By Lyle Fitzsimmons
CARSON, Calif. – If anyone had answers… they weren’t shouting them out.
Instead, deep in the bowels of the Home Depot Center, the visitors’ locker room that served as home base for Team Cintron on Saturday night was noticeable only for its funeral quiet.
As members of the entourage milled around with post-fight duties, trainer Ronnie Shields hunched silently on a locker-front bench while the group’s signature leader – 31-year-old Puerto Rican-turned-Pennsylvanian Kermit Cintron – stood alongside trying to explain, perhaps to himself, what exactly had gone so wrong.
“I was expecting to win the fight, you know. I (expletive) trained really hard for this fight,” he said, sighing deeply as reddened eyes stared blankly to the floor. “It’s definitely a big disappointment for me and definitely I’m disappointed for my team. I was really expecting to win the fight.
“I really had big plans after this fight.”
Instead, Cintron’s return after 14 months of self-induced sabbatical was stunningly downbeat, as the former welterweight champion was listless in losing a unanimous verdict to Carlos Molina in their 10-round junior middleweight bout on Showtime’s Rios-Antillon undercard.
All three judges scored it 98-92 in favor of Molina, who’d entered with an unremarkable 18-4-2 record, but had not lost since 2007 and had never been beaten by anything less than an unbeaten fighter.
The Fitzbitz scorecard penned from seat C-3 on press row agreed with the official versions, favoring Cintron in just two rounds – three and six.
The sixth was the only round he won across the board with the judges.
One gave him the first and two gave him the seventh.
And truth told, it was barely that close.
Cintron dropped his second straight fight and is now 32-4-1 overall in 10 years as a pro – with exactly half of the losses coming over three career bouts in California.
He successfully defended his IBF 147-pound title against Jesse Feliciano in Los Angeles in 2007, but ended the bout writhing on the floor after injuring his right hand.
He returned to the Golden State to meet Paul Williams at the Home Depot Center in May 2010, but lost a split technical decision after falling from the ring in round four and being ruled unable to continue.
The West Coast encounter with the Mexican-born Molina, a crowd favorite, went little better.
And the big plans? They’re now a question mark, to say the least.
The Molina fight was Cintron’s first since signing a promotional agreement with Bob Arum’s Top Rank organization after several years working with Lou DiBella, and Arum was quite vocal about his new partner’s prospects after the deal was signed – even suggesting him as a possible down-the-road opponent for Filipino pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao.
Cintron’s name was also mentioned in connection with coveted matchups against long-time 147- and 154-pound elite Miguel Cotto and unbeaten Philadelphia welterweight prospect Mike Jones.
After Molina, however, that chatter subsided.
Arum did not utter Cintron’s name in an outdoor post-fight press conference on the stadium concourse, and instead claimed that Rios – who defended his WBA lightweight title with an action-packed third-round TKO in the main event – was a feasible foil for Pacquiao in a year or two.
Also in attendance was former welterweight title-holder Antonio Margarito, who defeated Cintron by stoppages in both 2005 (TKO 5) and 2008 (KO 6). Also an Arum promotional property, Margarito is rumored to have an inside track to a rematch with Cotto later this year.
Margarito, who was doing Spanish language color commentary alongside Julio Cesar Chavez and Marco Antonio Barrera, defeated Cotto by 11th-round TKO in 2008. It was his last victory before a prolonged suspension for illegal hand wraps discovered in the locker room before a TKO by Shane Mosley in 2009.
“It’s a tough loss, that’s for sure. It’s a tough loss,” a crestfallen Cintron said, sighing again. “All I can do right now is slam my head through the wall and get myself woken up.
“It all depends on what’s out there. I know my team has plans for me. They saw that today wasn’t my day and I’m hoping that in my next fight I do a lot better than what I did today.
“I’m really disgusted with myself and I really believe that I let my team down.”
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
WBA light flyweight title – Plaza de Toros, Cancun, Mexico
Roman Gonzalez (champion) vs. Omar Salado (No. 11 contender)
Gonzalez (28-0, 23 KO): Second title defense; Fourth fight in Mexico (3-0, 1 KO)
Salado (22-3-2, 13 KO): Second title fight (0-0-1); Three wins in six fights (3-3, 2 KO)
Fitzbitz says: “Young, strong champion too much on the road.” Gonzalez in 8
WBO junior lightweight title – Echo Arena, Liverpool, United Kingdom
Ricky Burns (champion) vs. Nicky Cook (No. 1 contender)
Burns (31-2, 8 KO): Third title defense; Ninth fight outside Scotland (7-1, 2 KO)
Cook (30-2, 16 KO): Fourth title fight (1-2, 0 KO); Held WBO title (2008-09)
Fitzbitz says: “Streaking incumbent too much on biggest stage.” Burns by decision
WBO flyweight title – Blaisdell Center, Honolulu, Hawaii
Julio Cesar Miranda (champion) vs. Brian Viloria (No. 2 contender)
Miranda (35-5-1, 28 KO): Fourth title defense; Third fight outside Mexico (0-2, 0 KO)
Viloria (28-3, 16 KO): Ninth title fight (4-3, 2 KO, 1 NC); Former WBC and IBF champion
Fitzbitz says: “Back in Hawaii, challenger is back to title fraternity.” Viloria in 10
WBO junior heavyweight title – Olympia-Eissportzentrum, Munich, Germany
Marco Huck (champion) vs. Hugo Hernan Garay (No. 15 contender)
Huck (32-1, 23 KO): Seventh title defense; Unbeaten since 2007 (13-0, 9 KO)
Garay (34-5, 18 KO): Sixth title fight (2-3, 0 KO); Held WBA title (2008-09)
Fitzbitz says: “Champion’s win streak won’t end at 13.” Huck in 9
Last week’s picks: 5-0
Overall picks record: 224-75 (74.9 percent)
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 at www.twitter.com/fitzbitz .