By Lyle Fitzsimmons
You can call Kermit Cintron a lot of things.
But bitter and regretful need not be among them.
A veteran of six title bouts in two weight classes across six years, the now 38-year-old bid an official farewell to the ring in a weekend conversation with BoxingScene.com – moments before boarding a plane to Mexico for a vacation with his wife and young family.
“I wanted to let my followers and fans know the end has come and to thank every one of them that supported me through my career,” he said. “They deserve to know I appreciate every one of them. I wanted to thank all of my opponents. Without them I wouldn’t have gotten as far as I did.”
Cintron fought for the 49th and final time in February, ending on a third-round no-contest when his scheduled eight-rounder with Marquis Taylor was stopped due to a butt-induced cut.
The last of his 39 wins came via stoppage of Rosemberg Gomez in December 2016, while his last full year as a pro included a technical draw against David Grayton and a tumultuous loss to Tyrone Brunson in which Brunson was dropped twice in round four before rallying for three knockdowns a round later.
The fight was named the best of 2017 in the Philadelphia area.
“I feel really good,” Cintron said.
“I would like to hang the gloves with my head up, knowing I’ve done something that only a few fighters will ever get to accomplish. Walking away healthy is the most important part.”
Not to mention successful, of course.
Recovering from a difficult childhood that saw him lose both parents by the time he was a teenager, the Puerto Rico native relocated to suburban Philadelphia, graduated high school and began experimenting with boxing while attending college in Lancaster, Pa.
He and a friend on the school’s wrestling team tried starting a boxing club, and the two also trained once a week with nearby pro Marshall Kauffman. A quick study, Cintron debuted as a pro in October 2000 and won 11 straight fights before landing a promotional contract with Main Events the next year.
“That’s when I started taking things seriously,” he said.
He ran the mark to 24-0 with 22 KOs over the subsequent four years before Main Events put him in a headline slot on ESPN’s inaugural pay-per-view show in April 2005, where he started strong but was ultimately beaten into a fifth-round submission by then-WBO welterweight champ Antonio Margarito.
Cintron was cut over the right eye in the third, then dropped twice each in the fourth and fifth.
“I just wasn’t ready to lose, like any young fighter,” he said. “And definitely not ready for such a grudge fight. I panicked when I got cut. Not being able to see got to me mentally.”
Nevertheless, he was back and winning against Francisco Parra (TKO 3) five months later, toppled David Estrada (TKO 10) in an eliminator the following spring and became a champion on his second go-round when he stopped Mark Suarez in the fifth round to win an IBF belt vacated by Floyd Mayweather Jr.
It was six days after Cintron’s 27th birthday, but it still took a while for the reality to sink in.
“All I knew that night was that I was well-prepared mentally and physically and I was going to give it my all,” he said. “It wasn’t until I got home that it hit me. I sat my second child – she was about two or three months old at the time – inside my belt. That’s when I realized I was a world champion.”
Two successful defenses preceded a second meeting with Margarito in April 2008, a fight that ended with Cintron on the short end of another stoppage – this time in round six – and left him wondering for the first time whether or not the since-disgraced Mexican was competing with an unfair edge.
Incidentally, just nine months later, Margarito was caught with tampered hand wraps prior to a title defense against Shane Mosley.
“I was ready for war mentally, but it was the same as the first fight. I’ve fought bigger punchers. His punches seemed to hurt me like he had bricks in his gloves,” he said. “There’s an interview out there quoting me saying how I felt his knuckles through his gloves. It was an interview in the dressing room right after the fight.”
Cintron never again held a title, but the disappointment kick-started the highest-profile stretch of his career – including a wide decision over former 130-pound champion Lovemore N’dou, a majority draw against future middleweight kingpin Sergio Martinez and a clear scorecard victory over then-unbeaten Mexican slugger Alfredo Angulo within six months from November 2008 to May 2009.
A disciplined Cintron won eight of 12 rounds on all three cards against the rugged 154-pounder.
“I fought an almost perfect fight,” he said. “Probably the best performance of my career.”
A bizarre technical decision loss to Paul Williams blunted the momentum in May 2010.
Cintron swept the first three rounds on one scorecard against a 26-year-old Williams – who was then 38-1 with 27 knockouts – but saw the fight abruptly end in the fourth when Williams fell to the canvas and Cintron went through the ropes all the way to the floor following a tie-up in the ring.
He exited the stadium, now known as the StubHub Center, on a stretcher.
He lost a split decision thanks to California rules that stated, even though the fourth round had barely begun, the fight was official and the segment needed to be scored. Judge Jerry Cantu had him up, 40-36, but was overruled by James Jen Kin and Fritz Werner, who had it 40-36 and 39-37 for Williams.
HBO’s Jim Lampley, calling the fight from ringside, said it “doesn’t seem like enough of a fight for Williams to have earned a victory. But that’s the way the rules work here in California.”
“(Williams) was saved by Al Haymon that night,” he said. “It's a fight that bothers me, but I moved on.”
The one that bothers him most, though, came in his next time out.
Signed with Bob Arum and in the mix for a duel with a streaking Manny Pacquiao, Cintron traveled back to California for a 10-rounder with unheralded junior middleweight Carlos Molina. He never got untracked, however, and lost eight rounds on all three scorecards in a 10-round unanimous decision.
“Never should have taken the Molina fight,” he said. “Training was bad. Mentally I wasn’t prepared to fight and I wasn’t focused due to personal things. Only fight I regret taking.”
Cintron went 7-2-2 with the no-contest in his final 12 fights after Molina, falling to 21-year-old Canelo Alvarez in a final challenge for a 154-pound belt in Mexico City. He’d discussed the prospect of meeting a UFC fighter following the Mayweather-McGregor circus last August and pursued a third chance at Margarito this spring, but decided to walk away when the bout fell through due to financial issues.
He exits after sharing corners with trainers Emanuel Steward, Javon Hill, Ronnie Shields, Joe Pastore and Kauffman. And, aside from Main Events and Top Rank, also spent time as a promotional client of DiBella Entertainment, King’s Promotions, Golden Boy Promotions and Warriors Boxing Promotions.
These days, he and his wife own a Reading, Pa. yoga studio where he occupies a small gym space for boxing classes, personal training and group training. He’s also pursuing a life insurance license and spending time with his three children – daughters Savanah (16) and Denali (12) and son Clemente (10).
But what he doesn’t do is dwell on what was, or what might have been.
He said he’s only watched one fight – a 2004 TKO of Teddy Reid – from start to finish and has seen highlights of just one other, and shies away from conversation about his achievements.
And as for title belts and other souvenirs, they’re packed away as tightly as decades-old scrapbooks.
“When I’m asked (about boxing) I kind of don’t want to talk about it. I get asked about my career and I try changing the subject,” he said. “I never take anything related to boxing out. I do have my titles, but you come to my house and you would never know or believe that I was a fighter or a champion. I don’t bring my work home. Everything that has to do with boxing is put away in the basement storage.”
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This week’s legit title-fight schedule:
Vacant IBF junior lightweight title – Redfern, Australia
Billy Dib (No. 3 IBF/No. 41 IWBR) vs. Tevin Farmer (No. 4 IBF/No. 20 IWBR)
Dib (43-4, 24 KO): Ninth title fight (4-4); Never lost a fight in Australia (35-0, 24 KO)
Farmer (25-4-1, 5 KO): First title fight; Zero losses since 2012 (18-0, 4 KO)
Fitzbitz says: Dib hasn’t beaten anyone in the top 50 in six years and he’s never done so at 130. Farmer, meanwhile, hasn’t lost in the same time frame. If it’s fair, he’ll win. Farmer by decision (65/35)
WBA light heavyweight title – Atlantic City, New Jersey
Dmitry Bivol (champion/No. 6 IWBR) vs. Isaac Chilemba (No. 11 WBA/No. 17 IWBR)
Bivol (13-0, 11 KO): Third title defense; Five straight wins by KO/TKO (25 total rounds)
Chilemba (25-5-2, 10 KO): Fourth title fight (1-1-1); Held IBO title at 168 in 2010 (one defense)
Fitzbitz says: Chilemba is a useful pro who’s capable of causing difficulty and surviving rounds, but the consensus on Bivol is that he’s a special 175-pounder. That’ll show itself. Bivol in 9 (95/5)
WBO light heavyweight title – Atlantic City, New Jersey
Sergey Kovalev (champion/No. 2 IWBR) vs. Eleider Alvarez (No. 8 WBO/No. 4 IWBR)
Kovalev (32-2-1, 28 KO): Second title defense; Fourth fight in Atlantic City (3-0, 1 KO)
Alvarez (23-0, 11 KO): First title fight; Second fight in the United States (1-0, 1 KO)
Fitzbitz says: My initial vibe was that the Colombian would get the upset, but the more I ponder it the more I think Kovalev will have enough pop to win and to set up a Bivol showdown. Kovalev in 10 (60/40)
This week’s bogus title-fight schedule:
Last week's picks: 4-1 (WON: Buthelezi, Niyomtrong, Kimura, Garcia; LOSS: Diaz)
2018 picks record: 52-23 (69.3 percent)
Overall picks record: 973-327 (74.8 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.