Los Angeles, CA – Coming into his fight against the IBF Welterweight Champion Kermit Cintron (29-1, 27KO’s), Saturday night at the Staples’ Center, Joe DeGuardia’s Star Boxing promoted, Jesse “El Rayo” Feliciano (15-6-3, 9KO’s) understood that many saw him not only as a huge underdog to take Cintron’s title, but that he would be lucky to even last six minutes in the ring with the powerful Cintron. “I was a 20-1 underdog,” said Feliciano. “No one expected me to even go the first two rounds with Cintron, but I proved everybody wrong” To many, including Cintron and his team, this was to simply be a tune-up bout, a formality if you will, before Cintron’s unification bout against WBO titlist Paul Williams scheduled for early 2008.
However, what Team Cintron failed to take into consideration while preparing for Feliciano was his heart, determination and cast-iron chin. The very same assets that would propel Feliciano into putting on the performance of a lifetime, winning over the thousands upon thousands of fans packed into the Staples’ Center, and showing Cintron that he was not going to act out the role the champ had expected him to play..
One of the fans sitting ringside Saturday night that Feliciano won over is the same man who has become worldly recognized as the epitome for all underdogs in every fashion of life – none other than Mr. Rocky Balboa himself, Sylvester Stallone. Feliciano had the one guy who could best relate with what he was going through as a promising fighter who was taking on a tough champion, and Rocky was rooting for him.
At the same time, Stallone was seeing his Rocky movie franchise play out right before his very eyes, as a fighter who was “supposed” to lose, pouring out his blood, sweat, and tears with every punch he threw, and emitting his never-say-die ferociousness to every fan in the house, all who were on their feet begging for more.
From the opening bell, Feliciano wisely chose to fight Cintron on the inside, taking away the champ’s ability to use his impressive punching power from a distance, and therefore giving the busier Feliciano the advantage of outboxing Cintron over the scheduled twelve round battle. “My game plan was to keep him on a short leash,” said Feliciano. “I stayed in his chest throughout the entire fight trying to outhustle him.”
After Feliciano took some of the champ’s best shots in the first round, it was Cintron who came out a little more worse for wear, due to Feliciano’s non-stop attack. “I wasn’t going to back up,” said Feliciano. “I came to fight and that had to discourage him.”
Cintron’s level of discouragement only increased, as with each passing round Feliciano not only seemed less likely to succumb to Cintron’s might the way so many of his previous opponents had, but Feliciano’s had amazing ability to toss out an exorbitant amount of leather that never seemed to cease. The fans, the PPV commentators and even Emmanuel Steward, the trainer of Cintron, saw the title slipping away from Cintron in what was playing out to be a major upset.
It was not until the middle of the tenth round, when after both warriors had given it their all, a barrage of power punches had the referee stopping the bout. Nonetheless, Feliciano was still standing and many were disappointed that they wouldn’t be able to see Feliciano pull off the major raupset. Many believed that Cintron had just gone for broke and wonder what would’ve happened if the referee didn’t stop the fight. Feliciano’s heart came out in words. “I could have gone another two rounds,” said Feliciano. “I think the referee stopped it too early.”
Feliciano had forced Cintron into deep waters. In his thirty professional bouts Cintron had only seen the tenth round two previous times. Feliciano had taken Cintron’s best shots, and even though his feet never left the canvas, his heart pulsed out of the squared circle and into the 10,365 fans cheering his name throughout the arena.
On Saturday night, Feliciano became a fan favorite even in defeat, he won more fans then his victor did, and he showed he has the formula to make big crowd- pleasing fights in the future. When you have Rocky rooting for you, you must be doing something right.
“Jesse Feliciano displayed all that’s great about the sport of boxing” said Star Boxing’s CEO Joe DeGuardia. “A true underdog, Jesse showed the will, character and determination of a true warrior”. Jesse earned the respect of all the fans who watched and of all of us involved in the sport of boxing”. “I join the thousands in looking forward with great anticipation to the next time Jesse steps into the ring”.