Bethlehem, Pennsylvania may not immediately be looked upon as a breeding ground of boxing talent, but located just one hour north of boxing rich Philadelphia and 90 minutes west of New York City, you better recognize. While the boxing public keeps waiting for welterweight superstars Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. to someday settle the debate as to who the best in the world is, there is a little known 147 lb. fighter who's slowly creating a buzz in the northeast.
Ronald Cruz (13-0, 10 KO's), a native of South Bethlehem, put on quite a show in his hometown tonight in the first ever professional fight card held at the Pennsylvania Sands Casino. Headlining for the first time in his career against tough, tried and tested Doel Carrasquillo (15-18-1, 13 KO's), Cruz (pictured above with trainer Lemuel 'Indio' Rodriguez post fight) brought the crowd to a frenzy with a sixth round stoppage of the journeyman; when Carrasquillo signaled to legendary referee Steve Smoger he could no longer continue. Despite the record, Carrasquillo was coming off a KO win in February against a previous (12-0) fighter.
However, any thought he had of doing it again was squashed when he indicated his rib was broken by Cruz and he could no longer continue. Cruz, fighting in his first ever scheduled ten rounder, appeared to be in cruise control the first four rounds. However, when I asked Rodriguez about it he remarked, "On the contrary; he was following the game plan to perfection, which was to touch his body until he could take no more and the ref would be forced to stop it."
Meanwhile, with a hometown crowd in attendance and his first ever main event, I asked Cruz if he felt any pressure to perform. His response, "I felt it early and throughout my training camp, but I did my best to not let it consume me." When asked how he felt when he heard the thunderous ovation he received coming out of the locker room, he said, "It felt good." "I heard it, but I was trying to stay focused at the task at hand and not let myself, get caught up in the moment."
Though names like Pacquiao, Mayweather and even young stars like Ortiz and Berto, dominate the world 147 lb. landscape, welterweights better beware; there's a new kid in town. Now ranked in the top 100 in the world, looking sharper every time out and starting to be called 'Hands of Steel', because of his punching power and the old Bethlehem Steel this town was once known for, Ronald Cruz is that kid.
On the undercard, there were a couple of up and coming prospects that looked very impressive. One was super welterweight Grayson 'The Baby-Faced Assassin' Blake (3-0, 1 KO) out of York, PA. Exhibiting beautiful boxing skills, including punching combinations and nice head and shoulder movement, he easily out pointed his opponent Anthony Abrams (1-7) out of Philadelphia.
As for 'The City of Brotherly Love', Philadelphia's own Rashad 'All Business' Brown (5-0, 2 KO's) provided some early fireworks as he pummeled his opponent Omar 'The Machine' Sims (5-4, 3 KO's) from Baltimore, MD. After six workmen like rounds, including a knockdown in the second from a right hook to the head, Brown won a unanimous decision. At only 22 years of age, this super middleweight from Philly may be yet another name from this great fight city to look out for. Peltz Promotions out of Philadelphia put on a nice show in my hometown; hopefully they'll come back.