If you read me regularly, you know I'm a guy who'd always rather see a ref stop a fight a shade early rather than late. Late can mean dead in the ring.
So it is exceedingly rare for me to talk about a quick hook, an inappropriately early stoppage. But I must say, I don't recall as stoppage that surprised me more than the one I saw in the main event on HBO on Saturday night. Canelo Alvarez had the fight in hand, I'd say, but in the fifth round, challenger Kermit Cintron was right there with him. With nine seconds to go in the round, Kermit was backed into a corner, right after he threw a double jab and right follow. Canelo answered with a jab-hook and a real solid right followup. It was a scoring blow, a solid blow, but nothing truly earth shattering. Kermit tried to duck for cover a bit and Canelo hurled a glancing left hook to the body and a right behind the head, which clearly missed. And the ref, one Hector Afu, saw fit to halt the bout. I did a double, then a triple take. Kermit wasn't wobbled, his head wasn't in that "loose neck" mode when a fighter's head is likely to snap back in an accelerated fashion because his defenses are down. That is not to say he hadn't eaten a bunch of clean rights, and perhaps in the near future was going to be dropped and stopped. But at that moment, he was both defending himself, and in fact, and just thrown a combo.
The loser didn't protest much, if at all, it must be said, and he'd gone down in the previous round, off a sharp right. He'd eaten a bunch of those sharp rights, but this wasn't a slaughterhouse special, one of those fights where you and everyone in the arena and watching on TV, but the ref, knows the guy getting hammered has not a glimmer of hope.
My mystification grew when I noted on the Twitter that there wasn't much in the way of surprise, let alone heated dissent, regarding the ref's call. People who the week before had spent a few Tweets debating whether or not Peter Manfredo deserved more time to answer before getting the gong against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. seemed to think Cintron was getting basted with hard blows, when in fact one, I re-state, one hard blow hit him in the final flurry.
Kermit does seem to get himself involved in fights with strange endings, and post-fights discussions for the wrong reasons. He exited the ring through the strands against Paul Williams in 2010, and it seems like a consensus emerged which accused him off leaping out of the ring; against Sergio Martinez in 2009, he avoided a count-out when he indicated he was butted and not struck, and the ref, Frank Santore, mistakenly agreed; in 2005, the undefeated Cintron raised eyebrows when he looked to his corner, willing them to stop the uneven affair against Antonio Margarito. "He was looking for intervention, looking for help, saying I can't handle this, I'm not ready for this, help me," Teddy Atlas said after, as he watched the 24-0 Cintron break down crying.
Yes, Kermit has a certain history. Some who have associated with him in the past have wondered if he wouldn't be served by some sessions with a sports psychologist, to bolster his mental stamina and confidence. But I thought he deserved the option to fight on against Canelo, even if evidence pointed to the mission being fruitless. He is 32, and the chances at the gold rings are dwindling, if not down to zero by this point, for the Puerto-Rican born hitter. So, I asked Cintron, did he think the stoppage was quick, and did he want to fight on?
"I could have kept going, it was a world title fight," he told me. "Of course I wanted to keep fighting, I was throwing bombs to try and KO him."
He characterized himself as "good physically" but "destroyed" mentally and emotionally. (By the way, I have to say I take issue with some of the flippant disregard I see tossed around on Twitter about Cintron, and other boxers. Pundits and keyboard tappers are often a bit too quick and pointed with the putdowns these days, IMO. I myself fall prey at times myself to this casual sarcasm. The temptation to score a cheap point on Twitter means sometimes we forget to respect the efforts of the boxers. End soapbox rant...)
So, will he fight again? I dare say he has looked like he wasn't fully committed at times in the last couple years.
"I'm just looking forward to seeing my kids and wife right now. Boxing can wait," Cintron said.
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV