If Antonio Margarito was looking to get out from under the considerable shadow of more universally recognized welterweight champion Zab Judah, he sure did it in style.
Many were expecting Margarito's fifth title defense against Kermit Cintron to be a grueling, physical, fight-of-the-year candidate. Instead, Margarito left no doubt in easily disposing of the challenger.
He busted open a cut over Cintron's right eye, dropped him four times and dominated en route to a fifth-round TKO Saturday night at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas in the main event of ESPN's first pay-per-view card.
Margarito (31-4, 22 KOs) overwhelmed the less experienced Cintron (24-1) from the opening bell, and then called out for the money men in the division.
"People saw I am ready for the big guys, Oscar De La Hoya, Shane Mosley and Zab Judah," Margarito said.
In the third round, the Tijuana, Mexico, native landed numerous shots during a flurry, and when the fighters separated, Cintron emerged with blood streaming from over his eye, causing referee Kenny Bayless to ask for the ringside doctor to examine it.
It appeared Cintron was discouraged by the cut. He looked like he wanted to quit in the fourth as Margarito bullied him with body shots and left hooks along the ropes. Finally, an uppercut dropped him midway through the round.
Cintron rose at nine but went down again moments later, falling face first as he tried to hang onto Margarito's waist after tasting more punches.
By the fifth, Cintron was on shaky legs and although Margarito wasn't landing hard shots, Cintron took a knee to try to collect himself.
He got up again at nine but went down again seconds later. This time, with a look of resignation on his face and blood streaming down his cheek, he got up and began walking toward his corner, where trainer Marshall Kaufman was on the ring apron throwing in the towel at 2:21.
Moments later, Cintron broke down in tears as his corner comforted him.
"I tried to use my jab. I should have thrown more punches," Cintron said. "My eye started bothering me. I tried to come back. I don't know what to say. I'll be back. I'll train harder and hopefully I'll get another world title shot."
It was a surprisingly one-sided blowout by Margarito, who exuded confidence in the pre-fight buildup.
"I was confident coming in," he said. "We just took our time and picked the punches. We knew he was a power puncher so I came out with my hands up and was calm. I wanted to weather the first round."
Cintron might have been hurt by nine months of inactivity. He looked sensational in knocking out Teddy Reid last summer to set up the title shot, but he hurt his right hand in the fight and needed surgery. Meanwhile, Margarito was coming off a Feb. 18 fight in which he stopped Sebastian Lujan in the 10th round.
"He was strong," said Cintron, a Reading, Pa., resident originally from Puerto Rico. "He kept coming forward. I wasn't doing the job. It just didn't go the way I wanted it to go."
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.