You could realistically and somewhat rightly classify tomorrow's matchup between Paul Williams and Kermit Cintron as "disappointing" from Williams' point of view. The former welterweight titlist was set on two dates last year to face then-middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik, but instead survived a war with Sergio Martinez. Instead of Williams facing Pavlik this year, that shot instead went to Martinez, who upended Pavlik to become the new champion.
Now, Williams makes a somewhat lateral move, taking on Kermit Cintron tomorrow night on HBO. Last year, Cintron was gifted a draw against Martinez, only to bounce back and beat Alfredo Angulo.
How's this one going to play out?
Junior Middleweights: Paul Williams v. Kermit Cintron (12 Rounds)
I think there are plenty of ways this fight could go, but the smartest money is on Williams. Still pointlessly billed at 6'1", he towers over the 5'11" Cintron, and his very competitive and razor-thin victory over Martinez is a lot more impressive than Cintron beating the slow-footed, raw Angulo.
They have a couple of common opponents. Martinez, for one, but also Antonio Margarito. Cintron was ripped twice by Margarito, while Williams was able to build a good lead and then survive Margarito's late charge. But it's hard to learn much from any of that. Cintron and Williams are drastically different fighters, and while Margarito traditionally fights pretty much everyone the same way, of course the matchups are much different for him.
But as good and highly-regarded as Williams is, Cintron is a bit of a live dog in this one. There are a couple of reasons. First, the only orthodox fighter Williams has faced since Margarito in 2007 was Verno Phillips in late 2008. Five of his last six fights have been against fellow southpaws -- Carlos Quintana (twice), Andy Kolle, Winky Wright and Sergio Martinez. Could Williams be rusty against righties?
Then, there's Kermit Cintron. Before the Angulo win, I guess you could have considered me something of a Cintron "hater," though in truth I genuinely feel I was merely realistic about Cintron, rather than exploding in my pants every time he knocked out someone that wasn't much challenge. I saw him wilt twice against Margarito, and he had his troubles with David Estrada, too, who has proven over time to be little more than a sound gatekeeper.
I am not saying now, nor was I then, that Cintron can't fight. But I think I've allowed myself to give him too much credit in the Angulo aftermath. Watching Angulo struggle some with Joel Julio affirmed that. Angulo has feasted on the overmatched likes of Harry Joe Yorgey and an old, out of shape, on short notice version of Cosme Rivera. The difference between Angulo and a lot of powerful, tough, and painfully limited guys is that he's received a major HBO push. I am also not saying Angulo can't fight, or that I don't enjoy him. He can, and I do.
But he is not an A-grade win. Williams has beaten Martinez and Margarito, plus a faded Winky Wright. For all the hype that Cintron's brutal KO of Walter Matthysse received, Williams had stopped Matthysse 14 months before that, and Matthysse has since done nothing but get knocked out.
Cintron's power is a lot more up for debate than his KO rate might lead one to believe. Yes, he has 28 knockouts in 32 wins, but who has he stopped? Estrada, Teddy Reid, Mark Suarez. Not poor fighters, but nothing eye-popping. He couldn't dent Margarito with his best shots, and he didn't do major damage to Angulo either.
Here's where I stop doubting Cintron and get down to where I think he has a chance, though. Williams can be hurt. Margarito hurt him, Martinez shook him up badly, and with Paul's constant motion, he is there to be hit. If Cintron can lock and load that right hand of his, he can knock Paul Williams out. The "southpaw killer" is the straight right hand, and Kermit has good enough power to shake the foundation in Williams.
It will depend on what Cintron and Ronnie Shields have cooked up. They beat Angulo by recognizing that while you could categorize Angulo as an aggressive boxer-puncher, he's so slow that his boxing, while fundamentally fine, can be neutralized. He is then left at being little more than a stalker with a puncher's chance. Cintron, who is no Fred Astaire, used his feet to simply stay out of Angulo's wheelhouse, and did plenty offensively at the same time. It was without a doubt his best overall pro performance.
Williams, with his exceptionally long reach, is still not the kind of guy you'd expect him to be. He is willing to trade with just about anyone, and seemingly fights better inside than he does at range. He does not have one-punch power, and the only guy to really get to Cintron has been Margarito, who frankly he fought stupidly both times. One can't help but wonder after watching Cintron against Angulo under Ronnie Shields' guidance, if a Shields-led Cintron might not have beaten, or at least put up a much better fight, against Margarito, the fighter Angulo is most often compared to.
In short, if a firefight breaks out, Cintron could win this fight at any time. His own strength combined with the fact that Williams is no Margarito in the chin department means that he has an elevated puncher's chance.
But I don't think he can win another kind of fight here. He won't be able to box Williams; nothing he did against Angulo was particularly special, it was just surprising. It looked like for maybe the first time, he was really thinking in the ring, and doing so effectively. When you look even at his fight with Jesse Feliciano (which cost him a 2008 fight with Williams), he was fighting recklessly and at times, using way too much energy on something pointless. Feliciano's so tough he scares me, but Cintron banged away regardless, like a man trying to squeeze orange juice from an apple. He could have just outboxed Feliciano and let that speak for itself, but he got caught up in the knockout.
Unfortunately, he may just have to get caught up in the knockout again tomorrow night. Williams has too many advantages. I like Tall Paul to win a fairly wide decision in this one, but I will not be shocked if Cintron pulls this off. There's something about this fight that stinks of the upset to me. I believe it's a phantom stench, but something's there. It's almost too good of a setup: Williams, the "most ducked" man in boxing, on the brink of a fight for the middleweight championship of the world at some point this year, against a guy who's just dangerous enough, but also a guy nobody thinks will win. It writes itself, but I'm playing it safe. Williams UD-12