If there is a reason why Antonio Margarito is as underrated as he is, we all saw it Saturday night, when he handed Kermit ‘The Killer’ Cintron the first loss of his professional career in devastating fashion. The Tijuana native used his vaunted volume of punches to overwhelm and beat the fight of his young rival, serving notice to the rest of the top ten that he is the force to be reckoned with at the welterweight level. However, it was not just the amount of leather that he hit ‘The Killer’ with that made the difference; it was his patience and guile that further sealed the young challenger's fate in this bout.
Photo © German Villasenor
The young Cintron appeared too tight and unsteady in his attack from the go, a fact that spelled trouble for him because instead of capitalizing on the slow starting tendencies of Margarito, he limited his heavy hands to counter punching duty, another major no-no against the Aztec. What occurred by the early moments of the third round was that Margarito was doing to Cintron what the challenger should have been doing to the champion, putting together debilitating combinations to the body that were to ultimately lay the foundations of a victory.
The heavy shots of Margarito did enough damage to shatter Cintron's invincibility shield by the middle of the third round, and there the champion saw an opening in his foe’s guard and capitalized, cutting into his opponents flesh with a perfect and savage uppercut. The blood sprayed out in from the challenger’s right eye and referee Kenny Bayless immediately had the eye looked at by the physician on call, who cleared Cintron’s return to the hostilities. The challenger clinched in an effort to survive the remaining minute of the round and was clearly hurt as he was manhandled from one end of the ring to another, but for better or for worse he survived the round.
You could feel the urgency in Cintron's corner as they worked the cut and did their best to advise the 25-year-old on how to get back in the fight, but you could see something in Cintron’s eyes, he was listening but not fully aware of what was happening to him.
In the fourth round the champion now warmed up and ready for war was looking to end the hostilities with his body work, which opened his opponent up enough to land a destructive combination at the 1:25 mark, sending ‘The Killer’ down for the first time in his career. The young gun arose and actually threw his best combination of the night landing solidly, but his legs were not there and Margarito did not budge from the impact. Things could not look any worse for the Carolina, Puerto Rico native… or could they?
Between rounds Cintron's team did not have much advice for their young protégée, but co-manager and trainer Marshall Kauffman whispered into Kermit's ears and we can only guess what was said, although I'm pretty sure it was about the impending stoppage if he absorbed further punishment.
Cintron bravely fought on even if it was on borrowed time, absorbing some more shots upstairs, which triggered the unavoidable final countdown at 1:34 of the fifth and ultimately final round as he was rocked and dropped yet again. ‘The Killer’ looked towards his corner and once again rose to his feet, but it would all end soon after as a Margarito left hand put him down again. Cintron rose again but this time walked towards his corner with a look of complete and utter despair as Marshall Kauffman signalled that his fighter had had enough on this night.
While a saddened and mystified Team Cintron attended to their young contender, who wept openly out of frustration and disappointment, the Margarito camp celebrated a fourth successful title defense in which he performed flawlessly.
The WBO champion did exactly what he needed to do tonight, got on the inside and broke the challenger down with a magnificent show of skills and power. Kudos must go out to the dangerous gun out of Tijuana, Mexico. With the win Margarito now has the ear of the welterweight division and is all but set for a big payday against the best the division has to offer.
As for Kermit Cintron, he now has to go back home and overcome this nightmare tonight, before even considering going back to gym and attempting to regain lost ground. However, someone who has overcome so much in his life as Cintron has is always a shot away from redemption and triumph. Saturday's calculated risk did not pay off, but that was then and as I have said before surprises abound at every turn in the boxing world. Team Cintron now have to make the best of this trip into uncharted waters.
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