|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY August 07, 2013||
by Gary Purfield
Ronald Cruz (17-2, 12 KO) should, by all standards of modern boxing, be feeling down and out. His confidence should be shot. After winning his first seventeen pro fights Cruz lost his unbeaten record back in September of last year and then lost again in his last outing in June of this year. In the most unforgiving sport of boxing it is almost never about anything other than what have you done for me lately. A fighter can be written off as exposed or overrated after one loss much less two in a row. Which is the position Cruz faces heading into his bout this Saturday with Rodolfo Armenta (12-10-1, 9 KO).
However, a loss or two can be a wakeup call as well. It can remind a young fighter to do what he does best while gaining valuable experience against good competition. Cruz and manager Jimmy Deoria seem to be taking this perspective. Cruz looks to make lemonade out of lemons from his last two fights.
ďI feel good actually. My last two fights even though Iíve lost I feel like Iíve gained experience from that and I know Iím a lot better fighter than Iíve shown to be and now with the experience I think I can show that.Ē
ďThose last two fights have been great experiences for me. Now I can go in there and use my natural abilities and use all the techniques I have learned from my trainer. From one fight to another people are going to look at me and say where did this Ronald Cruz come from. They really havenít seen the best of me.Ē
Deoria is clear in what he has seen and what his charge needs to do.
ďHe just needs to get in under the bright lights, let the hands go, bang these guys to the body, break them down like you did earlier in your career and letís go. Donít change your style. You just need to improve on what you currently do. Body shot, coming in behind the jab, you know.Ē
Cruz came out of the professional gate like a bull in a china closet winning seventeen straight fights, many of them by knockout by breaking opponents down to the body. He put away tough fighters with tough chins like it was another day at the office. However in his last two outings he was hardly the Ronald Cruz the boxing world had come to expect and had begun viewing as a serious contender.
Cruz was packing the Sands Casino in his hometown of Bethlehem with a rabid fan base, was getting exposure on NBC Sports Fight Night, and netted himself a regional title along with world rankings. As his oppositionís skill level increased, Cruz seemed to raise his level each time, making solid progress considering his limited amateur background.
Then he ran into the talented veteran Antwone Smith (23-4-1, 12 KO) who specializes in upsetting up and coming prospects. Smith out boxed Cruz in front of his hometown crowd on NBC Sports taking away his undefeated record and giving the prospect his first taste of defeat. The loss was not a wipe out though and certainly if taken correctly, had the feel of the kind of loss that can be learned from and ultimately do a young fighter a ton of good.
After the Smith fight Cruz wanted to get back into the ring quickly but was derailed by an injury forcing him to be off for nine months, the longest layoff of his career. Then when his original opponent who was more of a straight ahead fighter dropped out, the replacement came in the form of Ray Narh, a fighter similar to Smith with slick boxing skills. Again in front of his fans at the Sands and on NBC Sports Cruz took a tough loss. Despite Cruz having some moments he was never able to get his patented body attack going and allowed Narh (26-3, 21 KO) to keep him on the outside and dictate the action.
No one on Cruzís team is sure exactly why he didnít do what he is capable of in the last two fights, but no one is making excuses either, especially Deoria as to why he was not the typical Ronald Cruz.
ďNo I really donít. He was suffering from that little minor injury that he had in camp and he had to take a little extra time off. He never had that much time off. He was coming in off a loss. I donít want to make excuses for Ronald. He just didnít do what he was supposed to do that night and Ronald accepted the loss and said Iím not going to lose that way again. Iíve learned my lesson, I know how to beat these guys. You know I really donít want to make excuses for the kid. Kid is a straight up kind of guy. Two similar fighters back to back. He lost to both of them.Ē
Cruz stated, ďIf you looked at my career, I fought very different in the last fight than in my career. I went very defensive. I actually donít even know why. I went into defensive mode and nothing I was doing in camp. Basically nothing, I was coming out and being on defense and looking for the one punch knockout which is a terrible mistake I never want to make again.Ē
If Cruz fans are looking for a silver lining they donít have to look far. The hard hitting Cruz simply needs to get back to what he does best, coming forward and going after the body to break his opponents down. Losing against two slick fighters is nothing to clear the Cruz bandwagon. He had a very limited amateur background of thirty fights. In many ways he is learning on the job as a professional, so being out boxed by two slicksters with extensive experience is understandable and can be a valuable learning experience.
ďI started in boxing a little late, started at nineteen. I think that experience didnít help and 'cause I was out for nine months and it just didnít come out, my natural abilities didnít come out in that fight. Like I said, I have natural abilities and I have a great coach thatís shown me a lot of great stuff and my careerís still young so I canít wait to show everything Iíve learned and everything I have.Ē
Anyone who has followed Cruz knew what was missing in his last two fights. Whatever the reason he missed it, it was the lack of body punching and his typical volume punching pressure attack that cost him. Ringsiders and his team alike were pleading with him to be the Ronald Cruz they had seen in the past.
Deoria stated, ďSo I really donít know, I donít know what was in his head. I know I was in the corner with him. Me and Indio (trainer Indio Rodriguez) were pleading with him by the third or fourth round like Ronald, come on now. You know what Ray Narh has, now letís go, come on man, letís go. He just wasnít snapping to it like we wanted him too. Normally Ronaldís picking the pace up by the fifth round and itís all him and we didnít see that this time. I said Ronald, donít try to be someone youíre not. Letís go back to being Ronald Cruz. Bang these guys to the body. Hit him with the jab, hit him with the right hook. Thatís your offense, thatís how you got to get these guys.Ē
Deoria is confident that the past is the past and his hard working fighter will be back in the win column due to his hard work, attitude, and recent experience.
ďHeís a hard working kid, itís going to pay off for him. Heís still learning on the job. You know heís a little bit inexperienced from the amateurs, he only had like thirty amateur fights. Now heís in the pros, heís in there with some top rated fighters. Heís still learning on the job so letís hope heís learned a lot from the Ray Narh fight, from the Antwone Smith fight. Letís hope that what heís learned from those two fights he takes into this next fight and the rest of his career and improves on what heís done so far.Ē
Now Cruz moves forward. He will need to carry the experiences he learned while having a short memory about the past to bring the confidence he carried in his first seventeen fights when he steam rolled opponents with pressure and body punching. He takes on Armenta in the co-feature to Top Rankís Unimas broadcast headlined by Gamlier Rodriguez (21-2-3, 15 KO) vs. Jorge Pazos (14-5-1, 8 KO). Cruzís fight, unlike his last three outings is not scheduled to air on the TV broadcast unless replayed in the event of quick TV knockouts. Cruz is content with this simply wanting to get back to winning.
ďI would like to be on TV, I want to be on TV again. This is not on TV, but Iím looking forward to being the original me, going to the body, breaking fighters down and more body punches. Like you said my offense is my best defense. I did go back to that in the gym and going back to being Ronald Cruz.Ē
Cruz wonít be on the broadcast but still gets to be in front of his screaming fans. He is well aware that having that support is something a fighter has to appreciate.
ďThis is my fifth time coming to Bethlehem. Now itís just another day because, there is pressure but something I went to already, something Iím used to. How appreciative I am, all the people, theyíre loyal, win or lose theyíre still there for you. You know I appreciate that so much, words canít even explain it.Ē
Deoria believes this is the fight that Cruz needs at this time and point in his career.
ďThis is the kind of fight Ronald needed at this point. Heís probably going to come straight forward, not going to move a whole lot, a Mexican type fighter. I believe that Ronald will be able to work on some things, get some rounds in with this guy and work on back to the basics. Your left hook to the liver, back to the body shots, and give him a chance to work on some things. I studied this kid and he should be right there in front of Ronald and this should be a pretty exciting fight for the crowd.Ē
So is Deoria feeling okay that this one is not on TV?
ďAbsolutely, one hundred percent, I wasnít looking for TV this fight. You know my kidís coming off his first loss; itís traumatic to the kid. Iím like, look, we donít need TV right now, we donít need exposure. Let Ronald get back to being Ronald Cruz again. The TV is not the priority to us right now. Yeah, we do want the hometown crowd to come out and see Ronald. Of course we still want the love and support but letís get behind this kid and support this kid and help while heís coming off a bad time. Two losses, letís get him back on track again and I think this is the kind of fight we need for Ronald to do that.Ē
Deoria certainly doesnít feel it will take long to get back to where they were and beyond. ďItís not going to take him long. One, maybe another fight after this fight, but then Ronald will feel like now I know what I got to do. I learned from my losses. Iím ready to take that jump up again. Weíre not going to be sitting down very long, thatís for sure. We plan on coming right back again after this whether itís on TV or not, thatís not our priority. Our priority is getting Ronald Cruz confident again and doing what he does best.Ē
Deoria is aware of the boxing mindset of writing off fighters who take a loss or two but he is not buying into that. Deoria who is just as proud of his fighterís character outside of the ring as his tenacity inside the ring believes those doubting Cruzís potential to succeed going forward are making a mistake.
ďItís a comeback fight for him, coming off two straight losses. Heís never experienced losses as a pro before and heís got a lot to prove to people. You know people are going to say Ronald Cruz, he lost, heís nothing anymore but thatís not true. This kid is young, heís hungry, and he really has a lot left in him to show people that the real Ronald Cruz, this is what Iím made of.Ē
Some fighters in this position will say the company line when asked what they plan to accomplish coming off a loss. Cruz, who is soft spoken and polite but also honest makes no such gesture. He is crystal clear in what he wants to accomplish Saturday and afterwards.
ďGet him the hell out of there. I want to make a statement and not only him, Iím not looking past him but the guy after that and I want to go back to being world ranked again.Ē
Saturday night Cruz gets in some ways his biggest opportunity. He gets to bounce back and regain what he once had. Many who have been up will say they donít appreciate what they have until things change. Not that Cruz ever didnít appreciate the first part of his career, but certainly now he can feel a new hunger to take back the opportunity and seize it. He may have the dreaded losses in his column but he has gained something just as valuable if not more so. He has experience in the ring and still has the backing of a top team in his trainer Indio Rodriguez, Deoria, hall of fame promoter Russell Peltz, and a large hometown fan base. He goes into the ring Saturday with more than his skills. He goes in with accumulated knowledge of how to get to where he wants to be and knowing what it feels like to have that taken away from him.
ďIíve been through a lot in my life but I think mentally itís hard to break me down and itís hard for me to just stay down and quit. Itís actually the other way around. Iím actually hungrier than before my last fight. Canít wait, I call it restarting my career. Mentally I want to think Iím 0-0-0 and this is going to be my first fight just re-doing my career.Ē
ďVery confident, even though Iíve lost twice I know what Iím capable of. The people that know me already that followed my career from the past; they know the type of fighter I was when I was breaking people down to the body. At one point one of the guys from Go Fight Live Marc Abrams considered me one of the best body punchers in the game. I want to show that again, I want to give the fans that Ronald Cruz.Ē
The eight bout card promoted by Top Rank and Peltz boxing is themed as a battle of Puerto Rico vs. Mexico capitalizing on the biggest rivalry in boxing. Several of the fights pit fighters of the rival countries against each other including the Cruz fight and the main event. Cruz certainly wants to do his part making his native Puerto Rico proud.
ďYeah, it does, I definitely donít want to lose. Thereís always been a rivalry between Puerto Rico vs. Mexico and I donít want to be on the losing end of that rivalry.Ē
Also featured will be top rated prospect Jesse Hart (8-0, 7 KO) taking on Steven Tyner (3-11-2, 2 KO) in a six round super middleweight affair and popular Allentown heavyweight William Miranda also makes an appearance on the card. Jerome Rodriguez (4-0-1, 2 KO) who is coming off his thrilling action packed win over Treysean Wiggins takes on Ariel Duran (7-5-1, 4 KO) in a six round junior welterweight bout. The show kicks off at 7:30pm from the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, PA.