Catching up with Kermit Cintron
The Welter Report by Gabriel Montoya, Doghouse Boxing (Jun 9, 2008)  
Since his second loss to Antonio Margarito in April, former welterweight titleholder Kermit Cintron has been laying low. “Just getting things ready around the house,” the Puerto Rican native said on a text to set up a phone interview. What he was getting his house ready for was the birth of his first son (“Clemente, after Roberto Clemente”), as well as yet another hand surgery. It is these kinds of high and low extremes that might overwhelm most people. But for a man who is no stranger to tragedy and triumph, it’s just life, and he takes it all in stride.

“I had the ligament on my right thumb repaired,” Cintron explains. “It was a little bit torn but mostly it was very stretched. So they had to go in there and shrink it. Then they did something else to my wrist. The outside of my wrist. Nothing major. Two to four weeks of recovery. Then therapy after that.”

With the loss to Margarito, Cintron lost out on the opportunity to take on WBA titleholder Miguel Cotto. It would have been not only a career high payday but also a chance to prove his mettle against arguably the division’s best fighter. Such a loss would be devastating for many fighters. Rather than dwell on the negative ramifications of the loss, Cintron takes a more philosophical and positive approach.

“Things happen for a reason. Getting surgery done. Losing to Margarito. I believe that there will be better things out there for me in my career. My wife’s due date is June 3. If I had won, I would have missed out on my first baby boy. So things happen for a reason. You just have to learn from your mistakes and your losses.”

Following his first loss to Margarito (the only man he has ever lost to as a professional fighter), a couple of reasons were given as to why things went so wrong: poor preparation following a major hand surgery and too little experience. Now that history has repeated itself, the picture has become clearer.

“I talked to my wife. I talked to a couple of my close friends. And the thing of it, it’s just one of those matches where you’re not going to win,” Cintron says. “Oscar De La Hoya against Shane Mosley. Shane Mosley beat him twice. Vernon Forrest beat Mosley twice. It’s one of those things where I guess, he just has my number. I think that [Margarito’s] style is just not suitable for me. You take those losses and you learn from them. If you don’t learn anything from them then you shouldn’t be fighting anymore.”

One of the criticisms of Cintron and his team was the approach to Margarito in the rematch. Rather than stick and move all night, Cintron employed more of a catch and shoot style and stood his ground in a close-quarters battle. Cintron insists that strategy is not what brought the loss on.

“It’s just the match-up,” he continues. “Our styles don’t match up well for me. I sparred with guys, and fought guys with a similar style. The difference is that Margarito throws about 120 punches a round. Against David Estrada, the guy is aggressive, he comes forward. But he doesn’t throw as much. Margarito just has the number on me. What can you say? He’s a very strong fighter and a great champion as well. And I give it to him for beating me twice.”

Cintron appeared a changed fighter coming into the rematch. He had been developing a better defense and his punches were straighter and more fluid. The biggest change was how he reacted to adversity in both the Jesse Feliciano and David Estrada fights; responding with stoppage victories when it seemed like the tide was turning against him. But while both Estrada and Feliciano were pressure fighters who gave Cintron trouble, both lacked one attribute that Margarito has in spades: an almost supernatural ability to take hard punches and not even blink.

“That’s also the difference, too,” he says with a half laugh. “Margarito took every hard shot I threw at him. And I landed some hard right hands and uppercuts as well. He took them. What can you say about the guy? Something is wrong with him,” he says cracking up incredulously. “Anybody else in the division would have been knocked out by that. But the guy can take a hard shot. I caught him with some great body shots as well, and he took those, too. What I can say? I just have to move on and learn from the loss.”

In the locker room after the rematch, Cintron’s trainer Manny Steward was impressed by how his fighter took the loss. “He was laughing, joking around,” recalls Steward. “I think I took it harder than he did.”

“I lost the fight,” recalls Cintron. “ I don’t like losing. And it sucks that I lost. I was hurt. I just didn’t show it. The first time around I was very emotional. It takes a lot to get in that ring. It’s boxing. You can’t win every fight out there. But you know, even greats like Ali and guys like that, they lost and came back. I trained hard but like I said, it’s the nature of the sport.”

In the current climate of the sport, one loss can set a fighter back years. Two can be devastating, causing a fighter to question everything from his style to the people around him. Cintron however, still believes in his trainer and feels that the whispers that surround Steward (who has seen two other fighters under his tutelage lose in spectacular fashion) are unwarranted.

“I think that my team right now is a great team. People are morons. They don’t know what the hell they are talking about. I’m sure those people that are talking about him have never put a pair of mitts on and tried to train somebody. Or put a pair of gloves on. Those people are morons. Manny is still great. He’s the best trainer out there in my opinion and there are a lot of people out there that would agree with me. You’re not going have ten fighters and all ten fighters are going to win. It’s not going to happen. You’re going to be training fighters, you’re going to win some and you’re going to lose some. Manny still has it in him. We’re going to go back to the drawing board and get back on a winning streak.”

One change Cintron did feel was necessary was a change in promoters. Soon after the loss, Cintron asked to be released from his contract with Main Events and they amicably obliged. Cintron made it clear though, that there is no ill will.

“I wanted to get out from Main Events. I don’t want to talk bad about them because they are a great company. I just didn’t feel the same way as I did the first time they signed me.”

Now a free agent, Cintron has begun to field offers from a number of promoters, including Lou DiBella.

“The biggest thing with me is that if you make promises, you keep them,” Cintron explains when asked what he looks for in a team member. “I have a few promoters talking to me that are interested. I just have to talk to all of them, sit down with the family, my close friends, and go from there.”

With a shot at the top dog out of reach for the time being, Cintron remains optimistic about his plans for the future. The question is: at what weight class will that future be in?

“I’m going to be moving to light heavyweight. I usually walk around at about 200 pounds,” he says in all seriousness.

There’s a brief pause as I think of how to broach the subject of this lunatic move up in weight.

“I’m just kidding,” he says cracking up. “I’m staying at the 147 pounds. That’s my weight class. I’m still comfortable making the weight. There’s no problems. If there is an opportunity to fight for a world title at 154 pounds, we’ll think about it. But I plan on staying here right now.”

And as for those who feel Cintron’s days as a top contender are over?

“Those are people just talking. They don’t know what is going on,” he insists. “Look at Zab Judah. For a moment, people were saying he was done. I think he is two and three in his last five? Something like that? And he’s fighting for a world title. I can understand losing three, four fights in a row. Then there’s going to be questions. I always come back strong. I hate losing. I am a strong, athletic guy who likes to compete a lot. I will definitely be back to start a winning streak in September or October. And we’ll make a run again for a world title. I’m not rushing.”

Succeed or fail in his next run at a title, Cintron has come a long way in a short time in the sport. A fact he is quick to point out.

“One thing people don’t bring up is that I started fighting at the age of 19. That’s when I started fighting. You got guys like Mosley, De La Hoya, Mayweather, Judah and those types of fighters; they started fighting at five or six-years-old. I’m still learning the sport. I still have years in me. I’m still young when you speak of boxing years. I feel like I haven’t done badly at all being a world champion already when you compare it to those other guys with [extensive] amateur careers.”

For now, Cintron is just biding his time, looking forward to a future that has little to do with the sport for the time being.

“I’m happy to be at home,” he says with the voice of his young daughter chattering happily in the background. “Just waiting for my wife to give birth to our first boy and enjoy myself for the rest of the summer. Then it’s getting back into the groove of training, fighting, and getting on that winning streak.”

A little over a week after this interview was conducted, Kermit’s winning streak began when his first son, Clemente Cintron, was born healthy and happy at 7 pounds 12 ounces.

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