When I first interviewed Bethlehem, PA's own Ronald Cruz in April 2010, he was an unknown professional boxer with an (8-0) record that few outside of the northeast area knew about. Move forward a short year and a half and today he's an up and coming welterweight prospect with a record of (14-0, 11 KO's), who's ranked #59 in the world. This weekend in Atlantic City, he looks to improve on that record and as he says, "make a statement to the world."
Although he got his start in the boxing game relatively late, this young 25 year old is making up for lost time and making the most of it. A lot has changed since we last spoke 18 months ago, a new trainer, a new wife and six more wins; but one thing hasn't changed and that is Ronald's focus and desire to someday make his dream come true of becoming a world champion.
I asked Ronald why the change in trainer from his amateur then professional coach Alec Morales and his response was respectful, but candid. "Very simply we weren't getting along too well. A fighter/trainer relationship is a very sensitive one since you have to work together every day. I just noticed over time that wasn't happening and a change was needed," Cruz said. Luckily, the change came in the form of a trusted friend who just happened to be experienced in boxing.
Lemuel 'Indio' Rodriguez is an old friend of Cruz's who comes from a family of boxers in Puerto Rico and although he didn't have professional experience behind him, Ronald saw something in him that told him this was the way to go. He said, "Before we even started working together, I went to him about the idea to try and feel him out. I noticed right away, that this would work out."
I asked Cruz what was it about Rodriguez that made the difference and his response was, "Besides his boxing background, I noticed he had a different philosophy for training. He uses different workouts and he notices little things as well. For example, when we talked he immediately pointed out to me that I need to use my legs more. The other thing I like about working with Indio is, even if I'm doing something right, like throwing my jab, he'll keep stressing it over and over; he's a perfectionist and I needed that."
The other big change in Ronald's life this past year came in the form of marriage to his long-time girlfriend Daisy. "She's always supported me," he said. "Being slightly older than me, she understands the demands this sport has and that there are days when I can hardly spend the time I wish I could with her and my kids. She makes the necessary sacrifices it takes to make this work for us."
This past July Cruz won his 14th fight in convincing fashion when he headlined a professional card at the Sands Casino in his hometown. I asked him if there is a possibility of that happening again and he told me, "Yes there is; they are currently building an events center adjacent to the casino that should be open next spring and they are talking about possibly doing something in May."
That's the future, but the present is this Saturday the 19th and the opponent is Ronald's stiffest and most experienced yet. Anges Adjaho (25-6, 14 KO's) is a veteran from Buffalo, NY who's last fight was a tough 10 round decision loss to perennial contender Joel Julio; a guy who has fought for the world title twice, so you know this is a big step up in competition. With such a strong opponent ahead, I asked him what he's been doing differently from his previous fights.
"We've been working a lot on speed for both the hands and the legs," he said. "Also, we've been really working the jab as he is an extremely good defensive fighter and we feel this will be an important weapon in penetrating that defense." He also told me, "I know I have a knockout streak going (7 TKO's in a row), but I can't get caught up in that. I have to go in there, do my job and if it doesn't happen, I can't desperate looking for it. I have to be smart and win the fight."
With nothing but success so far and so much riding in this his biggest fight to date, I asked Cruz what he expects for Saturday and where he hopes to be a year from now at the end of 2012. "With this fight, I want to go out there and make a statement. I want to show the world I can do everything these world class fighters have and haven't done yet." Finally, he says, "The goal is to get that world title belt. I don't know where I'll be a year from now, but we'll be working towards that goal and hopefully, we'll be close."
Ronald Cruz fights this Saturday November 19th at Bally's in Atlantic City. I want to thank Ronald for taking time out from his busy schedule and wish him luck.