Wednesday, November 28, 2012

There is a positive to every negative

Life of a professional athlete not unlike any other, has its highs and lows; probably even more so. That is what I found out when I caught up with WBC Continental Americas welterweight champion Ronald Cruz recently. As you will see, the champ clears up various issues surrounding his controversial split decision first loss; the despair of currently dealing with his first real injury and most importantly, the positives that have come out of all this.

For nearly the last four years, Ronald Cruz's life and career were both on a high and in cruise control. His dream of fighting professionally came true, he married the love of his life and his career was going perfect; 17-0 perfect with 12 knockouts to be exact. In June he won his first title, was featured as a co-main event on the NBC Sports network and was able to do it all in his hometown Bethlehem, PA in front of all his family and friends.

Life was good and his boxing career was right on schedule and going according to plan. That plan was to defend his title once again at home and on NBC in September, then have one more fight before the end of 2012. Then suddenly for some reason a dark cloud came over Team Cruz; at least that's how I viewed it once I found out the answers to many questions I had surrounding his fight on September 21.

Originally scheduled as a title fight, that all fell by the wayside once his opponent came in three pounds over the 147 lbs. limit and weighed in at 150 lbs. If that wasn't enough, Ronald told me that the day of the weigh in, the scale he had been using to monitor his weight kept showing that he was over by a pound or two. Being a consummate professional he did all he could to drop the weight before the official weigh in; yet his scale kept coming up 148. "I knew my body could not shed any more weight, I was completely drained," he said.

However, when he stepped on the scale at the official weigh-in, it said 146 lbs; he actually had worked harder than he needed to. This would affect his performance the next night as he started uncharacteristically slow and sluggish. He told me, "When I got to the fight, I just didn't have the energy I normally have."

Although he lost the early rounds, he got his second wind and came on strong in the middle and at the end; but since the fight was no longer a title fight due to his opponent not making weight, the fight was now 10 rounds versus 12. Losing those two extra rounds actually hurt Ronald in the long run and he lost a razor close split decision.

When I asked him if training was to blame, he told me, "No; the way we were doing everything was working fine. However, it came to a point that my body was growing more muscular, thus it was becoming increasingly harder to make the weight. I didn't realize it, but I needed extra help."

Thus, his team hired professional nutritionist George Lockhart ( Lockhart has worked with such notable MMA fighters such as UFC Champion Jon Jones and UFC contender Brian Stann. Cruz also began working with professional strength and conditioning coach Craig Merrick of Nazareth Barbell & Strength. "After working with them, I never felt so ready and energetic. I've never been so close to weight before a fight; I'm just anxious to get back in the ring;" Cruz said.

It seemed like everything was back in order, but then an injury suffered during training derailed everything. Though nothing serious, it was enough to require corrective surgery and mandated time off per doctor's orders. Once again Cruz was faced with an unexpected negative in his life. Yet, just like the Yin-Yang theory states, there is a positive to every negative. In this case, it was the very gym he cannot train in.

The recent opening of 'Ron and Indio's Boxing Gym', a non-profit gym he opened with his trainer Lemuel 'Indio' Rodriguez has given Cruz the opportunity to work with kids. "Since the gym is located at the same location as the Bethlehem Boys & Girls Club, we have a lot of kids coming through," he said. "I'm using my time off to help Indio and most importantly to lead by example. To me, it's a privilege to be able to work with kids."

That example of work ethic will be forged again in a few months as Cruz says he is slated to fight again in June 2013 at the Sands Casino in Bethlehem. He told me, "The timing should be perfect as I'm supposed to be off from training 4-6 months. That will still give me time for a full training camp before the fight. I'm so anxious, I can't wait." Neither can we champ; just remain positive.

I would like to thank Ronald Cruz once again for taking time to conduct this interview

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