By Fox Doucette
Earlier this week, the esteemed editor in chief of this fine publication and I got into a bit of a discussion about whether Kermit Cintron (33-4-1, 28 KOs), who is scheduled to fight Saul Alvarez (38-0-1, 28 KOs) on November 26th for El Canelo’s WBC belt at 154, is the toughest test that Alvarez has yet faced. I argued that Cintron is just Matthew Hatton or Ryan Rhodes all over again—between the record (all three guys mentioned brought four career losses into their fights with Alvarez) and the general quality of the fighter, it’s hard to make the argument that Cintron is elite.
Yes, Kermit Cintron can hang his hat on the majority draw he gave Sergio Martinez, a top ten pound-for-pound guy and consensus middleweight champion of the world. He beat Alfredo Angulo pretty soundly back in 2009. But since the Angulo fight, Cintron simply hasn’t done anything in the ring. Two losses (to Paul Williams and Carlos Molina), a very lackluster win on Friday Night Fights over Monica Seles Antwone Smith (which your friendly neighborhood commentator, covering that fight for this site, scored a draw), and another win over gatekeeper Juliano Ramos form Cintron’s post-Angulo resumé.
All of the above might not even be the point, however. With the exception of Alvarez, who at age 21 is still a work in progress, but might very well end up as a truly legendary champion once he cleans out the division and lords over the 154-160 weight range like a Klitschko brother, the junior middleweight division is, as I’ve said before in this space, a soup kitchen. Fringe contenders get title shots and every title except El Canelo’s WBC belt is held by guys who are either washed up (WBA “super” champ Miguel Cotto), untested (WBA regular champ Austin Trout), or best-of-a-weak-lot on-paper titleholders (Cornelius Bundrage in the IBF and WBO titlist Zaurbek Baysangurov).
But so what if it’s a soup kitchen, argued the boss man. “I think the parity at 154 is what makes it interesting…I couldn’t care less about stars, as long as decent bouts are made”, he said, and looking at the rankings and the fights that could be made therefrom, he’s absolutely right.
If you look at The Boxing Tribune’s own rankings, at #1 sits Alfredo Angulo and at #20 sits Sechew Powell, with a whole bunch of similarly-talented guys you could ask 50 boxing fans to put into subjective order and get 50 completely different lists with about 5 or 6 guys plausibly ranked #1. Bundrage, Williams, Molina, Martirosyan, Lara, Rhodes…guys that the casual fans may not have heard of but the hardcores know bring the goods every time. Molina and Lara threw down on ESPN, Bundrage and Powell had a well-contested fight for the IBF title, Alvarez has fought several guys on the list already…there are great fights between, if not great, then very good fighters.
The best part? Since so few of these guys are household names, it’s a tournament waiting to happen. Showtime has already put on a Super Six at 168 pounds, a grand promoters’ bargain with the prize being becoming the man who everyone’s going to complain about Lucian Bute not fighting. It worked because Super Six offered a chance for good but not necessarily household name fighters (except in Europe) to make a huge step forward in their careers, something Andre Ward or Carl Froch will do with a win in the grand final.
But why stop at Super Six? Here’s my proposal. We take the Boxing Tribune top 20. Take out Cotto (who’s living on past reputation), Yuri Foreman (ditto), Erislandy Lara (really doesn’t belong on the list), and Pawel Wolak (whom we’ve bigger plans for, namely fighting Delvin Rodriguez to the death if necessary.) The other sixteen guys? Say hello to the Battle Royale With Cheese.
Here’s how it works. First we divide the fighters into four groups of four fighters each and have them fight where it makes geographic sense (mostly)
Group A (Staples Center, Los Angeles)
Alfredo Angulo vs. Vanes Martirosyan
Austin Trout vs. Deandre Latimore
Group B (Madison Square Garden, New York)
Sechew Powell vs. Paul Williams
Cornelius Bundrage vs. Kermit Cintron
Group C (ESPRIT Arena, Dusseldorf, Germany)
Lukas Konecny vs. Sergiy Dzinziruk
Zaurbek Baysangurov vs. Ryan Rhodes
Group D (Arena VFG, Guadalajara, Mexico)
Saul Alvarez vs. Carlos Molina
Nobuhiro Ishida vs. Anthony Mundine (hey, someone had to travel)
After the preliminary fights, the group final would be held in the same location (except Group D, which would shift to Vodafone Arena in Melbourne in fairness to the Asia-Pacific contingent) to determine a group champion.
Single elimination, with a cash bonus paid to the winner by knockout if the fights do not go the distance, in order to encourage fighters to go for the big shot. Money would be raised by selling the naming rights—fans may groan at the blatant product placement but it’s far better than survival mode fights like Donaire-Narvaez from last week; creating an incentive by any means necessary will make the fights more entertaining.
After the first set of fights concludes, the semi-finals will be held for the US championship in Jerry Jones’ Palace of Decadence, namely Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, while the international title will be contested at the MEN Arena in Manchester, England.
Finally, with all the hype machines cranked up to 11, with a new legend in the junior middleweight division just waiting to be crowned, with HBO 24/7 and ESPN sending Dan Rafael to challenge the endurance of even the bravest of buffet chefs and everyone talking about the fighters, live from Las Vegas, Nevada, a star will be born and everyone will marvel at how great the tournament was and…
*BZZZZZZT* Damned alarm clock. I must’ve been dreaming again. But man, what a dream.
Fox Doucette covers Friday Night Fights for The Boxing Tribune. His weekly column, The Southpaw, appears on Thursdays. He’d be very intrigued by Group B if only for the possibility of rematches of two good fights in the division from times past. Fan mail, hate mail, and bets on how much food (in cubic meters) Dan Rafael could pack away in one sitting can be sent to email@example.com.