Lee Payton takes a look at the challenges that Kermit Cintron might pose for Saul Alvarez in tonight's junior-middleweight clash.
By now we know everything there is to know about Kermit Cintron, the boxer, and it's not all good. We've seen him fold under pressure on more than once occasion, so why would anyone believe that he could pull off a huge upset tonight in Mexico? Frankly, it seems like he is getting this opportunity because the danger is long gone.
Saul Alvarez clearly has everything going for him, but I don't consider this to be the sure thing his handlers are hoping for. If they picked Cintron because they figured he provides an opportunity for their client to shine on HBO, they may have made a mistake.
I don't really blame them, as it is easy to write off the Puerto Rican-American at this point. In his last fight he looked skinny, weak and powerless in winning an uninspiring decision over Antwone Smith, a fighter he should have been able to have his way with. The fight before that was supposed to kick off a new promotional contract with Top Rank, but he lost on the cards to tricky contender Carlos Molina, who thwarted him with some old school boxing craft.
In Cintron's defense, he hadn't fought in over a year when he laced 'em up for Molina, and he came in under 150 lbs for both of his last two fights. While he might have thought he had a chance at the Manny Pacquiao sweepstakes by moving back down towards the welterweight limit, trying to boil down that low at this stage of his career likely did more harm than good.
This is a guy who came into the ring as a light heavy for his win over Alfredo Angulo. He is at least a full-sized jr middleweight now, and I like the fact that he came in at the limit for this fight. If he's 100% of whatever is left physically, he should come into the ring in the high 160s, which is what his opponent usually comes in at. People grow over the years and trying to shrink back down seemed to sap his strength and explosiveness. In short, I believe his recent form has been a bit of a mirage. But would he be getting this chance if he looked good last time out? I doubt it.
Even if you consider Cintron to be past his prime (and there is plenty of evidence to support that) he is still the best fighter Canelo has ever been in against, yet you would never know it if you went by the betting odds. Alvarez, facing his most dangerous opponent, is favored by 10-1 according to some bookies. Personally, I don't think the young man's talent or skills justify those odds. They may be right in the end though because the favorite has major advantages in categories that have nothing to do with fighting. Does anyone think Cintron is going to get the decision if the fight is at all close? He needs a knock out. At least he seems to realize it.
So what kind of shot does he have? It's almost impossible to back Kermit these days, but I think he can at least force people to take a more realistic look at what Canelo can actually do in there.
Stylistically, this doesn't look like a walk in the park for the Mexican youngster. Alvarez, despite being built like a pressure fighter, spends most of his time on the outside looking for spots to counter with explosive power combinations. He fancies himself a boxer/counter puncher and it has worked thus far, but how effective will that style be against a taller, rangier fighter who is in no hurry? It sure doesn't sound like a recipe for an exciting fight or a showcase.
I'm interested to see if they will be arrogant enough to experiment with the shoulder roll defense Canelo tried to make work against Alfonso Gomez. I would advise against it, as it is a style developed to take advantage of aggressive fighters. If anything, Alvarez should be the one pressing, as he does his best work at mid-range or closer, but that's not really his thing, is it?
When I look at the young man, I see a fighter with no identity, and that is something that needs to be figured out before he gets too close to the top. Right now, he's a guy who looks like he should be bobbing, weaving and letting his offense win fights. Instead, he gives you flashes of potential and a lot of messing around on the outside, trying to be cute. Maybe the reality is that he just doesn't like getting hit back. Who knows how he will respond if he gets whacked clean by a guy who can swat a little? There are too many unanswered questions for me to be certain that he is just going to dominate a decent veteran who knows first hand how cruel, difficult and unfair this sport is.
The hype machine doesn't mention a fighter's flaws, but do not let that fool you into thinking they don't exist. Canelo is pretty robotic in his movements, lacks consistent head movement and inches around the ring on stiff legs. When was the last time you saw him get low or bend his knees? It just seems like he is content to fight in a style that is not suited for his body because, so far, he hasn't been touched up much. So why change anything?
I think trying to beat a guy like Cintron from the outside is the wrong way to go about business, so there will come a time when the young fighter has to make a choice, and that's when we'll find out what he's made of. Will he stick his nose in there, or will he do what he has been doing with the expectation that the judges will be on his side?
I'm looking forward to finding out the answer.