By Jason Pribilla at ringside: The Sands Events Center was filled to capacity a full hour before the NBCSN cameras went live because a backyard brawl for area bragging rights was contested between former welterweight titlist Kermit Cintron (35-5-2, 28 KO) and Ronald Cruz (20-3, 15 KO).
Only 40 miles separated the combatants, but it would turn out that the ring experience against quality opponents was much greater.
Cruz suffered back to back losses before winning three straight. Following his last fight he felt he needed to step up to see exactly where he was at this point in his career. His team saw Cintron as a big name, who was perhaps leaning more toward retirement than another run at welterweight glory. It turned out they made a bit of a miscalculation.
Cintron took advantage of his height, reach, and speed advantage immediately. He answered a Cruz body shot with a counter left hook to the top of the head that momentarily knocked Cruz off balance. The Bethlehem native rebounded behind a body attack to take the lead on my card after three.
It was at that point that it became apparent that Cintron would have more answers. Cintron began the fourth by landing a crisp jab. Cruz continued to try to get inside, but he was doing so by moving his feet and not his fists. Cintron took advantage of a foe who was directly in front of him and he began to land single shots upstairs.
The fighters fell into moments of grappling throughout the fight. Cruz would lunge inside with his shoulder; Cintron would counter by draping his arm around Cruz’s neck while leaning down on his back. When referee Gary Rosato was able to separate the fighters, it was Cintron who was able to throw combinations, while Cruz had to settle for throwing one punch at a time.
Cintron came off his stool in round eight as if it was 2007. He threw and landed hard shots that Cruz was able to absorb despite suffering separate cuts under his eye and one on his hairline.
The fighters traded in the ninth round. Again it seemed as if Cruz had to work for everything he landed, while the punches that Cintron landed were cleaner. He buckled Cruz with a left hook to punctuate the round.
Cruz went for a knockout in the final round, but Cintron’s experience guided him through the final three minutes. He would land and hold just enough to ensure Cruz would be unable to land the clean punches that he would need to keep the fight out of the judges’ hands.
The final bell rang and all three judges agreed with most in the press row. Kermit Cintron successfully accepted the Cruz challenge and has put himself in position for the next fighter looking to add his name to their resume.
It is back to the drawing board for Cruz. He deserves credit for challenging himself by calling out a skilled fighter like Cintron. I think he needs to focus more on boxing and working his opponents’ bodies, rather than settling for the headhunting that has haunted him in his losses. He has a Hall of Fame promoter and matchmaker in Russell Peltz, who will rebuild his confidence and get him in position to step up again in 2015.
Philadelphia lightweight “Dynamite” Karl Dargan (15-0, 7 KO) was perhaps the most talented prospect on the card, yet he turned in the evening’s most frustrating performance. He faced Chazz McDowell who seemed to be more concerned with surviving than he was with making weight. McDowell weighed in two pounds over the junior welterweight limit.
Dargan is a decorated amateur fighter, and he has his uncle/trainer Naazim Richardson in his corner. He has great hand speed and size for the lightweight division. Yet, he only showed flashes of that talent over 8 repetitive rounds.
After the bout Dargan answered the crowd’s boos by stating, “It’s tough fighting an opponent who is only interested in surviving.”
That may be true, but a fighter as talented as Dargan should have been able to walk down and get McDowell out of there. There is no questioning Dargan’s talent; it will now be up to his handlers to match him with people that will allow that talent to be displayed.
Jerome Rodriguez (6-0-2, 2 KO) of neighboring Allentown may have benefited from some home cooking as he escaped with his third career draw against Brandon Williams (3-0-1) of Rochester, NY. Despite weighing in a division below the junior welterweight limit, Williams seemed to be the fighter coming forward and did most of his damage when the fighters engaged in close. Unfortunately for Williams he performed in front of judges who did not seem to value body punching.
The official scores were read: 58-57 Rodriguez, 59-55 Williams and 57-57
In the opening bout of the evening, welterweight Nathanial Rivas (3-0, 2 KO) remained perfect as he stopped Terrell James (1-2-1) at 2:37 of the third round.
The evening’s swing bout kept a good portion of the crowd in the arena after the main event. Bantamweight Luis Acevedo of Bethlehem won the last two rounds to escape with a draw in his pro debut against Josh Crespo (1-1-2, 1KO)
Jason Pribila is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He could be reached for questions or comments at Pribs2000@yahoo.com and followed on Twitter.com @PribsBoxing.
March 15, 2014