By Jason Pribila: Main Events and Peltz Boxing are well known in the boxing industry for putting on well matched and entertaining fight cards. In an era where many promoters gravitate to the first venue willing to open their wallets, this pair continues to cultivate the sport by putting on shows featuring local fighters in front of their passionate fans. This Friday, the third edition of their Fight Night Series will take place in the fighting city of Bethlehem, PA.
The main event will feature a cross-roads fight in the junior middleweight division. Philadelphia’s Gabriel Rosado looks to build on his knockout win of Jesus Soto Karass in January when he faces Sechew Powell, who needs to halt his two fight losing streak in order to make one more run at a title. The fight card will be the inaugural boxing show in the new 1,800-seat Events Center at the Sands Resort Casino, and for those who want to see the action they will have to tune in to the NBC Sports Network because this show is sold out. However, this is not the case of a casino buying up the tickets in order to lure in high rollers. Rather, this is the case of a passionate fan base in support of one of their own; undefeated welterweight Ronald Cruz.
Cruz will face Prenice Brewer in a scheduled 12-round bout being contested for a regional title. This will be the second time the Puerto Rican-born Cruz has fought in his back yard. In July of 2011, he also fought on the property of the Sands Casino. However, with the Events Center under construction, his knockout victory over Doel Carrasquillo took place in the parking lot, under a tent that housed 1,200 fight fans. A year later, fighting under the lights should only add to the electricity.
Cruz passed the test of fighting in his first main event in front of a home crowd with flying colors. Three victories later and Cruz is learning that each fight gets bigger than the last. On his plate this Friday will be a regional belt, a world ranking, and a national television debut. Cruz will also be fighting in front of his father for the first time, as well as his mother and brother who are flying in from Puerto Rico and Florida, respectively. In comparison, training and following through with his team’s game plan should seem like cake.
“There are a lot of distractions when you fight in your hometown,” said Jimmy Deoria, Cruz’ manager and former professional lightweight boxer from the 1990s. “People are always calling for tickets. Reporters want to do interviews. Fans are always around. But Ronald is a warrior. He thrives under pressure. He’s a lot more relaxed than I am.”
If Deoria is upright between fights, he must have been reaching for his Rolaids between rounds of Cruz’s last fight against Allen Conyers. In recent fights Cruz has been working on turning southpaw at different moments during his fights. Against Conyers, he fought almost exclusively from his unnatural stance. Cruz said afterwards that he turned southpaw because he saw openings in the first round. After rocking Conyers early, he seemed to allow Conyers back in the fight. When he was buzzed in the fourth round, he switched back to the orthodox stance and regained control of the bout.
After the bout I texted a friend who was ringside and I asked him if Cruz’s left was as slow in person as it appeared from my on-line feed. He responded, “I guess so, but it gets there.”
In a way, that assessment has been used several times to describe Cruz during his young career.
When I first saw Cruz’s name on a scorecard I was more attracted to the fact that a kid was fighting from my hometown. I saw five of his first eight professional bouts in 2009. I liked the fact that he used his jab, he committed to the body, and his instinct was to throw back whenever he tasted leather. That being said, his feet did not always follow his upper body when he threw punches, which caused many punches to be thrown off-balance leaving him vulnerable to an opposing uppercut.
A year later, it seemed as if I was looking at a different fighter. His footwork improved, and now that he was sitting down on his punches, he was knocking people out. He fought between junior welterweight and welterweight. His style started to remind me of a poor man’s Miguel Cotto, but I feared he would run into trouble when he faced a slick boxer.
In October of that year, Cruz was selected as an opponent to rebuild the confidence of former amateur standout, Jeremy Bryan of Paterson, New Jersey. For three rounds, Bryan fought at a distance, and cleanly out-boxed Cruz over three rounds. Cruz’s confidence never wavered. He continued to apply pressure until he eventually dropped and stopped Bryan in six rounds.
Since the Bryan fight Cruz’s ceiling rose as high as growing expectations. He continued to take everything in stride by knocking out five of his last six opponents.
More eyes than ever will be on Cruz on Friday night, but when the bell rings he will be staring at the one person who will not be easily impressed. Prenice Brewer (16-1-1, 6 KO) has promoted himself during a career that has seen him fight from coast to coast in other people’s hometowns. He is coming off a split decision win over the previously undefeated Emmanuel Taylor (14-0), which took place in Taylor’s hometown of Washington DC.
Will Friday night be Cruz’s coming out party, or will he get caught up in the moment? Will he return to working off his jab and digging to his opponent’s body, or will he remain committed to fighting as a southpaw? I, along with 1,800 of my neighbors can’t wait to find out.
Jason Pribila is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He could be reached for questions or comments at email@example.com, and he will be tweeting from ringside @PribsBoxing.
May 31, 2012