By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Some observers think it’ll be a happy return for “Canelo.”
Other fans think he’s bitten off more than he can chew in “El Perro.”
Which, of course, makes the only man to ever share a ring with each of them – former IBF welterweight champion Kermit Cintron – the most logical place to go for a definitive opinion on the March 8 fight.
And the 34-year-old Puerto Rican doesn’t pull punches on his viewpoint.
“I believe Alvarez beats Angulo easy,” Cintron said. “I put out the blueprint on how to beat Angulo. (Erislandy) Lara boxed the way I did (last June), but he made Angulo quit.”
Indeed, Cintron turned in what might have been the best effort of his 13-year professional career against the then-unbeaten Mexican, whom he defeated by a wide margin on all three scorecards – eight rounds to four, across the board – on the Andre Berto-Juan Urango undercard in May 2009.
Cintron is just 3-3-1 in seven fights since the victory at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Fla. and ultimately encountered Alvarez two-and-a-half years later in Mexico City, where he was stopped in five rounds by the 21-year-old champion in a WBC super welterweight title match.
“I believe that if I would have been 100-percent focused like I should be for every fight I could have out-boxed Alvarez,” Cintron said. “Plans change when a boxer fights in a phone booth. Alvarez is good against forward fighters like Angulo, so Alvarez will look extremely great.”
That loss – Cintron’s fifth, alongside 34 wins and two draws – prompted a 16-month hiatus from the ring that ended in March 2013 when he drew over 10 rounds with Adrian Granados. Five months later, he won a wide unanimous decision, taking nine rounds on one card and eight on the other two, against once-beaten Dominican welterweight Jonathan Batista.
He’ll return to the ring again on March 15 in Bethlehem, Pa. against fellow Puerto Rican-born Pennsylvania resident Ronald Cruz in a scheduled 10-rounder at the Sands Casino Resort.
Cruz called Cintron's name after a mid-November defeat of Hector Muniz in Bethlehem, which is about an hour's drive from Cintron's home in Reading. Cintron said he'd never heard of Cruz before the mention, but quickly agreed to a deal and has returned to the Kronk Gym in preparation for the match.
“I’m a name, so I can understand the whole calling me out thing,” he said.
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Is he avoided? Or has he never fought anyone?
When Gennady Golovkin took the ring amid pomp and circumstance in the Mediterranean-rimmed playpen of Monte Carlo, the old quarrel was once again renewed.
But in notching a 16th straight stoppage and 26th in 29 pro wins, a bruising seventh-round TKO of challenger Osumanu Adama, Golovkin not only defended his IBO and WBA shares of the middleweight kingdom, he stripped another layer of logic from those still begrudging him the status as a legit commodity.
The debate that existed entering the fight with Adama – a thrice-beaten Ghanaian now living in suburban Chicago – focused on the relative anonymity of Golovkin’s previous opposition and whether it was enough to lift the Kazakhstan native from hard-charging novelty to world-class operator.
He won the vacant IBO belt against Lajuan Simon in 2011 and had risked it against the likes of Makoto Fuchigami, Gregorz Proksa, Gabriel Rosado, Nobuhiro Ishida, Matthew Macklin and Curtis Stevens, but only one of them – Macklin – had gone in having ever faced opposition resembling the best at 160.
The WBA deemed Golovkin its preeminent titleholder in 2012, but only after super champ Felix Sturm was beaten in a unification bout by IBF kingpin, Daniel Geale, and Geale elected to drop the WBA belt.
Heading into Saturday, lingering cynics claimed Golovkin's motley crew of victims – Adama included – was not on par with those of middleweight top dog Sergio Martinez, and it would leave "Triple-G" in troublingly deep water when and if he stepped up the level of those he punched.
Meanwhile, his allies insist it’s precisely that class of foe who’s avoided him, pointing in particular to promoter Lou DiBella, who labeled Golovkin an "animal" after his KO of Macklin and conceded he was in no particular hurry to engineer a showdown involving Martinez, who'll turn 39 on Feb. 21.
After Saturday, it’s a little harder to deny the latter rationale as the correct one.
The breakdown of Adama was as comprehensive as 19 minutes of ring time would allow, featuring the aggressive, yet technically sound approach Golovkin honed during a 350-fight amateur career highlighted by a 2003 world championship and a silver medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics.
He dropped his 33-year-old challenger with an overhand right at the end of the first round and appeared primed for another quick ending, but instead was content to land intermittently thudding shots to the head over the subsequent four sessions while largely abandoning his signature body work.
"He's patient. He stalks you," said Steve Bunce, an analyst on the British-based BoxNation broadcast. "He's not there to decapitate you in one round, because he knows it’s going to come. He's almost plotting what the next move is going to be. He's really like a chess player in there."
The downstairs shots returned in the fifth and Golovkin bared teeth to begin the sixth, flooring Adama with a left hook and setting the stage for the climax, which occurred when Adama went down again from a jab and was rescued by referee Luis Pabon after another hook at 80 seconds into the seventh.
He didn't lose a round. He barely lost a minute.
As a result, those who lauded him coming in had no reason to feel less breathy going out.
"With 16 KOs in a row," manager Tom Loeffler said in a post-fight interview on BoxNation, "he's really the biggest thing in boxing right now."
As for those who doubted him...funny, they weren't saying nearly as much.
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
No fights scheduled.
Last week’s picks: 1-1
2014 picks record: 7-2 (77.7 percent)
Overall picks record: 555-196 (73.9 percent)
NOTE : Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA “world championships” are only included if no “super champion” exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.