Amateur legend Christina Cruz is on the fast track to a pro title shot
Professional boxing is growing on Christina Cruz.
Cruz, who won a record ten New York Golden Gloves titles, among many other accomplishments, had never considered turning professional. Her dream since she was a young child was to compete at the Summer Olympics. She finished second in the U.S. Olympic trials, behind Virginia Fuchs, but couldn’t settle for that in her last year of eligibility. She competed in the Puerto Rican trials instead, defeating their number one rated boxer, to earn a spot in the Americas qualifiers.
“The pandemic hit and kind of ruined everything,” said Cruz of the tournament which was canceled.
With the Americas allotment being filled out by ratings instead of box-offs, Cruz was left without a path to Tokyo. That’s when she opted to seek a new goal in the pro ranks.
She will fight in her second pro bout on Saturday night, facing Maryguenn Vellinga (3-1-2, 2 knockouts) of Park City, Utah in a six-round flyweight bout at The Theater at Madison Square Garden, underneath the Teofimo Lopez vs. George Kambosos lightweight championship bout.
At Friday’s weigh-in, Cruz weighed 111.6 pounds, while Vellinga was 110.8 pounds.
“I’m not trying to make up for anything. I’m just trying to be the best that I can be in life, period,” said Cruz, who is managed by Peter Khan.
There are some adjustments to her preparations for pro fights, as she works to sit down on her punches and be less mobile. Cruz, who grew up walking distance from The Garden in New York City’s Hell Kitchen section, has now relocated her training base to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where she trains with Javiel Centeno, though her amateur coach of 15 years Marco Suarez will also work her corner.
Her first pro fight, a four round majority decision over Indeya Smith in August, was scheduled for four rounds, which, with two minute rounds, was shorter in length than the three, three minute rounds of the amateurs.
“I know the pros are a little different, you have the trash talking and the things like that and just the world watching you, whereas in the amateurs it’s like business, you go in and you go out and then you do it again the next day without all the extra stuff around it,” said Cruz.
“I didn’t think I was gonna like it but I ended up loving the experience and now I want more.”
Though flyweight is one of deepest divisions in women’s boxing, Cruz believes it won’t take her long to get an opportunity at one of the major title belts. The reason being is her deep amateur background, which includes seven USA Boxing national titles, six of which she won in a row from 2012 to 2017.
The Ring championship is vacant at 112 pounds, though there are notable titleholders there, including WBC claimant and Cruz’s former amateur rival Marlen Esparza, and WBA titleholder Naoko Fujioka.
“The accolades that I have as an amateur, it helps,” said Cruz, who expects to be in a world title fight as soon as 2022. “We’re definitely on a faster track than the average boxer.”
“To be honest I don’t know much about [the division], I haven’t looked too much into it, I take everything day by day and whatever’s put in front of me, that’s what we’re going at. I know some girls are pretty good, I think adding myself into it makes it more exciting.”
Cruz is familiar with Vellinga, having seen her at tournaments throughout the years. They’ve sparred together, as recently as 2018, though they’d never fought against one another.
Cruz expects to bring a sizable crowd to support her at the building where she won the Golden Gloves championships which made her a legend. She’s going to take in the experience, because there’s no telling how many more nights like this there’ll be.
“I don’t have a time limit because it’s so hard to tell something like that. I could decide tomorrow that I don’t want to do this anymore or I could just keep going for another three years,” said Cruz.