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Kermit Cintron's Back Against the Wall on Tonight's Friday Night Fights

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I'll get this out of the way first: I've never been a Kermit Cintron fan. It's not that I have anything against Cintron, it's simply that I've never felt he was quite as good as his standing in the past.

His record features a lack of really quality wins to point at and say, "That's why Cintron is so well-regarded." And he's had chances. When he fought Antonio Margarito in 2005, he was busted to pieces by the first fighter he encountered who couldn't be discouraged by Cintron's power. Margarito broke him down in five rounds. A series of decent but far from great wins followed -- David Estrada, Mark Suarez, the monster knockout of Walter Matthysse, and Jesse Feliciano. But then in 2008, Cintron fought Margarito again. And it happened again. Cintron could do nothing with Margarito. Everything he had, like before, he threw at Margarito. And it was to no avail. This time Margarito knocked him out in the sixth round.

Since Margarito's 2009 glove tampering scandal, Cintron (32-4-1, 28 KO) has openly expressed his doubts about whether or not Margarito was "clean" in those fights, and frankly it's a fair question to ask. But at the same time, it wasn't the harsh power of Margarito that made the greatest difference in those fights. It was that Cintron couldn't bother Margarito. There wasn't plaster in Margarito's chin. Cintron couldn't keep Margarito away from him, couldn't hurt him, and he crumbled.

But Kermit did come back a little bit. He got a gift draw in a fight with Sergio Martinez, and while I do think Sergio truly won that fight (twice, even), I don't ignore that once the fight controversially restarted after referee Frank Santore Jr made a correct call that Cintron was knocked out (or at least stayed down until the count of 10), and then wrongly and bizarrely reversed it, Cintron fought better and made it a contest against one of the best fighters in the world. After that, Kermit burst the bubble of Alfredo Angulo with a decision win on HBO.

In 2010, Cintron faced Paul Williams in California. In the fourth round, Cintron seemed to exaggerate quite heartily with a dive out of the ring that seemed entirely unnecessary. Once he went from a ringside table to the arena floor, Cintron lay motionless, face-down, telling people he couldn't get up. Once he was strapped onto a gurney, with his gloves off, Cintron raised hell about how he wanted to continue fighting. But he'd had his chance, and by California rules, the fight went to the scorecards, and Williams won.

Cintron didn't fight again for over a year, before he signed with Top Rank and lined up a bout with light-hitting but hard-charging Carlos Molina. This was supposed to be a comeback fight for Cintron, who would then enter the picture as a potential opponent for Miguel Cotto or even Manny Pacquiao down the line.

No dice. Molina battered Cintron over 10 rounds, dominating the fight with relative ease, as Cintron's low workrate gave Molina all the openings he needed to cruise to another "upset" victory.

Tonight on Friday Night Fights, Cintron is back after just a month off from the Molina loss, and he's not facing a patsy. Antwone Smith (20-2-1, 12 KO) has some of the same qualities Molina does, and if Cintron isn't there to be busy, isn't there to look impressive, and can't muster up a real effort, he will lose. Smith is busy enough that he'll win rounds the same way Molina did if this isn't a different Kermit Cintron than we saw on July 9.

I've heard some say that he needs to change trainers, as he currently works with Ronnie Shields, but if he did that would just be another excuse. He's worked with good trainers, including Emanuel Steward. Shields is a very good trainer. At some point, you have to start questioning if the disappointments come from the constant (Cintron) or the variables (the trainers, the promoters, etc.). If Kermit Cintron loses tonight, it's over for him in terms of being a top-level fighter. This is a guy he should beat. But so was Molina.

The Pick

He hasn't taken enough time off to get rusty, and ring rust may well have played a big factor against Molina, too. As much as I think Molina is a good, solid fighter, Kermit clearly had some timing problems and just issues with pulling the trigger in that fight. Cintron is a better fighter than Molina. I really believe that, even though I'll admit I really like Molina (who overachieves) and don't care for Cintron (who underachieves compared to expectations, whether they be right or wrong). But he lost to him, wide and fair and clear.

Antwone Smith can win this fight, but it will require Cintron not showing up any better than he was last month. The whole fight is in Kermit Cintron's hands. I think we'll see a determined Cintron tonight. I've seen him beat plenty of guys on Smith's level, and unless Cintron is shot at age 31, it should not be a problem for him to beat Smith tonight. If it's a problem, then Kermit Cintron is finished as a legitimate top-level fighter, whether he wins or loses. It's just that he'll get another chance with a win. Cintron TKO-7

The co-feature tonight features St. Louis lightweight Dannie Williams (18-1, 14 KO) against Antonio Cervantes (16-5-5, 11 KO).