By Jason Pribila at Ringside: Bethlehem’s own Ronald Cruz (19-2, 14KO) entered the ring at the friendly confines of the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem for the fifth straight time. He and his dedicated fan base were hoping to see Cruz build on the momentum he gained by knocking out Rodolfo Armenta on August 10. Alberto Morales (11-3-1, 8KO) of Miami entered the ring with an agenda of his own.
Cruz has been the face of Bethlehem boxing since he fought in the parking lot in 2011 while the Sands Event Center was being built. Bethlehem proved to be a boxing town willing to buy tickets, and soon it was hosting cards televised nationally on NBC Sports Network’s Fight Night series.
Increased exposure lead to tougher competition, and last September he suffered his first defeat at the hands of an over the weight limit Antwone Smith. He was then out-hustled by the slippery Ray Narh in June.
It was clearly time for Hall of Fame promoter and match-maker Russell Peltz to rebuild Cruz’s confidence by matching him against fighters with styles that meshed better with Cruz’s skills. Cruz responded by blowing out the stationary Armenta in two rounds.
On Thursday night he was matched against Morales, a fighter entering the ring on a 0-2-1 skid of his own. He was a fighter who would stay in the pocket and throw punches. But a fighter that Cruz was expected to break down with his powerful body attack.
Cruz began the fight working behind his jab, and touching Morales body. Midway through the round Morales caught Cruz flat-footed as he unleashed and landed a five punch combination. Morales pounded his chest to alert Cruz and the crowd that he was there to fight.
The two would trade punches as momentum would shift for much of the night. Cruz was scoring when he committed to the body and backed Morales up. However, there were far too many moments that he would go into a defensive shell and allow the quicker Morales tee off upstairs. Cruz would block many shots, but I had the feeling that if Morales had a little bit of power he could have really done some damage.
Cruz landed a looping right hand that caught Morales behind the ear at the end of round seven. Morales backed to the ropes on unsteady legs and Cruz finally let his hands go. The steam was back on his punches as he landed a big combination at the bell. This was the first time that he took the lead on my scorecard.
Cruz rushed across the ring to begin round eight. He again seemed to hurt Morales, who suddenly had the look of a fighter whose body was betraying him. The early commitment to the body took away what little lateral movement Morales possessed in the early rounds.
The crowd that was quiet most of the night was suddenly sensing a knockout, but they would have to wait. Cruz allowed himself to again get caught against the ropes where Morales landed a flurry to end the round.
Morales rode the wave of momentum into round nine. He was landing clean shots for much of the first minute of the round. Cruz looked confused as he switched to a southpaw stance. The move bought him enough time so that he could catch his breath and rally at the end of the round.
The fighters touched gloves as the final round started. Each fighter fought with a sense of urgency as the fight turned out to be on the table. Morales landed the first flurry as Cruz’s back touched the ropes. This time, however, Cruz charged off the ropes and landed a big overhand right that sent Morales to the canvas.
Morales got to his feet, joining the rest of the crowd that had not been seated for several rounds, but he was unarmed with anything to keep Cruz off of him. Cruz patiently ripped a pair of uppercuts that connected. A well-placed body shot followed by another uppercut again sent Morales to the canvas where the bout was waved off at 1:29 of the final round.
I along with two of the judges had Cruz up 86-85, while one judge favored Morales by the same score.
Cruz dug deep at the right time to score a dramatic victory. However, he admitted that he was disappointed with his performance and that the fight was much tougher than he thought it would be.
The question now is where does Cruz go from here?
I have seen the majority of Cruz’s fights, but I my day job prevents me from visiting him while he is in camp. That being said, if there is any kind of weight training taking place in his camp it needs to be scratched asap. The more muscular he appears at the weigh in, the more robotic he fights in the ring. At his best he has average speed, but he possesses the thudding power that would break fighters down. The fluidity of his punches has disappeared, and he is solely relying on power. Fortunately for him, on this night, his power was enough.
Once again Arturo Trujillo (3-0, 1KO) stole the show by out-pointing Philadelphia’s Terrell James (1-1). Trujillo is a decorated amateur who burst onto the scene in June when he scored a first round stoppage on NBCSN’s Fight Night.
On this night, he was the one who got buzzed in the opening frame. As he got caught he looked more surprised than hurt as he backed into the corner. Rather than defend himself, he adjusted his shorts and seemed almost insulted that James followed him into the corner and continued to throw. That angered Trujillo, who bit down on his mouthpiece and fought his way off the ropes.
Trujillo soon took control by landing a straight left that he would follow with a right uppercut. He is a fighter who works at his own rhythm. He will throw a two punch combination off the jab. Step around to the side and end his next flurry with a hook, and then finally throw the lead left from the outside. He refuses to let his opponent get comfortable, but by admiring his work, he leaves himself open to get countered.
A memorable round four began with Trujillo landing a booming left hand. He stalked his James with his hands at his side. Suddenly in the middle of a flurry he got caught with a counter right and found himself on the canvas. Replays showed that their legs got tangled, but a punch cleanly landed. Trujillo rose, and punished James for the remainder of the round.
Unfortunately this fight was only four rounds long. It was also unfortunate that two of the judges filled out their scorecards before the opening bell. Despite the knockdown the scores read: 40-36, 39-37, and 40-36, all for Trujillo who will no doubt be back at the Sands soon.