CARSON, Calif. (AP) — Paul Williams earned a bizarre victory Saturday night when Kermit Cintron wasn't allowed to continue after tumbling through the ropes and landing on a ringside table early in the fourth round.
The 154-pound bout ended with Cintron strapped to a stretcher and wearing a neck brace, although he wanted to keep fighting.
Williams (39-1, 27 KOs) was awarded a technical victory by split decision because he led on two of the three judges' scorecards. California rules require a decision if a fight ends by injury after the fourth round begins.
"It's a strange way to get a win," Williams said. "I'll try to fight better the next time. ... I definitely don't want to see a guy get hurt. I wanted to hurt him with a punch, not by him falling out of the ring."
The bout between two hard-punching veteran fighters began with three uneventful rounds, but ended with an unbelievable accident that could have been tragic.
Williams and Cintron exchanged big shots in the early moments of the fourth, with Williams snapping back Cintron's neck with two big left hands.
Williams connected with another punch and tried to clinch, but slipped and fell to the canvas. Leaning forward and off balance, Cintron (32-3-1) tripped over Williams' left leg and went headfirst through the ropes, hitting a monitor and a table with his head.
Cintron stayed down on his side for several minutes, but the Puerto Rican fighter eventually said he felt fine to keep going. The ringside doctor wouldn't allow it, and Cintron was taken away from the Home Depot Center in an ambulance.
The same fans who booed the relative inactivity of the early rounds also booed the early stoppage, even while Cintron was taken from the arena on his back.
"I feel bad," Williams said. "The fans didn't get their money's worth, but I'll try more to give it to them the next time."
Before the bout, Cintron's corner argued with California officials when told the fight would be held under the state's rules, which require the bout to be decided if it ends after just three rounds. Cintron wanted to fight under the Association of Boxing Commissions' common rules.
Judge Jen Kin scored it 40-36 for Williams, while Fritz Werner favored Williams 39-37. Jerry Cantu saw a completely different fight, scoring it 40-36 for Cintron.
"No one really knew who won that fight," said an incensed Lou DiBella, Cintron's promoter. "There wasn't enough fight to be judged. It was 3½ rounds. That's not a fight. ... There should be a rematch, and he's a man's man. I think he'll give him a rematch."
Williams landed just 13 percent of his 207 punches, while Cintron connected with 23 percent of his 126 blows.
The statistics don't reflect the relatively cautious start for Williams, who wasn't throwing punches with his usual volume. Cintron worked to get under Williams' formidable reach, which is bigger than a Klitschko brother, while fighting under perfect outdoor conditions in Carson, south of downtown Los Angeles.
A rematch might depend on Williams' luck in another try at landing a big-money bout against a top welterweight. Williams says he's willing to fight anybody from 147 to 168 pounds, even though he realizes most top welterweights — including Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao — likely want nothing to do with his freakishly athletic 6-foot-3 frame.
When Kelly Pavlik dropped out of two prospective bouts against Williams with an injury last year, Williams earned a narrow victory last December over Sergio Martinez, who subsequently pounded Pavlik to claim the WBC middleweight title. Martinez, who attended the bout, fought Cintron to a majority draw in February 2009.