By Spencer Cobb Adams
Sometimes in boxing and in horse racing it all comes down to class.
That was the case when veteran WBO welterweight champion Antonio Margarito defended his crown against hard-punching but relatively inexperienced Kermit Cintron.
Making his fifth title defense, Margarito ripped open a nasty cut over the challenger's right eye and then proceeded to deposit Cintron four times on the deck before scoring a fifth-round technical knockout.
Margarito, who first turned pro at 16, in his hometown of Tijuana, Mexico, ripped Cintron in the third round with a volley of wicked shots in close quarters. Cintron emerged with a deep cut over his right eyelid and referee Kenny Bayless was forced to call time, as blood streamed from the challenger's wound. After an examination from Dr. Margaret Goodman the fight was allowed to continue but the injury seemingly took the heart out of the challenger.
Margarito continued to dominate the one-sided action in the fourth round with searing body shots and hammering left hooks upstairs and it appeared as if Cintron was prepared to call it a night. Midway through the 4th, Margarito nailed the challenger with a scalding uppercut that dropped Cintron.
The challenger was able to beat the count at nine, however, seconds later, Cintron hit the deck for the second time after desperately hanging on around the champion's waist and catching several more punches.
Cintron looked like a reluctant fighter as he answered the bell to open the fifth round on shaky legs. Margarito continued to land punches and the challenger dropped to one knee, as he attempted to clear his head but moments later he graced the canvas for the final time.
With blood dripping down the right side of his face, Cintron was a defeated boxer and as he walked toward his corner, his trainer Marshall Kaufman mounted the ring apron and ended the bout at 2:21 of the fifth round.
"I was confident coming in. We new he was a heavier puncher, so I took my time and picked my punches," Margarito explained after the win. "We knew he was a power puncher, so I came out with my hands up. I was calm and I needed to weather the first round to see and feel what he was going to bring to the fight."
The sudden and overwhelming destruction of Cintron now allows Margarito to focus on signing a lucrative deal to hopefully face one of the big names in the welterweight division.
"People know and saw that I'm ready for the big guys, Oscar, Mosley and even Zab Judah," Margarito proclaimed.
Cintron was still shaken after the TKO loss but he was convinced the key to the fight was the punch that opened the cut over his right eye in the third round.
"I could have thrown more punches and been more cautious about it. I think he came with a good left uppercut and it opened my eye and my eye started bothering me," Cintron said. "I tried to come back but I don't know what to say. Five years in this sport and look how far I got. But I'll be back though. I'm going train harder and hopefully I'll get another world title shot."
--Step Up In Class--
Just last February, Margarito scored a savage tenth round TKO over mandatory challenger Sebastian Andres Lujan, in preparation for his showdown with Cintron. In that bout, Margarito nearly ripped Lujan's left ear off, in one of the more brutal technical knockouts in recent memory.
With the exception of his 8th round TKO victory over Teddy Reid last July, Cintron had never really faced a world class fighter the caliber of the champion and that lack of experience was on display in his quest to capture the WBO belt. Compounding the challenger's problems were nine months of inactivity and surgery on his right hand.
Cintron (24-1, 22 KO's) scored with several solid hooks early in the first round but Margarito (147) maintained his composure, as he attempted to gauge the challenger's power. With 56-seconds to go in the opening round, Margarito (32-4, 23 KO's) drilled Cintron (146 ½) with a long right hand to the belly.
Cintron, Reading, PA., continued to try and unload combinations in the second round but with his hands held high the champion was able to block most of the challenger's shots. However, with 1:53 to go in the 2nd, Margarito, 27, ripped the challenger with a digging left hook that caught Cintron on the beltline. With 1:16 remaining in the round, Margarito caught Cintron, 5'11", with a three-punch combination that he finished off with another sharp left hook to the body. Cintron, 25, froze for an instant in front of the champion and Margarito answered by bouncing three more shots off the challenger's profile. Cintron finally returned fire and he clipped Margarito, 5'11", with a chopping right hand to the jaw and quickly followed with two more sharp punches. Both men traded leather in the center of the ring, as the action and the excitement increased in noise and tempo.
Margarito continued to hammer away at the body and with 2:33 to go in the 3rd, the champion scored with a three-punch combination that featured another digging left hook that thudded off Cintron's right flank. Fighting in the center of the ring with 1:06 to go in the round, Margarito connected with a straight right cross to the face. Cintron retreated but as he attempted to return fire a stunning overhand right to the side of the skull clocked him. The blow once again froze Cintron in his tracks and Margarito drilled him with another hard four-punch combination finished off by a savage left uppercut to the face. Cintron emerged from the exchange with blood spurting from a nasty cut on his right eyelid.
The referee Bayless immediately called time and Dr. Goodman was summoned from ringside to examine the wound. After a brief exam the action resumed and Margarito finished out the round by clubbing the challenger with several more hard combination to the face and ribs. Rather than step around his opponent, Cintron continued to lean over directly into Margarito's wheelhouse and it was an error in tactics that would soon prove to be his undoing.
With cutman Sid Brumbach trying to stop the flow of blood and his trainer Marshall Kaufman offering advice, Cintron appeared to be in serious trouble for the first time in his pro career.
Margarito remained on target and with little more than two-minutes to go in the 4th; the champion dipped to his right and buried a nasty right cross under the challenger's heart. Margarito continued to pull the trigger with body shots and with 1:45 remaining in the round, the champion hammered Cintron with a wicked right hand to the ribs and then came back with an overhand right to the side of the skull. The challenger staggered sideways and almost went down from the two hard right hands.
With the crowd cheering, Margarito drove Cintron back into the ropes and then tagged him with another six-shot volley to the face and body. Cintron appeared unsteady on his feet and as he attempted to return fire, Margarito nailed him with an arcing right uppercut to the face from long distance that sent the challenger reeling back into the ropes. Margarito jumped on the challenger and blasted him with another half dozen scalding shots that sent Cintron careening around the perimeter of the ropes. Two short chopping uppercuts rocketed off Cintron's jaw and the native of Puerto Rico crashed to the canvas on all fours.
Reeling from the knockdown Cintron managed to make it to one-knee at the count of four but he seemed confused and slightly bewildered as he stared at his corner before regaining his feet at the count of eight.
When the fight resumed Margarito went back on the attack and scored with two more hammering right crosses to the head. Off balance and still dazed from the knockdown, Cintron struggled to stay upright and he grabbed Margarito around the waist with both hands before tumbling to the floor for the second time.
The challenger was up almost immediately but when he regained his feet he continued to look at his corner for advice. Following the mandatory eight-count, Cintron let out a noticeable sigh of disbelief and then marched back into the champion's firing range. The challenger connected with a whistling right cross that caught Margarito flush on the chin but he was unable to follow up with any more heavy artillery. Cintron survived the round but as he returned to his corner with blood curling down the right side of his face with his head bowed he looked like a defeated fighter.
Cintron scored with a quick flurry to open the 5th, but within seconds he was back on his heels, as Margarito answered with his own volley of leather. The challenger could only respond by attempting to wrap up on his opponent and trying to clinch. At the 1:33 mark of the 5th, Margarito clocked Cintron with a short riveting right hand to the side of the face followed by chopping left hook high on the skull.
Cintron's legs gave way and he collapsed to the floor for the third time under Margarito's fists. Looking like a hitter in the on deck circle, Cintron continued to kneel with one glove and one knee on the canvas while spitting blood out of the corner of his mouth. Once again the challenger glanced at his seconds with a look of sad dismay. He climbed off the floor at the count of five and slowly walked back into battle but his body language betrayed his willingness to keep boxing.
Fighting in the center of the ring on rubbery legs Citron again attempted to grab the champion around the waist but Margarito answered by bouncing two more sharp hooks off his ribcage. The challenger pirouetted halfway around Margarito before falling straight back and landing on his wallet. Slumped in the center of the ring Cintron's inexperienced had betrayed him.
He managed to get upright and walk back towards his own corner but with blood streaking down the right side of his face Cintron was done for the night. His friend and trainer Kaufman climbed atop the ring apron and the referee Bayless waved off the bout.
Across the ring, Margarito calmly climbed atop the ropes, pounded his chest and celebrated his electrifying TKO. Cintron was reduced to tears as he buried his face into Kaufman's chest, as his pursuit for a world championship had come up short. The toughest and classiest customer on this cool evening in the desert was the welterweight from Tijuana.