Kermit Cintron has other things on his mind than Antonio Margarito’s apparently loaded fists but it’s still difficult for him to go long without having a thought or two of what might have been.
Had Cintron not faced the now disgraced Margaritgo, who was suspended for a year earlier this week by the California Athletic Commission for tampering with his hand wraps before he was to face Shane Mosley on Jan. 24, he might still be the undefeated IBF welterweight champion of the world and in position to make millions against guys Mosley and Miguel Cotto, another Margarito victim.
He would be 30-0 with 27 knockouts and among the most feared 147-pounders in the world but instead Saturday night he will try to win the interim WBC super welterweight title from a bigger man, Sergio Martinez, because, well, that was the best deal he could find.
The latter is happening because Cintron was twice knocked out by Margarito, the last time 10 months ago. Whether Margarito had loaded hand wraps that night or not Cintron will never know but he knows one thing – none of that matters to Martinez, who is at the moment the most important fighter in the world to the former champion.
“This is a great opportunity,’’ said Cintron, who was originally set to fight IBF welterweight champion Joshua Clottey but opted to face Martinez instead because the purse was larger. “We felt moving up in weight and fighting on HBO was a better opportunity.
“I have no problem making 147. Moving up just makes it a little easier for me. I don’t have to lose 13 pounds (from his walking around weight of 160). I feel really comfortable.’’
That’s nothing like he felt the night Margarito unloaded on him last April. It was almost a replica of what happened when the two of them first met there years earlier, a stunning destruction of the then undefeated Cintron, who was challenging for the WBO title Margarito held at the time.
They are fights he has since put out of his mind, accepting them as the oddity of a sport where if two styles don’t properly mesh there is little one side can do against the other.
“I guess he just has my number,’’ Cintron said. “Our styles don’t match up well for me. It’s like Oscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley and Shane and Vernon Forrest. I just have to move on and learn from the loss. You take those losses and learn from them. If you don’t learn anything from them then you shouldn’t be fighting any more.’’
Since that second loss he’s learned plenty and last month that included that there might be more to his defeats than simply Margarito’s style. Something buried unseen under his nemesis’ gloves. Something sinister and dirty. Something, frankly, his lawyer has told him not to say too much about.
And so Cintron tried not to but when one man has changed your career so completely in the way Margarito has changed Cintron’s silence is not easy to maintain.
“Right now I shouldn’t make any comments,’’ Cintron said. “That’s what my lawyer told me. The fights happened. They’re in the past and I’m looking forward to what’s happening with Martinez….but to me, it’s messed up. It wasn’t fair. If that’s what he has to do to win fights, he’s not a real fighter.’’
So much for “No comment.’’
Regardless of what happens to Margarito, what is now paramount to Cintron is what happens between him and the slick moving Martinez when they square off on the undercard of lightweight champion Nate Campbell’s title defense against Ali Funeka on HBO. That is the only fighter Cintron can afford to be thinking about and the only one who now can affect his life. Anything else, even the now suspect side of Antonio Margarito, is of little short-term importance.
“He’s a little slick southpaw but he hasn’t really fought anybody,’’ Cintron said of Martinez, who some consider to be the best 154-pounder in the world. “He won the (interim) title from (then top-rated Alex) Bunema but Bunema just stood in front of him. I’d look the same way if he stood in front of me. I’ll test him out Saturday night.’’
He will but he is facing a test of his own as well. Seven months after that second loss to Margarito, Cintron came back to win a unanimous decision from former IBF junior welterweight champion Lovemore N’Dou in November in a welterweight title eliminator that set up another shot at the 147-pound title against Clottey until the money came up short and he opted to accept the unexpected opportunity to challenge Martinez.
Now he is in what is arguably the biggest fight of his life and there remain lingering doubts in the minds of many around boxing if Cintron has yet fully overcome the painful losses to Margarito. After the second, he was released by his promoters, Main Events, who had lost faith in him, and signed with Lou DiBella. DiBella insists he still has the power and the skill to be a major factor at 147 but his decision to grab the Martinez fight is a gamble that must pay off.
“Kermit is a classy guy,’’ DiBella said. “I think he’s thinking a lot of stuff about Margarito but he didn’t want appear like a sore loser so he’s moving on.
“When I signed him I just felt any time a guy punches like he can and whose only losses are to one guy he deserves the benefit of the doubt. He can punch like a mule and he’s a high-quality fighter. Signing him for me was a no brainer.
“Sergio may be the best in the world at 154 so even if Kermit loses, as long as he doesn’t lose the way he did against Margarito, he’s still in at 147 and still an HBO fighter.’’
Cintron is not in Florida to lose however. He is weary of that and anxious for the kind of comeback fight that will help him feed his wife and three children, including his new-born son, Clemente. Just don’t call Saturday night a comeback.
“This is not a comeback fight,’’ Cintron insisted. “The media writes you off after a loss. You knock somebody out and they’re on your jock. You lose a fight and they’re off your jock. They can write what they want but I don’t consider this a comeback fight.
“I took this opportunity because I expect to win. After I do, people will talk more about me again and we’ll keep the doors open for both weight classes and see what’s out there.
“I think everything happens for a reason. I really do believe that. Losing to Margarito, then getting surgery done (on his wrist and thumb) and seeing my son born, well if I’d won I would have missed out on the birth of my baby boy. Like I said, things happen for a reason. I believe there will be better things for me in my career.’’
Kermit Cintron believes that begins Saturday night at the expense of the Argentinian-born resident of Spain who is 44-1-1 with 24 KO because he’s the kind of fighter who can frustrate and fascinate an opponent with his slipperiness, boxing skills and natural difficulties that are spawned from his southpaw stance.
Cintron knows all this, of course. He is well aware of what he has gotten himself into and what he must do to get himself out of it and back into the welterweight mix. He has to win.
“I was definitely hurt when I lost to Margarito again,’’ Cintron said. “It was a big opportunity because next would have been a fight with Cotto and my kids would have been (financially) set. But boxing is a crazy business. If you lose a fight and you come back and win a fight you can get back on TV and back into the picture.’’
That’s where he is now, back on TV and back in the picture. But if Kermit Cintron wants to be part of the big picture he must do more than that. Saturday night he must win like he always has except for two nights against a guy with a troubling style and just maybe trouble in his hand wraps.
“Kermit is a devastating puncher and certainly has the ability to win another world title,’’ DiBella said. “He’s still a young man in the prime of his career. He’s an intelligent guy who knows exactly what he has to do to get back on top.’’
Yes he does. Win another world title on Saturday night.
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