CINTRON: Just a bad night vs Margarito? / Photo: SUMIO YAMADA
Graham's Odds: 
Cintron -175; Suarez +145
Over 9.5 +125; under 9.5 -145

Kermit Cintron against Mark Suarez is one of the year’s potentially most dramatic and exciting fights, yet it is not being televised. People ask why boxing is struggling. This is a classic example. Too many outstanding matches go largely unseen while lesser fights, ones that a fan perhaps wouldn’t mind missing, regularly crop up on PPV or premium cable.

That’s another issue for another time. Today we focus on Cintron vs Suarez, which is for the vacant IBF welterweight title.

This is a fight that normally I would be eagerly anticipating. Instead it will probably be the best fight that I don’t see this year.

There is intrigue and there are intangibles.

Cintron’s shocking collapse in five rounds against Antonio Margarito last year has raised serious doubts about his mental strength and physical toughness.

Don’t be fooled, says his new manager/trainer, Emanuel Steward, that was an aberration, just a terribly bad night that can happen to a fighter.

We all know that Cintron can box and punch. If there is a weakness in his character, though, Suarez is just the type of fighter to exploit it. Suarez is rugged, relentless and fearless — and a puncher. Just the type of fighter who, you might think, will be all wrong for Cintron.

The 27-year-old Suarez, from Riverside, CA, has been training in Florida under the direction of two-time world champ John David Jackson.

We know that Suarez can fight, but he has been hidden on non-televised undercard bouts on those multi-bout Don King promotions (shows that I love to be onsite for, by the way).

Some might remember Suarez boxing as a 140-pounder on Fox Sports shows six or so years ago, when he lost close fights to Alex Trujillo and the southpaw Ricky Quiles.

Suarez is not the same fighter. He served a prison term, exercised every day, and came out bigger, stronger and much more dangerous. The transition was amazing. A tall, rangy boxer-type had been replaced by a walk-forward fighter, big in the back and shoulders, who was walking in and looking to blast his opponents out of the fight instead of merely to outbox, outwork and outpoint them. He has stopped his last seven opponents.

Suarez’s manager, Cameron Dunkin, said over the phone this week that he believes Suarez will be not only too tough but too game for Cintron.

“The difference is, if my guy gets hit on the chin he’ll get up and the other guy won’t,â€? Dunkin said. “Suarez is not a blowhard, he’s a quiet guy, and those are the deadly guys. He’s a true tough guy, and people don’t know how hard he hits — I tell you, when he hits people it’s frightening.â€?

Cintron, of course, can punch, too, with 24 opponents halted in his record of 26 wins and one loss.

Emanuel Steward said from training camp this week that if Suarez thinks he will walk right through Cintron he’s making a big mistake.

“Suarez is a rough kid, but it’s funny, everybody’s living on seeing Cintron lost that one fight to Margarito,â€? Steward said. “In his [Suarez’s] mind, he thinks he’ll come out and overpower Cintron. That’s not the case.

“First of all, Cintron is a very accomplished fighter, and when he took the fight with Margarito I wasn’t involved with him but I know the existing conditions — and I don’t put as much emphasis on winning and losing as some other people. Everybody has that one bad night.

“I feel very good about the fight. Kermit’s in good shape — he’s been training for three months and he’s been boxing with Andy Lee, even though, he’s a left-hander, Johnathon Banks [Steward’s undefeated cruiserweight] and the unbeaten Philadelphia kid, Tyrone Brunson. He’s been in Detroit with me, too, and for the last six months he’s been training with us [in Detroit], he’s been there at all the amateur tournaments, working as a coach, so his mind has been 100 per cent absorbed into just boxing for the last six months.

“He’s a tremendous puncher. I can work with him just on the pads and my body’s aching, more than it does even working with the heavyweights. I never realised he was that good a puncher. And he’s picked up a lot of poise, naturally, sparring with good fighters, being around Jermain Taylor and all these guys at the Kronk gym, being in training camp with Wladimir Klitschko. I think that mentally he’s grown to a whole other level.

“Even though he just has a certain amount of fights on his record I think he’s grown so much emotionally and skill-wise the last year — totally focused — and I think that will be a big asset.â€?

In his last fight, Cintron made up a lot of the ground he lost in the Margarito fight when he stopped the gritty, resilient David Estrada in the 10th round. It was a fight in which Cintron had to fight his way through a couple of rocky passages.

Suarez, meanwhile, was a quick winner in his last fight, overwhelming the previously unbeaten James Webb in 44 seconds. The Webb camp thought that the referee jumped in too quickly, but Suarez had dropped an opponent whose chin was considered one of his main assets.

“Mark tells me he’s going to go right after Cintron,â€? Cameron Dunkin told me. “He can’t wait. I hate to question any fighter’s heart, but what happened against Margarito makes you wonder about Cintron — and my guy will be putting a lot of pressure on him.â€?

Emanuel Steward expects nothing less. “I think that Suarez, coming off this great win over Webb, is not going to be coming out for a decision,â€? he said, “and we’re not training for a decision, either.â€?

So this has all the makings of a war between big, strong welterweights who can punch with either hand.

It seems clear that Suarez cannot let Cintron get comfortable in the fight or, worse yet, start to dictate matters. He has to find a way to hurt Cintron early and put serious doubt in his mind.

Cintron was able to overcome adversity against Estrada, but for a while it looked touch-and-go. Estrada was winning the early rounds and just for a moment Cintron looked as if he might be on the verge of falling apart as he dabbed at a cut over his right eye, but he came back with some big punches to turn the fight around.

The fact is, though, that Estrada was able to hit him rather a lot — and Suarez would have to be considered a much bigger puncher than Estrada.

Yet Suarez can be hittable, too, and if he leaves himself open as he tries to land his big shots he could get caught by a punch that will badly affect him. When you think about it, there are not many fighters who take a punch better than David Estrada — and Cintron, after a back-and-forth struggle, ultimately crunched this brave and durable fighter.

“Cintron hurts you every time he hits you,â€? Emanuel Steward says. Cameron Dunkin says the same thing about Suarez.

Assuming neither man gets blasted by a blockbuster in the first few rounds, there are two things that could decide the fight — what I consider to be the more polished boxing of Cintron and what might be the greater tenacity of Suarez.

If Cintron is able to jab, land his faster punches, make Suarez miss and punish him for mistakes, he can have a great night. If Suarez endures, keeps coming and starts landing his own heavy hits, we will know soon enough whether the seeming psychological frailty that Cintron showed against Margarito was a one-time thing or not.

It should be noted, though, that Cintron stood up to pressure against Teddy Reid before stopping that heavy-handed slugger in the eighth. He was going into the Margarito fight after having been inactive for nine months, it was his first fight after having hurt his right hand, and people close to the situation tell me there were some emotional, non-boxing issues that did not help matters. That said, it cannot be denied that Cintron simply caved in — at ringside I actually felt embarrassed for him.

I do get the feeling, however, that Cintron has matured since the Margarito debacle — and the Estrada fight should have helped him psychologically.

My sense is that Cintron will be able to hold himself together when things are not going his way and use his jab, well-placed blows and hand speed to get a grip on the fight by the middle rounds.

Somehow, a sudden ending does not seem very likely to me — each man will be physically and mentally braced for the other’s blows — but I think that Cintron can catch Suarez often enough and hard enough to have eroded his rival’s resistance by the ninth or 10th round.

Last Updated: 
October 27, 2006 - 8:35am