HBO put on a huge welterweight card on tonight. Kermit Cintron (27-1, 25 KOs) faced Walter Matthysse (26-1, 25 KOs) for the IBF Welterweight title. Arturo Gatti (40-8, 31 KOs) looked to continue his career against "Contender" alum Alphonso Gomez (16-3-2, 7 KOs). And then the show moved out west to feature WBO titlist Antonio Margarito (34-4, 24 KOs) defending his crown against 6'1" Paul Williams (32-0, 24 KOs).
Cintron/Matthysse was first, and it did not last long. Matthysse got put down for the first time in his career at the end of the first round (a round which, prior to that, did not seem to be moving strongly in either fighter's favor). In the second, Cintron came out fast, putting down Matthysse again with a hard shot. The Argentinian got to his feet, but was clearly wobbly. Cintron then finished him off with a devastating upper-cut/hook combination, only the first of which was necessary (the second landed flush as Matthysse was going down). Were it not for some of the truly sensational KOs we've seen this year (Wilson over Nwodo, and Donaire upsetting Darchinyan), I think it'd be in the running for knockout of the year. As it is, welcome back to the division's elite, Cintron.
Going into Gatti/Gomez, I was predicting a unanimous decision for Gatti. Fighting at home in New Jersey, against a "Contender" guy (read: somebody who has more exposure than talent) who isn't reputed to have great punching power, this was the type of fight Gatti should win handily if he had anything left. Gatti does not have anything left, and Gomez was making him pay for stepping into the ring for seven long rounds before putting him down for the count and his career. All the while, the fans were on their seat hoping for one of Gatti's legendary comebacks. But his heart didn't seem to be in it for a drawn-out, blood and guts affair. Gomez was landing right hands all night, and when Gatti went down, the New Jersey boxing commissioner himself ran into the ring to make sure the bout was stopped. Gatti announced his retirement at the end of the fight, and while it may have been overdue, he's given boxing a hell of a ride over the course of his career.
Finally, the main event: Margarito/Williams. Both men felt like the division's elite had been ducking them. Margarito was putting a lucrative bout against Miguel Cotto on the line to send a message that he--who had been avoided for so long--would take on any and every legitimate challenger.
This fight was, to put it simply, fantastic. Both Margarito and Williams are volume punchers who like to use their height and reach to control fights and overwhelm their opponents with pressure. Margarito is 5'11" with a 30 inch reach (pretty high for a welterweight), but Williams is 6'1" (and looks even taller) with a 30.5 inch reach, which is freakish. As a result, it was Williams who was able to throw most of the punches, and Margarito was forced to settle for looking to land the harder shots. Williams controlled the early rounds, but Margarito began to come on strong later as he began to time Williams and the younger fighter began to fade, just a bit. What was crucial on the cards was how some of the closer early rounds were scored--I scored two of them (I believe rounds 3 and 6) even because Margarito got in some good body work that was beginning to effect Williams. But most observers (and I believe the judges) gave them to Williams, granting him a sweep of the first six rounds, whereas I had it 3 rounds for Williams, one for Margarito (the fourth), and two even at the halfway point. Margarito won a majority of the later rounds, but ended up coming just short, with Williams taking his crown by a 116-112, 115-113, 115-113 unanimous decision. I had it 115-115--had Margarito won the 12th round, I would have given him a decision (and, more importantly, those two 115-113 cards would have evened-up, giving him a majority draw).
Nonetheless, Williams fought a magnificent fight, and showed that he is the real thing at 147 pounds. With a title, Williams obviously deserves the chance to take on another one of the division's elites. And Margarito should definitely still be considered a match-up for a top fighter in the Welterweight division. For that matter, I wouldn't say no to a re-match for these two. They spent the entire night throwing and landing some big shots, and neither gave an inch. Truly, an excellent display of boxing, and one of the best non-PPV cards HBO has put on in a long while.