Sometimes perception-wise in boxing and sports in general, athletes can be put in tough situations. They are up against somebody they are expected to beat easily. And if they do, fans are unhappy with the competition. And if they lose, well, they lose. Paul Williams was kind of in that situation against Kermit Cintron. Almost all expected Williams to beat him and look good doing it.
But, there were risks with Cintron and the only man to beat him has been Margarito, so it was not really a lose/lose for Williams, but as the forth rounded to a close, it became a giant win/win opportunity for Cintron. And a win/win is as rare in sports as the hockey player with all his teeth or the calm, rational Jets fan.
Even for a challenger that is expected to be blown out, it is not really a win/win. If he loses as expected and by as much as expected, it just reinforces his exemption from the top level or can shoot him down the ranks to obscurity. If he gives out a good fight and still loses, yes, he can benefit even after losing, but it is still not a win/win.
Kermit Cintron was in the very unique position of being in the midst of a true win/win opportunity against Williams. The talk that has haunted Cintron as he has moved up in class, has not been, weak in the hands like Malignaggi, or weak in the chin like Wladimir Klitschko, but weak in the heart. The worst thing that can be said about a man inside the ring...or out.
Cintron out-thought himself, instead of trying to out-fight Williams. He felt like he squeaked out a good performance. Whether or not he knew the fight would go to the cards that early, can't be known for sure. But it sure seemed like it. Even if he didn't, he still thought he was doing the smart thing by staying down. He could squeak out a good showing and never have to be that close to Williams again. He thought his best rounds were behind him, and that's were he wanted to put the Williams fight.
But like a lot of things, Cintron got it wrong...dead wrong. After the spill, he was in the most unlikely position of all for an athlete...a true win-win. Here are a few athletes that opted for toughness and put themselves in a win/win:
Jack Youngblood may have had the coolest name in all of sports, but he is best known for playing throughout the NFL playoffs with a broken leg. He didn't have to play, and not a soul would have questioned it. And he would certainly not have been judged on how he did play. Miraculously, he played ok in that stretch.
His team though, lost the super Bowl. But all that is forgotten. What is remembered is he played through a broken leg, and his legacy as one of the toughest men to ever put on pads is forever.
Willis Reed dragged his severely pulled thigh muscle onto the floor and in front of the great Wilt Chamberlain in the 1970 NBA finals. If the Knicks lose, and he gets stomped, so what? Just showing the will to go against Wilt in that condition cemented his place in the history of basketball. His team, the Knicks, ended up winning game and the championship. And no one ever mentions, Reed only had four points all game.
Michael Jordan played in the NBA finals with a bad case of the flu. He was vomiting right up until the game started and also during halftime. Very few players would have even put on the uniform that night. Just being out there for tip-off was an accomplishment. Jordan's greatness would not have been questioned if his team would have been blown out, and he got shut down. But with his meals coming up, and all the pressure off, Jordan went out and scored 38 points and his team won.
Here are the scenarios for Cintron if he would have found it within himself to opt for toughness...
Kermit Cintron is tripped up and his momentum launches him through the ropes and out of the ring. He lands first on the ringside table with a thud then rolls and falls again on to the floor of the arena. A total fall of about 6 feet. With his back bruised and trouble breathing, Cintron presses to his knees before ultimately scampering to his feet.
He raises his gloves and bounces on his toes while grasping for air in an act of defiance against the boxing gods that catapulted him onto the ground, and any doctor that may dare call for a stoppage.
Cintron bravely takes his allotted time from a lonely corner of the ring before gallantly fighting-on against four division scourge and monstrous multi-belt winner Paul Williams...
1)...Cintron was gallant in his quest to hand Williams only his second defeat, but after the fall, Cintron was unable to muster the kind of success he had before the unfortunate accident, and Williams went on to the easy win. But during a career that has been diminished by questions of his heart and toughness, Cintron has finally silenced all those critics.
2)...Cintron fought hard and gave the giant Williams all he could handle. Eventually Williams won out. But the big question is how much was taken out of Cintron from the fall? Many believe without the fall, Cintron would have kept improving in his ability to find Williams, and the outcome may have gone the other way. Either way, Cintron's toughness will never be questioned again.
3)...Kermit Cintron blows away those at ring side only after first falling at their feet. After a frightening fall through the ropes and out onto the hard floor of the Home Depot Center, Cintron beats the heavily favored Paul Williams. It is an instant classic that makes Cintron the new force at 154, and the victor in the most unlikely show of heart and toughness the boxing public as seen in a very long time.
You see it? Win/win/win. There is not a scenario where Cintron doesn't come out of this looking better if he gets back in the ring. The pressure was completely off. Any outcome makes him look good. As bad as it is to say, he had a built in excuse and wasn't even tough enough to use it.
And don't believe the interview a few hours later when he claimed to be mad at the doctor for not letting him fight. If you walk into your doctor's office, holding your wrist and telling him you can't bend it because you just fell off your bike, don't complain after he gives you an X-ray. Why is that on my bill! I don't want to pay for that. I knew it wasn't broken and it was OK!
The only sign Cintron showed of wanting to continue was after he was strapped on the gurney and halfway in the ambulance. A little wave of the hand, like he wanted to keep fighting. He made his mind up to say down. He mistakenly thought it was what would be best for him. He could either get the win cause it is going the cards. (He very well could have won the first couple of rounds.) Or he did well enough the first few rounds, but now Williams is starting to pick up his rhythm.
Cintron was in a win/win if he would have gotten back in the ring. But now all he did was give more fuel to every fan who has ever called him soft, every fan that said he is just not tough enough to beat the elite. Kermit, listen up, when you are staring at a win-win...take it!