ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Antonio Margarito isn't the best welterweight in the world, but he's moving in on the top spot.
The massive Mexican welterweight delivered a brutal beatdown to Kermit Cintron on Saturday at Boardwalk Hall, not only lifting the IBF belt from his bitter rival but sending a loud and clear message to the remainder of a stacked division.
Margarito, who stopped Cintron in the fifth round of a WBO title fight in 2005, was even more impressive on Saturday. He raked Cintron with a combination of punches that left Cintron defenseless by the time the sixth round began.
Margarito ended it with a classic left hook to the body, which sent Cintron crumpling into a heap along the ropes. As Cintron lay on all fours, briefly kicking his feet, Margarito stood and mocked in the neutral corner, urging him to get up.
Referee Earl Brown reached the count of 10 at 1:57 of the round, but he could have counted to 200 and Cintron wouldn't have been able to continue.
The bout was a brutal reminder to those who wish to stake a claim at the top of the 147-pound division that Margarito is going to play a significant role.
He has a granite chin, which he showed by eating a series of hard right hands, but he has a much more varied attack than he did in 2005. He's going to be a difficult matchup for WBA kingpin Miguel Cotto in July because he will have a significant advantage in chin and because he has a right that Cotto has been susceptible to in the past.
Margarito, now 36-5, has now rebounded from a dismal and stunning loss to Paul Williams in June with a pair of vicious knockouts.
"I learned from the Paul Williams fight," a jubilant Margarito said afterward. "I had to put up pressure early in the fight. My whole camp was based on putting pressure, pressure, pressure on all my sparring partners."
And that's what he did to Cintron, who was melting under the heat. By the third round, it seemed only a matter of time before Cintron would be finished.
Margarito turned up the pressure in the fifth and landed a series of hard shots, especially uppercuts, that wobbled Cintron, cut him by the right eye and sent him looking to the referee for help.
He got a reprieve momentarily when Brown warned Margarito late in the fifth for hitting behind the head, but it only lead to two minutes of additional pummeling.
"I had him from the beginning," Margarito said. "I'm surprised he lasted that long. They promised me Cotto and they had better deliver him."