Boxing
Cintron takes sweet offer to meet Martinez
Lyle Fitzsimmons


By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor


Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Forget candy, cards and candlelight.

Instead of whispering sweet sentiments to a significant other near a cozy northeastern fireplace, Kermit Cintron will be spending his Valentine's Day in south Florida, trying to (literally) punch his way to an even sweeter future in the boxing ring.

The Puerto Rican-born Cintron, now based out of Reading, Pa., takes a step toward a second world championship on Feb. 14 in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Sunrise, where he'll meet Sergio Martinez for the World Boxing Council's interim super welterweight (154 pounds) title at BankAtlantic Center.

He'll be trained for the bout by veteran Ronnie Shields.

"It was a good opportunity for me," Cintron said. "I sat down with my team and my family and we talked about it, and we agreed that it was a big fight and a big chance, and, because it'll be on HBO, it gives me even more exposure than I could have gotten otherwise."

Cintron, 29, had been in line to meet International Boxing Federation welterweight (147 pounds) champion Joshua Clottey on the undercard of a pay- per-view show scheduled a week later at Madison Square Garden, but agreed to the change in scenery when those negotiations stalled on money.

Promoter Lou DiBella said last week that Cintron would get a significantly higher purse for a fight with Martinez, though Cintron referred to specific figures subsequently circulating - around $125,000 for Clottey, nearly $200,000 for Martinez - as "not accurate" and "way far off."

"Sure, every fighter wants to make the biggest money out there, but it's not always about the money," Cintron said. "Sometimes it's about a bigger opportunity and, in this case, winning this fight as opposed to a Clottey fight would be bigger for me."

The bout with Martinez will mark Cintron's first high-end venture outside of the 147-pound ranks, where he held the IBF title belt for 18 months before losing it to Antonio Margarito.

Cintron is 30-2 with 27 knockouts; the 33-year-old Martinez is 41-1-1 with 24 KOs.

Ironically, all three losses for the two men came to Margarito, who beat Martinez in seven rounds in February 2000 and stopped Cintron in both April 2005 and April 2008.

"I'm a big welterweight and I think I can move up and hold 154 pounds with no problem. I think my body can handle it," said Cintron, who stands 5-foot-11 and weighed a career-high 153 pounds for a second-round KO of Otilio Villarreal at the Riveredge Motel in Reading in 2002.

"I didn't take this fight because I can't make the 147-pound mark anymore. The opportunity came up, I sat down with everyone and at the end everyone was on the same page that this was what I should do. Things happen for a reason."

Martinez, who also stands 5-foot-11 and turned pro in 1997, won the interim title with an eighth-round stoppage of Alex Bunema in October. Cintron's last fight was a month later, when he unanimously outpointed Lovemore N'Dou in Nashville.

The win over N'Dou was his first fight under the tutelage of Shields, who's based in Houston and has also worked with Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson and Juan Diaz.

Shields fought professionally in the 1980s and lost a pair of world title shots at 140 pounds.

"Everything worked out great. There was a lot of chemistry," Cintron said.

According to WBC rules, an interim title bout is ordered when a reigning world champion will be inactive and unable to defend his title for a period exceeding six months. If the champion does not return after a year of inactivity, he will forfeit the world title to the interim champion.

Reigning WBC champion Vernon Forrest last fought in September.

"I just want to win big fights and become undisputed welterweight or (154- pound) champion," Cintron said. "Any guy who tells you he's not in it for the money is lying. The goal is to try to make as much as you can and get out. But I still have a lot in me and a lot of things I want to accomplish."

* * * * * * * * * *

I'm not exactly burdened with an excess of friends.

So I'm not one to weed out high-end acquaintances based solely on boxing- related principle.

But after Saturday night, that's exactly what I'm fixing to do to Marquis Richardson.

As I first mentioned back in October, my pal Marquis made a memorable first appearance at Gainesville's favorite boxing hangout when he walked through the door insisting heavy underdog Bernard Hopkins would whip Kelly Pavlik in their Atlantic City catch-weight bout.

I picked Pavlik by KO.

He picked Hopkins in a walk.

And 12 rounds later, I contended it was beginner's luck.

My resolve was tested again several weeks later in December, when Marquis returned insisting Manny Pacquiao could shrug off size disadvantages and take care of promotional conglomerate/part-time pugilist Oscar De La Hoya.

I was sure the "Golden Boy" would win in violent fashion.

He picked Manny by a stoppage.

And eight rounds and a retirement later, I pleaded inside information.

But this time around...it seems I'm fresh out of rationalizations.

Burdened with far too short a memory, I merely laughed and shook my head when Marquis confidently entered my abode with a straightforward assurance that Shane Mosley would be the better of Antonio Margarito because, as he repeated over and over..."Styles make fights."

Nonsense, I said, perpetual aggression would out-do age and distraction by TKO.

He picked Shane "sometime after the eighth."

Three days later...I'm thinking it's time to restrict my hospitality and perhaps redirect my career path.

It'd be one thing if Marquis were one of the dozens of guys who flood my e- mail box on the Sundays and Mondays after big fights, claiming in big words and capital letters that they were among the few and proud who "knew" that upsets were going to occur before they did.

Shouting down such wannabes is among the unsung perks of my job.

But Marquis is another animal entirely.

He doesn't beat his chest claiming superior knowledge. He doesn't shout down other people's reasoning to the contrary. And he doesn't come back every subsequent Saturday referring back to past prediction successes, even though I'm quite sure I would.

In short, he's a good guy...a classy guy...and obviously a smart guy.

And damn it, I don't need those sorts of people hanging around.

* * * * * * * * * *

FRIDAY

Vacant IBF junior welterweight title - Montreal, Canada

Herman Ngoudjo (No. 1 contender) vs. Juan Urango (No. 2 contender)

Ngoudjo (17-2, 9 KO): Won first 15 career fights, 2-2 in last four; lost lone world title shot

Urango (20-1-1, 16 KO): Held IBF title for seven months in 2006-07; 3-0 (3 KO) since title loss

FitzHitz says: Ngoudjo by decision

Last week's record: 0-1

Overall picks record: 55-25

Lyle Fitzsimmons is a 20-year veteran of sports journalism, a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a periodic contributor to "The Drive with Dave Smith" on KLAA radio (am830klaa.com) and "Cold Hard Sports" on the MVN network (coldhardsports.com). Reach him via e-mail at fitzbitz@msn.com.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.