Cintron-Margarito: See you at the Crossroads

Kermit CintronBy Anthony Coleman: On Saturday night Kermit Cintron and Antonio Margarito will have their second confrontation, and there is a lot at stake, and Iím not talking about Cintronís belt. No something more valuable is on the line: reputation. Though many might not know; this fight is a crossroads fight. No, this isnít one of those standard definition crossroads bouts in which a fighter loses and drops from a contender to a litmus test fighter for up-and-coming prospects. Cintron and Margarito will still have a chance to fight for championships after Saturday nightís fight.

However, this maybe both menís last chance at super stardom. While Cintron and Margarito have main evented occasional cards in the past (their first fight was the main event of the very first ESPN Pay-Per-View), they are usually relegated to being undercard level fighters. And while both men are exceptional talents, they have never been looked upon as one of the sports very best fighters. This maybe their last time to establish themselves as pound-for-pound players and to make bigger fights that will pay them millions of dollars.

For Cintron, one of the best punchers in the sport, it is his chance to finally overcome the demons of his humiliating KO loss to Margarito back in 2005. The humiliation wasnít merely of the results of the four knockdowns he suffered; it was his utter and total mental collapse. When Margarito opened up that cut in the third round you could see the fear and doubt in his eyes, then the fear and doubt turned into outright panic when he was driven to the mat by a Margarito combo. For the fifth and final round he would do little more than grab Margarito and while he tried to think of something, anything that he could do to pull off a win. It didnít happen. He would get knockdown three more times and the final time he was walking and looking over to his corner hoping they would stop the fight, which they respectively did.

For the past two years after that moment Cintron has been on a role with his new trainer, the legendary Emmanuel Steward, as he has rolled off four consecutive KO victories in a row, including his IBF title winning effort against Mark Suarez in October of 2006. After he brutally knocked out Walter Matthysse (and let there be no misunderstanding; it was a BRUTAL KO) many in the boxing world couldnít trip over themselves fast enough to sing their praises to Cintron and talks of a potential unification bout with newly crowned WBO titlist Paul Williams was generating huge buzz. That all changed when he had a difficult than expected title defense against the very ordinary Jesse Feliciano.

Feliciano gave Cintron hell by just staying in his chest and throwing non-stop, yet weak, punches. Cintron was able to eventually score the stoppage in the tenth round, yet two indelible images were engraved in the minds of fans who witnessed the fight. The first was the fact that Cintron had trouble fighting on the inside with a fighter as limited as Feliciano. The other was that when Feliciano was making his charge, it seemed as if Cintron once again was showing serious signs of anxiety. After this bout, the proposed showdown with Williams was called off and the whispers of Cintron still having severe confidence issues in the ring had resurfaced.

Going into this rematch Cintron must answer all the questions of whether he has learned from the mistakes of the first fight and if he can somehow fight back when adversity (and it will come tomorrow night) once again comes to him. As it has already been noted Cintronís offensive gifts are impressive. His vaunted punching power is the obvious attention grabber, but he also throws his punches with fine technique and in crisp combinations. Add in the fact that he has a very good jab to go along with his reach and height and you have a very formidable foe. But once again the question is whether Cintron can stand up against of a fighter who is as big as he is, but sets a very high work rate and has heavy hands something he failed miserably at in his first fight with Margarito. He has the tools for victory, but now it is time to see he has the mental capacity to not fold.

As dire as things are for Cintron a win is more urgent for his opponent. For the last five years Antonio Margarito has been the one in the welterweight division that has always been on the doorsteps for a big fight, but something was always standing in his way. He could never land that big fight with Cory Spinks, Zab Judah, and most famously Floyd Mayweather (for those who donít know the back story Mayweather turned down an 8 million dollar offer to face him). Last year Margarito seemed to be on the steps for that big payday fight, this time with Miguel Cotto, but he would end up losing his WBO title to Paul Williams and Cotto decided to fight Shane Mosley. And as for Margarito, he ended up blowing out Golden Johnson in one roundÖon the undercard of the Cotto-Mosley Pay-Per-View. Damn, that must have sucked.

Margarito is now a man who knows that time is no longer on his side. He is now 30 years old and because he has fought so many grueling wars his ring age could be 35. This is probably his last chance at scoring that big fight. If he loses he will be the guy that pound-for-pound guys wouldnít want to fight because he is too dangerous, and theyíd have a reason not to face him because of his losses. It is do or die for him.

However, on Saturday night he will be facing a guy he demolished three years ago so whether or not he can defeat him isnít a question. The question is that whether he is going to take him too lightly and get caught or whether Cintron has improved so much that Margarito wonít be able to deal with his adjustments. It is crucial for him not to come into this fight thinking that it will be another blowout in his favor. He needs to prepare to go with a plan B if Cintronís style demands it. If he doesnít come prepared, he will lose the fight.

With the winner of the bout set to meet WBA titlist Miguel Cotto in July (and thatís assuming that Cotto will get past Alfonso Gomez, and I do think he will) for a multi-million dollar payday, both Cintron and Margarito can see that giant gold scepter and it is not that far away. Their dreams are almost in the palms of their hands. But for the loser, it could be a setback that is impossible for him to fully recover from. This fight is clearly the fork in the road for both of their careers and Saturday night we will see who will be the one to enter the fast lane.

Article posted on 12.04.2008

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