The obvious question during Kermit Cintron’s most-recent fight was: What’s wrong with him?
Ronnie Shields, his trainer, hopes it was a 14-month layoff that hindered Cintron’s performance in a one-sided decision loss to Carlos Molina on July 9 in Carson, Calif. Shields fears worse.
“It could be one of two things: It could be the long layoff or his career is over. I don’t know,” Shields told RingTV.com.
Cintron, who fights Antwone Smith in the Friday Night Fights main event from St. Charles, Mo., was giving a credible performance against Paul Williams in the fight that preceded Molina until Cintron, in a bizarre moment, went flying through the ropes and couldn’t continue.
There was no reason at that point to believe the former IBF welterweight titleholder had declined appreciably.
However, the Cintron (32-4-1, 28 knockouts) who fought Molina wasn’t the Cintron who has been among the better 147-pounders for at least seven years. He did little more than watch as Molina won eight of the 10 rounds with slick, if awkward moves and hard work.
Cintron knew he was in trouble during the fight.
“In the corner, I was trying to tell him, ‘OK, man, you’re not doing anything,’” Shields said. “… He kept telling me, ‘I can’t punch. I don’t know what’s wrong. I can’t get punches off.
“… The best he could come up with was, ‘I just think I was off too long.’”
The inability to get punches off often is a sign that a fighter is in steep decline. And consider: Cintron is 31 and has been a pro for almost 11 years, with several taxing fights (Antonio Margarito twice, Sergio Martinez) on his record.
As both fighter and trainer said, though, it also could be rust.
We should learn what Cintron has left when he fights Smith (20-2-1, 12 KOs), a solid offense-minded boxer from Miami who is not difficult to hit.
“Any fighter, even one of the best fighters in the world, could look the way he looked after laying off a year,” Shields said. “Maybe he sat out too long. … So we’re bringing him back right away. We’ll find out exactly where he’s at.”
Shields is encouraged by Cintron’s work in this training camp, which began a week after the Molina fight at Shields’ gym in Houston. He threw a lot of punches and his timing was on in sparring.
The fact that Cintron also looked good during training for the Molina fight is perplexing to Shields.
“He’s looking great, just like the last time,” Shields said. “He was ready [for Molina]. It’s something I can’t understand. I’ve seen it a couple of times with other fighters I’ve worked with. When it’s over, it’s over.
“In this case, hopefully it’s just the long layoff. … The guy [Smith] should be right there to be hit. Kermit just needs to let his hands go.”
Michael Rosenthal can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org