Last Five Fights: Paul Williams and Kermit Cintron

This Saturday's junior middleweight fight between Paul Williams and Kermit Cintron is one of those fights that happens for both sides out of necessity, but in the same regard, is a bit rare. Guys aren't always willing to take the best possible fight they can -- with Kelly Pavlik and Sergio Martinez tied up with one another, Williams didn't have many credible options, and Cintron didn't either with the lack of good names in the weight class. There was talk of one or both of them returning to their old stomping grounds at 147, but instead they just went ahead and signed to take on each other. Both are showing some guts with this fight. Williams is on the brink of a shot at the world middleweight championship, it would seem, and Cintron has gotten his career back on track in a big way. A loss is poor timing to say the least for either man. But a win is a good one for either man, too.

We'll start this edition of Last Five Fights with Saturday's favorite, Paul Williams.

Fight 1: Carlos Quintana (W-TKO-1 / June 7, 2008)

Quintana had cleverly outboxed Williams in February 2008, scoring a major upset and taking Williams' "0" and welterweight alphabet trinket in the process. It was a true stunner. Quintana, a good fighter, was just not supposed to be able to handle the size and length of Tall Paul, a younger, fresher fighter coming off of a huge, career-affirming win over Antonio Margarito. If there had been any doubt about Paul before the Margarito fight, it was erased as he built a big lead early against the man considered then to be the most dangerous welterweight there was, and was able to withstand Margarito's late charge back into the fight.

And then here came Quintana, and he screwed it up for Williams by just plain beating him in front of God and everybody. HBO's Harold Lederman had an off night, somehow scoring the fight for Williams on the basis of an effective jab, which may have been seen on Freddie Roach's TV, but sure as hell didn't appear anywhere else.

But taking the immediate rematch proved something else about Paul Williams. If the doubt now was what kind of guts he had, or if he could bounce back from a loss, he showed that he's a man's man. I'm not a big believer in first round stoppages proving much of anything at the highest levels of the sport, but this one is a bit of an exception in a way. Paul Williams was a man on a mission. He was there to knock Quintana out, get his belt back, and take his place back in line at 147. That's exactly what he did. In just 2:15, he ferociously overwhelmed the talented Puerto Rican and got him out of there. Yet again, we learned something about Paul Williams: if he's got a fire in his belly, look out.

Of Interest: The Williams-Quintana fights only happened for one reason. Kermit Cintron hurt his right hand in a December 2007 fight with Jesse Feliciano. Williams and Cintron were essentially signed off on a February 2008 welterweight title unification fight, but then for some bizarre reason, Cintron, his then-trainer Manny Steward, and then-promoter Main Events decided to fight Feliciano, a non-threat who's far too tough for his own good. In the process of beating the living crap out of Feliciano for 10 rounds, until the referee finally stopped the assault, Cintron injured himself. It was among the dumbest decisions of recent years to even have Cintron fight Feliciano when he had a money fight with Williams on the table two months later. So with Cintron out of commission, Williams took on Quintana. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Fight 2: Andy Kolle (W-TKO-1 / September 25, 2008)

Finding nobody willing to fight him at 147 pounds, Williams made the surprising jump all the way up to 160 for this fight on Versus with Kolle, a Minnesota club fighter. If you tuned in for this fight, you know what happened. Williams again smashed the opposition, this time in 1:37. Kolle was just out of his depth.

Since Williams-Kolle isn't exactly interesting, I do think it's worth mentioning that since this fight, Kolle has gone 4-0, including a TKO-3 over Anthony Bonsante and a wide UD-10 over Matt Vanda. I'm not saying Bonsante or Vanda are much more than club fighters themselves, but Kolle might have a little more than previously thought. He already had a very close win over Vanda (UD-8) back in 2007, but this last time around he dominated, by all accounts. His two career losses are to Paul Williams and Andre Ward. He's a 28-year-old southpaw with a little pop, and at 6'1" he's not a little middleweight. This is a world where Billy Lyell got a middleweight title shot, so why can't Kolle? Actually, Kolle-Lyell sounds like a decent idea, or maybe Kolle against the Chavez-Duddy loser, assuming that one isn't already booked for a rematch.

Fight 3: Verno Phillips (W-TKO-8 / November 29, 2008)

Pulling off a very odd feat, Paul Williams fought his third straight fight in a new division, going from 147 up to 160 and for this one down to 154. Manny Pacquiao recently did this, going from 135 to 147 to 140. It's rare enough that a fighter winds up taking three straight in different weight divisions, and rarer still that it's a two-division jump followed by a step back down.

Phillips was coming off of what I felt was, frankly, a gift win over Cory Spinks, lifting the IBF junior middleweight belt. That Phillips got that duke in St. Louis was even more surprising, and while it would be nice to say, "Good to see fair scoring with a hometown fighter," I don't think that was really the case. The hometown guy got the shaft in that one a little bit. Little bit. I heard things.

This fight took place in Ontario, California, on Phillips' 39th birthday. Williams gave him the gift of an ass-beating. Phillips had been fighting professionally for 20 years, and lost his share of fights (he came in with 10 losses). But he hadn't been stopped since July 30, 1988, when he lost a TKO-5 to Carl Sullivan. (Sullivan would also beat Phillips by UD-8 in a rematch two months later. He ended his career in 1994, going 12-9 with eight knockouts, and getting stopped seven times.)

Williams completely dominated Phillips, as most expected he would. He was just too tall, too strong, too young, and too fresh. Phillips was very game, but was just physically overmatched. Williams also showed he could handle blood. He was cut early in this fight, and it wasn't a little trickler. But he kept his cool, stuck with the gameplan, and eventually forced Phillips to quit.

Note: Phillips is the only orthodox fighter Williams has fought since 2007.

Fight 4: Winky Wright (W-UD-12 / April 11, 2009)

Ol' Ronald hadn't fought in about two years, since a July 2007 loss at 170 to Bernard Hopkins. For this fight, Williams jumped back up to 160. Wright had been barking that no one wanted to fight him, but in the meantime had gotten himself up around 200 pounds, and even coming into this fight, he just didn't seem like the same Winky Wright we knew and some of us really enjoyed. Fighters like Wright are interesting because of how they were dicked around and legitimately ducked forever. That sort of thing builds an intense passion for that guy to prove that he really belongs, and Wright did that with vigor once Shane Mosley agreed to fight him in 2004.

But then once Wright got there, the edge seemed to go, as it often does. Beating Mosley twice was followed by a rout of Tito Trinidad. Those three fights made Wright a legitimate star. And then he fought Sam Soliman, winning, before getting a shot at middleweight champ Jermain Taylor. They went to a back-and-forth, double-frustrating draw, and despite a rematch seeming like the right call, they never worked it out. An easy win over blown-up pal Ike Quartey preceded the Hopkins loss, and then came this.

Paul Williams dominated Winky Wright. He made him look old, slow, and completely ineffective. Wright's reputation as a great defensive boxer was earned, but Williams showed that even the Winky Wall can be damaged with age. Paul's constant barrage of punches was a whirlwind output that had Wright doing nothing but covering up, and often he wasn't doing it so well. Williams also punched up from under at one point, which was truly a sight to see. Wright offered no excuses or anything. He knew he'd lost, and badly. Surely ring rust did play some part, but now here we are a year later and Wright hasn't fought since. For all intents and purposes, I think Wright's career is over. At 38, I think he could still contend in the shallow middleweight pool, but he seems to have no desire to anymore.

Fight 5: Sergio Martinez (W-MD-12 / December 5, 2009)

After Kelly Pavlik pulled out of a second date with Williams, Paul's camp decided to not count on Kelly to show up a couple weeks later as he promised, and instead replaced him on short notice with Martinez. I think most of us expected a tactical battle between a couple of tall, rangy southpaws. Martinez had shown little more than his cutie tendencies and some good skill before this. Instead, we got a war, a Fight of the Year contender that was absolutely savage for all 12 rounds. Each man found something that couldn't fail, and then the other would adjust and take that out. It was a fight with almost no defense. Nobody expected something that recalled the Gatti-Ward battles, but that's what we got. Two tall, left-handed guys fighting their asses off and getting nasty.

Williams wound up winning a majority decision, which was fair enough. I had him winning a very close fight, but could have seen it going either way. The problem, really, was Pierre Benoist's idiotic 119-110 scorecard for Williams. Had that been someone competent, Martinez may well have been the winner. In that regard, I can see people claiming Martinez was "robbed," even though the fight was incredibly close. He apparently had no shot at winning Benoist's card no matter what he did. I mean, if THAT was 119-110 Williams for Benoist, what would his score have been had Martinez dominated? 114-114?

Paul Williams has been on a tear in his last five fights. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Kermit Cintron's big right hand could be a factor on Saturday night. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Fight 1: Antonio Margarito (L-KO-6 / April 12, 2008)

This rematch happened because they both needed it. Margarito had stomped Cintron in 2005, stopping him in five rounds. After that, Cintron rattled off five straight wins, none of which were really much to get excited about, not that it stopped Kermit's small but very loyal fanbase from getting excited about them. The waxing of Walter Matthysse (seen above) was at least damn memorable. (Video)

But to climb the ladder any further, the man in his way was Margarito, whose bubble had burst a bit against Williams in July 2007. After that, Margarito thrashed and retired Golden Johnson, but that was nothing more than a bounce-back win. Margarito had a potential fight with Miguel Cotto on the line with this one, and Cintron was looking to exorcise some demons.

Instead, Cintron was blasted out again, this time by sixth round body shot. I don't know what anyone else thinks of Margarito's past fights or the legitimacy, but since I simply don't know anything, it just seemed in both fights that Margarito intimidated Cintron, who was used to being able to intimidate his opponents. Margarito had no fear of Kermit or his big right hand. The iron-chinned Mexican just walked through Cintron's best stuff, and when he got to throwing back, Kermit didn't handle it well either time. It seemed a mental breakdown more than a physical issue.

Fight 2: Lovemore N'dou (W-UD-12 / November 15, 2008)

Cintron and trainer Emanuel Steward parted ways after the second Margarito fight. Neither held any ill will toward the other, and Steward recommended Cintron train with Ronnie Shields, which he did for this fight. This was off TV on the Taylor-Lacy card at Vanderbilt. By all accounts, it was a deadly dull fight, mostly due to N'dou, who was said to have been obviously fighting mostly not to get knocked out by Cintron. Cintron won on scores of 117-110, 116-111 and 115-112. This was an IBF welterweight eliminator, but Cintron didn't go after the belt.

Fight 3: Sergio Martinez (D-12 / February 14, 2009)

Instead, Cintron went up to 154 for a fight with Sergio Martinez. Martinez was supposed to fight Joe Greene in January, but Greene pulled out. This entire card was a catastrophe. Don King was the main promoter, with Gary Shaw helping out. The main event was set to be Ricardo Mayorga taking on Alfredo Angulo, and Mayorga no-showed a presser and pulled out of the fight. Martinez was going to fight Daniel Santos, but Santos decided against it. Nate Campbell-Ali Funeka would complete an exciting triple-header, in theory, but wound up instead being the main event. Angulo was forced down the ladder in a fight against Danny Perez, who pulled out and was replaced on very short notice by an out of shape, undersized Cosme Rivera. Then Campbell didn't make weight. And Shaw said King didn't even really have a building until a couple weeks before the event.

Happy Valentine's Day, 2009.

Anyway, Cintron-Martinez was an ugly clash of styles before Martinez knocked Cintron out, but then Cintron was allowed to continue and the fight became a bit of a brawl after the total screw-up by referee Frank Santore. I had Martinez winning 117-109, but the official cards came back 116-110 for Martinez, and then two 113-113 cards for a draw. Cintron got a gift with this fight, and there's no getting around it. Of course, it doesn't seem so bad that he got handily beaten (in reality) by the man who is now the middleweight champion of the world.

Fight 4: Alfredo Angulo (W-UD-12 / May 30, 2009)

Cintron looked so shabby against Martinez that Gary Shaw and HBO thought he would make a nice stepping stone for Angulo, an HBO lovechild. Instead, Cintron and Ronnie Shields concocted a brilliant plan. They boxed Angulo all night. And Angulo, who is effective, a lot of fun to watch, and a good fighter who finishes people nicely, was just too slow and too crude to win that fight. I felt this was closer than most people did. It's one of those fights (scored 116-112 across the board on the official cards) that has taken on this strange post-fight life where listening to people talk about it now, you'd think Cintron won 120-104 or something. But forget about that, because this was Cintron's best pro performance all around. He finally looked like it all clicked for him. He didn't try to gun at Angulo and knock him out. Cintron has good power, but really has never stopped anyone who was much opposition, and instead of going all cowboy, he just stayed within himself, so to speak, and outfoxed Angulo. He was a smarter fighter, a more complete fighter, and a better fighter on this night. Angulo has since been given make-up chances that Cintron has not gotten, a really pathetic reality of the boxing industry. Kermit has pretty much taken it in stride.

Fight 5: Juliano Ramos (W-RTD-5 / October 24, 2009)

Fighting for the first time in Puerto Rico, DiBella Entertainment put on a very small PPV effort with this as the headlining fight. The card was supposed to feature Carlos Quintana, too, but Quintana pulled out when he thought he had a fight lined up with Joshua Clottey. Cintron had also been offered the Clottey fight and turned it down. Quintana-Clottey didn't happen when Pavlik-Williams fell apart, and Quintana wound up fighting Jesse Feliciano in Atlantic City instead.

Ramos was 15-2 coming in, but had been stopped in six by Mike Jones in his previous bout. This was a mismatch from the get-go and Cintron dominated for four rounds, including a knockdown of Ramos in the fourth frame. Ramos didn't come out for the fifth round.

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