Stepping Sideways: Preview And Prediction For Saul Alvarez Vs. Kermit Cintron

(Saul Alvarez, left; Kermit Cintron, right)

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is either the future of the boxing or a spoiled child, depending on who you ask. It’s unlikely that the argument is going to be solved by his junior middleweight fight this weekend with Kermit Cintron in Mexico City. Not unless Cintron pulls the upset and defeats Canelo, which is an unlikely prospect.

On the other bout of the HBO televised double header, fellow hopeful Adrien Broner fights in his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. His opponent, Argentina’s Vicente Rodriguez, is a level below even Cintron. So this is meant to be a showcase night on HBO, hopefully before both men move on to bigger and better things.

Alvarez (38-0-1) is only 21. In his native Mexico, he’s already a superstar. He’s getting that way with Mexican-American fans too. The problem is that he hasn’t really beaten anybody of note — unless you count allegedly beating up the Ring’s number three man… at junior flyweight… on the street. Normally, there’s nothing wrong with a 21-year-old being fed a diet of easy(ish) opponents. But what many fans find galling is the way Canelo is marketed as the messiah, regularly appears on HBO and already owns an alphabet “title.”

The latest in the line of fall guys for Canelo is Kermit Cintron (33-4-1) of Puerto Rico. These days, boxing fans mainly know Cintron for bizarre incidents like falling out of the ring against Paul Williams in 2010 and being unable to continue and getting a gift draw despite being knocked out by Sergio Martinez in 2009. But there was a time when Cintron was a respected welterweight and junior middleweight contender with a feared right hand. The rub is that he hasn’t really showed it since 2007 and was outhussled by Carlos Molina to lose a unanimous decision two fights ago. Now he’s back on one of the top two boxing networks before Molina. Isn’t boxing great?

To be fair, some are giving Cintron a decent chance at the upset. The reasoning is that Canelo isn’t really that good anyway and that if Cintron can keep the fight on the outside then he can ping the Mexican with that big right hand. Cintron definitely has boxing skills when he has his head together; he put on an absolute show to upset the then-undefeated Alfredo Angulo in 2009. It’s also possible that Canelo’s chin is questionable; he got wobbled by Jose Miguel Cotto, who is not a feared puncher at welterweight.

Cintron faces an uphill battle, though. Despite being slow-handed, Canelo is very powerful, has good timing and fights patiently. He can box and he can bang. Even his slow hands appear to be speeding up a little. He hasn’t shown a weak chin since Cotto, though none of his opponents since have really touched him that much, busy as they were being mercilessly beaten from post to post. He was frustrated by Alfonso Gomez’ jab and movement before exploding to a (way too early) stoppage victory in the 5th round of his last fight.

Moreover, Cintron will have to go above and beyond to earn a points victory against Canelo in Mexico City. The fact that his right hand hasn’t really appeared in recent years does not bode well for him. Nor does what many fight fans perceive as his lack of fighting spirit. Fighting Canelo is not going to be like losing to the light-punching Carlos Molina. Cintron will be taking heavy punches, win or lose, and it remains to be seen whether he can mentally handle that at this stage of his career.

In the end, I don’t see how Cintron gets the job done in El Distrito Federal. Canelo will likely take this by decision or late stoppage, possibly involving some kind of Cintron-y weirdness. From there, let’s hope that Golden Boy Promotions puts him in with a real challenge. He has the chops to fight on even terms with everybody in the division. Canelo would make good fights with Molina, James Kirkland, Miguel Cotto or, of course, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

Before all that 22-year-old former amateur standout Adrien Broner (21-0) will face Vicente Rodriguez (34-2-1). The Ring’s number six junior lightweight will almost certainly win.

In many ways, Cincinnati’s Broner is like Canelo. Despite his youth, he’s extremely self-assured, in the ring and out. Where Alvarez’ experience has come from turning pro at 15, Broner’s comes from more than 300 amateur fights. Like Alvarez he’s powerful and skilled.

However, unlike his Mexican counterpart, Broner isn’t always a crowd-pleaser. He can be aggressive when he wants to be, but is mainly a counterpuncher. When he fought Daniel Ponce de Leon in March, he positively stunk out the joint. Then when he fought Jason Litzau three months later, he starched him in one. Could have something to do with the fact that Ponce de Leon is a crazy hard hitting mofo, but still.

Rodriguez (34-2-1) is really nothing special. Don’t look for any Marcos Maidana/Lucas Matthyse style Argentine craziness here — just a stock standard, fairly slow boxer who’s already lost to a former Broner KO victim in the form of Australia’s Willie Kickett. But he is tough with a bit of power, so if he can deal with the Broner’s speed like Ponce de Leon did, maybe he can make it interesting. After this Broner needs to step up as well. Junior lightweight isn’t the terrible division it once was. Fights against Juan Carlos Burgos, Luis Cruz, Eloy Perez, Argenis Mendez and Jorge Solis could all be fun.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.