It's barely been a month since welterweight contender Ronald Cruz (pictured at right) was last in the ring, yet on September 26, the young man known around his hometown of Bethlehem, PA as 'Hands of Steel' will do it once again for the hometown fans. This time though he'll do it in the main event as the headliner of a seven fight card that will also feature 'Legends of Boxing' in attendance.
That is the theme of the night as former champions and contenders Larry Holmes, Thomas Hearns, Gerry Cooney and Earnie Shavers will be in attendance at ringside inside the Sands Event Center in Bethlehem. Cruz meanwhile is the next generation as he puts his (18-2) record on the line against another up and comer in Alberto Morales (11-2) of Miami by way of Nicaragua. Morales, who is coming off a decision loss in his last bout which was for the NABA welterweight title, finds himself in the same situation Cruz was in before his last fight.
Undefeated through his first 11 bouts, he's lost two in a row, which means he's hungry. Cruz knows this feeling all too well because he too was in a two fight skid after winning his first 17 along with the WBC Continental Americas title. However, after a couple of changes to his training regimen and most importantly getting back to doing what he does best, he's riding the wave of a second round knockout victory last month.
When I asked Cruz if he minded fighting three fights in three months his response was, "If it were up to me, I'd keep this going every month as long as my health is okay. Training is not easy by any means, but once you go all in and you start to feel strong, you can't wait to get back in the ring." That training is something else that has Cruz excited and rejuvenated these days.
Continuing to work with boxing trainer Lemuel 'Indio' Rodriguez, along with strength and conditioning Coach Craig Merrick, Cruz feels he's the best he's ever been. "Craig is great at what he does; he believes if you give the body the same workout day in and day out, it will not reach its full potential," Cruz said. "That's why when I train with him it's different every time. Plus he's so knowledgeable about the human body, that when Indio explains to him what he wants to do, Craig formulates a program to go with it. He's been a big part of my turn around."
However, the biggest part of his resurgence is something simple, yet very important. He told me, "In my last few fights I got away from doing what I do best. Fighting at home, I think I was trying to please the hometown fans so much that I was trying to hit a home run with every punch. However before my last fight, manager Jimmy (Deoria) and my trainer Indio both told me. "Don't do nothing special, just go out there and be yourself."
He did just that as he put his punches together and most importantly, unleashed the punishing body attack he had become know for; the rest is history. The scary thing is Cruz says we still haven't seen all he can do. "I'm a skillful fighter that still hasn't showed the world what I can do. When the next fighter pushes me, then you'll see." According to Cruz regarding his next opponent, "I saw some video on him and I see he likes to come forward and he likes to bang. That's perfect for me; I'm just going to go with the flow and do whatever it takes; nothing special, just be myself."