might turn into a personal war in years to come. Paul Williams might not be at the top of Cintron’s hit list, but he certainly is on it.

“Most definitely,” says Cintron when asked if he feels he can beat Williams if and when they meet. “Paul Williams is the type of guy, he’s more of an amateur style fighter than pro. All he does is throw these pity-pat 100 punches a round. I can do that. I do that in the gym when I am sparring. Because, you know, I’m throwing pity-pats. Have him throw power punches like I do. 40-50 power punches in a round to see how long he would last in the ring. Not that long. I don’t think he would be able to go eight rounds.” Cintron continues after a pause. “I don’t think he has any power. I doubt he has any power. When you got a guy that’s 6’3” fighting at 147 lbs? Honestly, I would definitely break his bones if I ever get to fight him. And I’m hoping I will because that’s one of my biggest goals is to unify the titles in the welterweight division. His time will come. When I land one of my punches he’s going to know who Kermit Cintron really is.”

Before that match up can even become a remote possibility, there is the business of avenging a loss that Cintron has begrudgingly come to terms with.

“Yes and no,” he says when asked if he has accepted the loss. “I don’t like losing. In that sense, no I haven’t accepted it. Has the loss gotten through to me? I’m more focused and I was able to move on with my career and my new team.”

For Cintron, the Margarito fight means more than just avenging a loss. It represents a chance to compete at the level Cintron feels he belongs. When it comes to the top fighters in his division, Cintron feels he can beat them all.

“I believe so. I just haven’t had the opportunity yet but when it comes then you’ll see I’m the best welterweight out there. I didn’t have to take the rematch with Margarito. I could have just went in and fought Paul Williams in September but I want to prove to people that back in ’05 that wasn’t Kermit Cintron that was fighting. They’re going to see that this time I got all the negative bullshit out of my life and I will definitely be more focused and more prepared for this fight. You’re going to find out I’m going to make them all shut up.”

So Cintron patiently waits while beginning to condition. “I’ve been running. Staying near at weight. I’ve even started hitting the right hand on the heavy bag. Feels good.”

With a quiet resolve, Cintron doesn’t even contemplate losing the biggest gamble of his life.

“I won’t lose to Margarito,” he says without hesitation. “There’s no ifs, buts or anything. I’m not going to lose to Margarito. It’s as simple as that.”

El Asesino is through waiting. He is out to get revenge and above all, earn the respect he so desperately craves.

“When I beat Margarito I’m going to be the one smiling and thinking to myself ‘Yup, I made all of them people that was doubting me and talking all this junk, made them all shut up’. Then I move on to the Cotto fight, which is a huge fight in opinion. Beat him and then I’m pretty much the guy to beat in the welterweight division.”

“It feels good,” he says finally. “I’m starting to get my opportunities now.”

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