Kermit Cintron has the opportunity of a lifetime in front of him this Saturday.

When he steps into the ring at the Home Depot Center in Carson California, he has a chance to undo a career filled with disappointments that have overshadowed promise, where lows have outnumbered highs. He can accomplish this by beating just one opponent.

That opponent just so happens to be Paul Williams, one of the most avoided fighters in the sport, and one of the most talented rising stars in the game.

Hey, I didn’t say it would be easy.

Although some look at Cintron as an afterthought with little more than a puncher’s chance, Team Williams would be wise to approach this fight with a serious amount of caution, because Cintron has a legitimate chance to play the spoiler against “The Punisher.”

Admittedly, Cintron’s track record shows a pretty steady pattern of stumbling when stepping in with the best. His two losses, both knockouts to Antonio Margarito, are the types of punishing beatdowns that permanently deflate a young fighter’s confidence. Additionally, he should have another loss on his record; his draw with Sergio Martinez, a fight which Martinez dominated, ranks among the worst robberies in recent years.

In hindsight, though, Cintron’s worst performances don’t look so bad anymore. Antonio Margarito’s public disgrace regarding his attempt to use illegally wrapped hands against Shane Mosley puts his most dominant performances into question, with the pair of Cintron knockouts among those suspicious victories. And now that Sergio Martinez is the new middleweight champ, a draw, even a bogus one, looks pretty good on Cintron’s record. Heck, the loss that he deserves wouldn’t even look that bad.

Consider also that Cintron has made significant gains in his technical prowess under the tutelage of Emmanuel Steward. Cintron is now a little bit more than a right-hand puncher, as his solid performance in outpointing then-undefeated Alfredo Angulo demonstrated. And, given the right opponent, Cintron can be devastating. Just ask Walter Matthysse, who was nearly bludgeoned to death by Cintron in two rounds in 2007. (Remember that this was the same Walter Matthysse that gave Paul Williams a tough fight en route to a tenth round stoppage in 2006.)

Things are made even more interesting when acknowledging how hittable Paul Williams was in his last fight with Sergio Martinez, which Williams won via a highly controversial decision. Williams, as exciting and talented as he is, has never been particularly good at taking full advantage of his physical assets. At 6’2”, it would seem to be in Williams’ best interest to fight tall, use his freakish 82-inch reach, and outbox opponents from long range. However, Williams’ affinity for fighting toe to toe and using volume punching instead of precision boxing makes him vulnerable to good counterpunchers, which was almost his undoing against Martinez. The fact that he also likes to lean in almost completely negates his height and makes him vulnerable to unnecessary punches. If he eats clean right hands from Cintron the way he did against Martinez, things could get interesting in a hurry.

All things considered, Cintron appears to have a very solid chance of pulling upsetting the Paul Williams Express. If he hopes to take it from possibility to reality, he absolutely must avoid the mental breakdowns that have plagued him in the past. Cintron has a tendency to slowly wilt in the face of adversity. He won’t openly quit, but he can completely fall apart. He twice did it against Margarito and nearly did against David Estrada. Cintron is a pretty good as a frontrunner; he knows how to manage a fight when he in control, but when things get difficult, he can fold in two. You can almost follow his thought process by watching his face. When the going gets tough, Cintron seems to question if he belongs there, or at least if he wants to be in the ring against a rather hostile competitor. More than anything, it seems, Cintron takes himself out of the fight by panicking when he’s in trouble.

Against Paul Williams, Cintron will not have the type of easy assignment he prefers. Unless he manages to blast Williams out early, which is pretty unlikely, he will be in for the type of grueling, fast-paced fight that has made him unravel in the past. He needs to convince himself, in the hellish heat of battle, that he belongs in the ring with Williams. Unless he does that, he won’t convince anyone else either. If he can prepare himself for the physically and mentally draining elements of this fight, he has a very real opportunity to score what would be one of the upsets of the year.