The year-end award nominees just got a few new entries, as lightweight Brandon Rios thrilled the crowd yet again with a sensational third-round knockout in a Fight of the Year candidate in the main event Saturday on Showtime, while Carlos Molina scored a clear cut unanimous decision victory over Kermit Cintron in the opener for the biggest win of his career.
CARLOS MOLINA – KERMIT CINTRON
Chalk up yet another upset in 2011, a year that has been chock full of them, as Carlos Molina outpunched, outworked, and outright overwhelmed Kermit Cintron to earn a 10-round unanimous decision victory in the opener of the Showtime telecast.
Cintron (32-4-1, 28 KO), a former welterweight titlist and a top junior middleweight contender, was coming off a 14-month layoff after his odd lucha libre impersonation against Paul Williams in a technical decision loss. There were no suicide dives on this night, but the trajectory of Cintron’s career may now follow that of his launch from the ring.
In his second consecutive loss at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California, Cintron had no answers for Molina’s activity and accuracy. The first two rounds were close, but in the third round Molina found a way inside and began pounding Cintron’s body and landing strong right hands after his jab.
Molina’s adjustment proved to be the only one he would need, as Cintron never found an answer and Molina proceeded to dominate. In the fifth round, Molina landed a big uppercut to start an impressive flurry of combinations that pressed Cintron to the ropes and left his nose bloodied.
Cintron’s trainer, Ronnie Shields, admonished his fighter that he was losing the fight and needed a knockout, but Cintron never found another gear. His activity level dipped as the fight progressed and Molina broke him down. Molina hurt Cintron again in the seventh round with another big right hand and ensuing flurry.
The late rounds began to look like carbon copies of one another, with Molina in control and Cintron appearing flummoxed. Despite clearly holding a big lead on the scorecards, Molina left everything on the table in the final round, giving Cintron some opportunities to land right hands but leaving no question as to the winner of the fight.
Molina (19-4-2, 6 KO) scored the biggest win of his career by a wide margin, earning the decision by scores of 98-92 on all three scorecards. TQBR also scored the fight 98-92 for Molina.
Although limited in amateur experience and previously thought of as an “opponent,” Molina has now arrived as a top junior middleweight contender. He has not lost since dropping a majority decision to Mike Alvarado in 2007 and now can boast a win against a top fighter on his resume.
Al Bernstein mentioned the action potential of a fight with junior middleweight contender Pawel Wolak, and I would absolutely love to see that matchup. But Molina would also make a terrific matchup for any top junior middleweight in the world, including Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, Cornelius “K9” Bundrage, Sergei Dzinziruk, or even the winner of Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito II.
No matter what, Molina is an easy fighter to root for, one who has worked for everything he has and leaves everything he has in the ring.
BRANDON RIOS – URBANO ANTILLON
In a short but spectacular fight that lived up to the hype, Brandon Rios stopped Urbano Antillon with an accumulation of devastating right hands to retain his version of the lightweight title.
Rios (28-0-1, 21 KO) and Antillon (28-3, 20 KO) fought in a telephone booth for the first two rounds and exchanged punches at a furious pace, inspiring Al Berstein to make several references to Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo I, the modern gold-standard for all-action slugfests.
Each man took turns getting the better of the action, with Antillon throwing devastating body punches in the first part of the first round, until Rios adjusted and began landing a barrage of uppercuts with both hands, mixing in his jab and right hand with great success to cap the round.
In the second round, Rios continued his assault to start the round, but Antillon refused to back down and again resumed his furious body attack to earn the round. The crowd cheered wildly for the furious two-way action, but it seemed unlikely that such an incredible pace would last for long.
And last long it did not. After two evenly-fought rounds, the power of Rios took over the fight in the third. A crushing right hand to the chin floored Rios just seconds into the round. Antillon rose to his feet and resumed his attack, but Rios had clearly hurt him with the punch.
Although Antillon made an admirable comeback from the first knockdown and began to land big punches, another tremendous right hand from Rios all but ended the fight, as Antillon crumbled to the mat for a second time and rose on extremely unsteady legs.
Referee David Mendoze initially let Antillon continue, but when Antillon was able to do nothing but clinch weakly and stumbled when Mendoza broke the fighters apart, Mendoza stopped the fight with just 11 seconds remaining in round three.
Although Bernstein referenced Corrales-Castillo, the fight I was reminded of most at the end was the legendary war between middleweights Marvin Hagler and Tommy Hearns in April 1985, due to the incredible pace and the relatively short duration of the battle. Although Rios-Antillon did not quite match that unforgettable encounter, the two lived up to every expectation for this fight.
Rios and Antillon combined to connect on an amazing 171 punches in less than three rounds, with Antillon actually outlanding Rios in power punches, 65-55.
With the victory, Rios continues to lay claim to being the next top lightweight in the world, as several of the current top fighters in the division are moving up in weight, most notably Juan Manuel Marquez. In the ring after the fight, Bob Arum mentioned Marco Antonio Barrera as a possible opponent for Rios in his next fight. Given his warrior mentality and diminished skills, I might fear for Barrera’s safety in that matchup.
Then again, I said that about Erik Morales before his fight with Marcos Maidana earlier in the year.
Ultimately, I would like to see Rios against Miguel Vazquez and Jorge Linares, two other top young lightweights. No matter what, I want to see Rios again, and again, and again. The guy just makes sensational fights, not matter how much he might put his foot in his mouth in the buildups.
Arum also mentioned a fight between Rios and Manny Pacquiao in 2013, thinking much further ahead than I care to.
Meanwhile, Antillon is unlikely to get another title shot soon, having failed to win a title for the third time in three chances. However, he makes outstanding fights himself, and a fight with fellow lightweight and action warrior Michael Katsidis (another fighter who has come up short in his biggest fights) could be nothing less than awe inspiring.
There was a nice tribute by Gus Johnson, Al Bernstein, and Jim Gray to their former colleague Nick Charles at the start of the broadcas, and the ceremonial ten count prior to the main event recognized the recent deaths of English “Bouie” Fischer, George Kimball, and Charles.