The slip may be attributable to a problem that arose earlier today: Cintron had no shoes for the fight. Somehow, his boxing shoes had become inoperable, and his manager Josh Dubin phoned Freddie Roach, who directed him to the nearest boxing supply store.
Fans have clamored Williams (39-1) and Cintron (32-3-1) to fight, since each boxer fought at welterweight with genetically freakish height for the weight. Combined, they measure 12', but just 306.5 lbs (to put this in perspective: the 7' heavyweight Nicolay Valuev weighed 17.5 lbs more than this when he won his title in 2005). Each fighter claims to still be able to make welterweight, as each bragged the morning of the weigh-in of what they had for breakfast. (Williams had steak and eggs, and Cintron eggs and yogurt.)
Both Williams and Cintron dedicated themselves to boxing relatively late in life: Cintron in college, and Williams under his trainer George Peterson at the age of 17. Arguably, the lack of amateur experience (under 100 fights total) fosters both boxers' will to stand trading blows over slick boxing.
In the early rounds, both men pawed at each other, with Williams' large lefts outnumbering Cintron's large rights. At times, the crowd began to boo, but attendance was too depressed to influence the action.
The fatal spill occurred in the fourth round, just as the fight appeared to start. Williams, 28, landed a succession of powerful lefts, then practiced one of his worst habits: overconfidence. At this point, Cintron, 30, landed a right hand with what strength and balance he had left.
Both men then wobbled in aggression toward one another like pulled over drunk drivers intent on walking a straight line while simultaneously trying to knock out their arresting officer.
Prior to becoming a boxer, Cintron was a talented wrestler. Throughout the fight, and at this moment in the fourth, he attempted to put Williams in a headlock. In this elaborate Rube-Goldberg device, Williams fell to the canvas, and Cintron spun out of the ring and onto the concrete.
In California, a referee can stop a fight, but so too can a doctor, which tonight he did. Cintron was taken out on a stretcher against his protests, though perhaps not against his will. Though Cintron fought gamely in the early rounds, by the fourth Williams' activity was already showing signs of cumulative dominance.
The subsequent ruling had many confused: a split decision in favor of Paul Williams (39-37, 40-36, 40-36). The chosen winner was less of note than that there was a winner at all, considering the fight had lasted just slightly shorter than the judges took to deliver their scores to Michael Buffer. Unlike in other states, in California, however, the start of the fourth round determines an official marker after which a fight can go to scorecards if ended prematurely.
"That's not a fight," said a livid Lou DiBella, Cintron's promoter. "It's a strange way to get a win," said a bewildered Williams. As drug-testing issues continue to dog the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather negotiations, Williams would like to enter the Pacquiao-Mayweather sweepstakes. Despite his prestige, Williams' imposing height seems to discount him (he is about half a foot taller than Pacquiao), as well as his inability to draw a crowd. In addition, Williams is with the wrong manager and wrong promoter to align himself for either fight. Should Williams choose to look past Cintron, the boxing world can hope for a rematch against Sergio Martinez for his middleweight titles.