Kermit Cintron did what he had to do against Antwone Smith on the Friday Night Fights card in St. Charles, Mo. More or less.
Cintron, coming off a listless decision loss to Carlos Molina last month, won a unanimous decision – 98-92, 97-93 and 96-94 – in a 10-round junior middleweight fight to retain his status as a title contender and marketable fighter.
And he did it in a way that contrasted sharply with his fight against Molina – he let his hands go, throwing a healthy 1,143 punches, according to CompuBox.
That had to be a glorious sight for Cintron’s trainer, Ronnie Shields, who lamented his fighter’s inability to get his punches off against Molina and suggested it might be a sign that Cintron was finished.
The fact that Cintron clearly isn’t through is the good news. Now the bad news.
Yes, the former 147-pound titleholder threw more than 100 punches per round. However, he generally didn’t throw them with much conviction.
Cintron (33-4-1, 28 knockouts) was once one of the most-feared punchers in the world, stopping 27 of his first 29 victims between 2000 and 2007. He didn’t seem to even stun Smith with any of the 275 punches CompuBox said he landed. Not one.
And while his hands were moving he seemed to lack fire, the kind of fire necessary to compete on the highest level.
Cintron fired off a spirited flurry of punches in the eighth round, one that raised the volume of Joe Tessitore’s commentary for a moment. However, one wonders: Why didn’t he do that more often? Why didn’t he show Smith who was boss?
Instead, he largely allowed Smith to dictate a fight that was much closer than 98-92 by exchanging punches with him inside, where a more-inspired Smith fought Cintron on fairly even terms.
Cintron apparently told the broadcasters at ringside immediately after the fight that “I beat him at his own game.” Why fight your opponent’s fight? Why not fight your fight — on the outside — and give yourself the opportunity to shine, especially when your career is in the balance? Doesn’t make sense.
Shields screamed in his fighter’s face between the ninth and final rounds, imploring him to give everything he had in the final three minutes out of both duty and (it seemed) frustration.
The trainer obviously believed the fight could be close on the scorecards and didn’t want Cintron to blow it by going through the motions, which he seemed to do much of the fight.
It sounds strange to say that a fighter who threw 1,000 punches and emerged victorious didn’t do enough. That was the case, though.
No one who saw that fight will say, “Wow, nice performance by Cintron. He’s back.” He did enough to win the fight. Nothing more.
That was good enough against Smith, a good, but limited opponent. It won’t be good enough when he fights the best welterweights or junior middleweights in the world.