Andy Cruz has revealed his admiration for the “master” fighters he is joining in the lightweight division.
On Saturday at the Masonic Temple in Detroit, the Cuban Olympic gold medallist makes his professional debut against Juan Carlos Burgos of Mexico.
The last time a professional debut was so highly anticipated was perhaps in 2013 when Vasyl Lomachenko defeated Jose Luis Ramirez, and Cruz believes that he is similarly becoming the centre of attention because of the other fighters already competing at 135lbs.
Devin Haney is the undisputed champion but there remain numerous observers who consider both Shakur Stevenson and Gervonta “Tank” Davis superior. Haney defeated Lomachenko in his past fight, in May, but was widely considered fortunate to have done so.
Even if Haney moves to 140lbs for his next fight it will require remarkable talent to compete with, at the very least, Davis and Stevenson in the coming years, but the 27-year-old Cruz established himself as an amateur of the very highest calibre, and he said: “All the attention I’ve been getting is because of the division I’m fighting in. All the guys in this division have a lot of talent; they work hard everyday to be the best; each one of them has a lot of skills.
“[Gervonta] ‘Tank’ Davis is a complete boxer; he’s a master in the ring. He’s got a lot of experience, and he’s one of the greats.
“Shakur Stevenson is an intelligent boxer. He’s almost the same as Davis; he makes his opponents do what he wants them to do. So, he’s one of the greatest too.
“[Devin] Haney is explosive; fast; he knows how to work with timing in the ring. He’s one of the greatest in boxing right now too. [Vasyl] Lomachenko is still just as good as those fighters.
“I would fight all four of them if I could. [But] if I had to pick one, I’d fight Shakur Stevenson.”
Cruz earned gold by defeating, in the final at Tokyo 2020, Keyshawn Davis, the 8-0 American also considered capable of becoming a fine professional, and the Cuban said: “Keyshawn Davis has a lot of talent. He’s very good. He’s taking to professional boxing. His career is going in a good direction. To be honest, I think Keyshawn [who defeated Burgos in December] is waiting to fight me one day.”
By choosing to train in Philadelphia under Derek “Bozy” Ennis, Cruz perhaps demonstrated the extent to which he recognises he needs to reinvent himself if he is to succeed. The evolution of his new trainer’s talented son Jaron “Boots” Ennis contributed to Cruz’s decision when his compatriots, the Las Vegas-based Ismael Salas and Jorge Rubio of Miami, once seemed likelier options, and under “Bozy” Ennis that process has already begun.
“I’m learning how to sit [down] on my punches; to make things more difficult for my opponent,” he said. “I’m just learning everything that is new for me, because in amateur everything is different – the way you punch; the way you fight – everything. I’ve got a high [boxing] IQ – I’m confident in all of it. It’s really something different to me, but I’m the best under pressure.
“Everybody knows that [when Lomachenko fought and lost to Orlando Salido in his second fight] he didn’t fight to his maximum level, and that happened because of his inexperience. Lomachenko was fighting someone more experienced than him, and that guy took Lomachenko along and made Lomachenko do everything that he wanted, because Lomachenko [was] new to [professional] boxing.
“Not just for me – for all boxers – Lomachenko is a legend. Everyone has something to learn from him. Obviously, he’s an inspiration to me.”