Cuban Andy Cruz will take a big step in his pro debut Saturday night on DAZN
PHILADELPHIA, PA — Andy Cruz still remembers the contours of his son’s face. It has not been that long since the 28-year-old Cuban 2020 Olympic lightweight gold medalist has been away from his son. Cruz figures it may five, six months since he last saw his son in his native country. It just feels like forever. Cruz also knows what he is about to embark on will only make his son’s future a better destination.
On Saturday, Cruz will make his pro debut against Juan Carlos Burgos (35-7-3, 21 KOs) in Detroit at the Masonic Temple in Detroit, on DAZN. Cruz will be jumping right into the deep end going 10 rounds for something called the IBF International Lightweight title on the undercard of Alycia Baumgardner’s undisputed junior lightweight title defense and Ring title against Christina Linardatou.
The southpaw Cruz signed a long-term promotional deal with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing in May and has been training in Philadelphia with the renowned Bozy Ennis, Boots Ennis’ father and trainer.
He went through pangs of aching stomach pain, and hardship without his family to get here. He felt the chill crawl up his back once he heard the metallic clang of prison doors locked once he was caught trying to leave Cuba.
“My story is still out there to make,” Cruz said. “I started to look how to get out of Cuba and was arrested one time when I tried. I was 27 when that happened, in 2022. I was in prison for five days. I had special security look at me every day. They didn’t let me breathe. I felt really bad because I got everything and did everything for the Cuban government. They gave me prisoner’s food. They didn’t starve me. It was really bad (laughs) and I gave it to the guys in the cell with me. The food was so bad that I didn’t eat for the five days. It’s something I never experienced before.
“I would take my mind off the pain thinking about the good things that have happened in my life. I miss my mom, my brother, and my son. I used to think why Cuba did this to me after all the things I did for Cuba. Once I got out, I felt so good, because my family was waiting for me and I knew the whole country supported me. When I finally left Cuba, I got out on a commercial airplane. I didn’t fly it myself (laughs). I had to wait a long time to get out legally.”
Cruz feared what would happen when he left Cuba. He came from a humble background in the Cuban countryside. He went from Cuba to the Dominican Republic, then to Mexico, then to the United States.
“When I left Cuba, I knew I was one step away from the United States, which was my goal,” Cruz said. “One of the first things that was different was being able to go everywhere. I learned not to go near pizza, the chocolates, and the candy (laughs). I have to sneak the candy with vending machines (laughs).”
Ennis loves working with Cruz.
“Andy is good, really good, and he listens,” Ennis said. “He’s naturally right-handed, but in Cuba, they train their fighters to use their strong hand closer to the opponent. But sometimes, he switches. I got a phone asking me to train Andy, and they liked how I train Boots and how I teach fighters. It’s been great. Andy fits right in. Boots and Andy have fun. Andy is a good kid who is happy-go-lucky, and I know he cares and thinks about his son.
“He’s been dealing with the media coming in. His attention is growing. The sparring has been good. We had Ray Ford come in, and we do four-minute rounds. That’s how I do it. It’s why you never see Boots get tired. Andy is a quick learner, and he has a great work ethic. Andy has never worked this hard in Cuba as he has worked here. He’s disciplined, and I would not have made a commitment to him if he wasn’t. He has a great future ahead of him.”
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been working for Ring Magazine/RingTV.com since October 1997 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.