November 23, 2007 -- Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
Winner: Kermit Cintron TKO-10
You wouldn't necessarily call it "competitive," nor was it a marquee matchup. And an injury more likely than not made it what it was. But that doesn't mean that Cintron-Feliciano wasn't a hell of a unique spectacle. Any time the knockout winner is the guy on the mat, writhing in pain, after the final bell has sounded, something interesting went down.
In the main undercard bout of the Vargas-Mayorga pay-per-view, 147-pound titleholder Kermit Cintron of Puerto Rico put his strap on the line in what was originally scheduled as a bout for September, just to keep him fresh off of a second round KO of Walter Matthysse in July. Feliciano had scored a couple of upsets on Friday Night Fights, and was known as a tough-minded kid with a ton of heart, but not much punching power. That set up perfectly for Cintron, who is a puncher first, and always will be. Despite his improving boxing skills under the tutelage of Manny Steward, you can never completely change a leopard's spots -- Cintron will always look for the KO.
A guy that can't punch but will stand and trade against a guy that wants, instinctively, to throw bombs and chase his opponent out as quickly as possible? Excitement on paper, you almost can't get a boring fight out of that dynamic.
Feliciano probably did nothing but improve his reputation, as he'll know be known as a kid that can take shots and keep himself in a fight. Now 15-6-3, the 25-year old Feliciano is not a real contender. He likely never will be. It's not that he has bad losses. The roster of fighters he's lost to is pretty strong. His upset victories over Vince Phillips and Delvin Rodriguez, as well as an eight round draw with Alfonso Gomez (who handed Feliciano his first loss, in his second pro fight), got him enough popularity to be a knockout victim for Cintron.
From the opening bell, Cintron was throwing the heavy stuff, and it was landing. For a guy that was decked three times by Mike Arnaoutis and knocked out in the fourth round by Demetrius Hopkins, Feliciano was showing some kind of chin. Cintron KO-1 wouldn't have been a bad bet. And the way the first few rounds looked, it sure seemed like it would be over soon.
But Jesse Feliciano's unending will and determination to get inside on Kermit Cintron proved amazing. He was being torched with wicked punches, but would not stop coming forward on "The Killer," who we later learned badly injured his hand in the opening round. Nevertheless, Cintron's injured hand shots were thrilling bombs, and it seemed like every other time, I found myself waiting for Feliciano to fall and have it called off.
And it never came to pass.
Feliciano threw tons of punches, but as Manny Steward said after the fight, there wasn't much on them. He wasn't hurting Cintron, but he was keeping him from landing big combinations of punches a lot of the time, which probably would've put Feliciano out. Feliciano's plan of attack was simply to move forward, hope for the best, and throw punch after punch. All things considered, it was fairly effective. He didn't win many rounds -- he did grab a couple just because he refused to quit and, as a result, landed some good stuff -- but he stayed in it a lot longer than anyone might have imagined.
After one of the rounds near the end of the fight, the unbending Feliciano even walked Cintron back to his corner. Such a move would often seem arrogant and disrespectful, but in this instance, it just made me smirk. The kid was outgunned, and you could see that. But he had heart for days. Cintron knew it, Steward knew it, and everyone else knew it.
Now, this wasn't a Librado Andrade performance. At times, Feliciano was clearly getting hurt. With Andrade, it's almost as if nothing hurts him, ever. That wasn't the case here. Jesse was rocked and stung several times throughout the fight, up until the TKO end in the 10th round when referee Jon Schorle called it off. And even then, Feliciano stayed up. There wasn't much of a protest, which is good because it should've been stopped. He wasn't going to win, and the only potential was for him to get hurt from there on out.
At the bell, Kermit Cintron was down on the mat, writhing in pain from the hand injury that will keep him out of training until March 2008. It cost Cintron a money fight with Paul Williams in February, hurts his momentum, and could be a factor the rest of his career. All of that is a shame, but that doesn't mean this wasn't a hell of a fight. Our own Kevin Gonzalez remarked, "I'm not sure what the deal was with this kid, but I haven't seen anything like it before."
A grand, gutsy performance for Jesse Feliciano, who made the most possible, realistically, out of his shot against Kermit Cintron. Most likely without the early injury, we don't get such a compelling, dramatic performance from the underdog challenger, but if styles make fights, so do the circumstances surrounding them. I can't penalize a great fight for something that's part of the game. But I can reward it.