Derek Ennis favoured four-round fight for debutant Andy Cruz

Andy Cruz’s trainer Derek “Bozy” Ennis would have preferred his fighter to be preparing for an easier professional debut.

On Saturday at the Masonic Temple in Detroit, the Olympic gold medallist fights Juan Carlos Burgos of Mexico. The occasion has been eagerly anticipated; he is also scheduled to fight over 10 rounds.

Considerably more common is for even high-level amateurs – Cruz is among the finest of the modern era – to fight less proven opponents over no more than four rounds, and for all of his faith in Cruz’s potential, if Ennis had been asked that same route is what he would have advised.

Under his guidance Jaron “Boots” Ennis has emerged as one of the world’s leading welterweights – it is their success together that first impressed Cruz and those around him – but aged 27 Cuba’s Cruz is a year older than his new trainer’s son and perhaps under pressure to progress at a greater speed.

The three have already developed a promising understanding at “Bozy” Ennis’ gym in Philadelphia, but the trainer explained: “They got him fighting a 10 rounder. First fight coming out – 10 rounder. With me? I wouldn’t do it, y’know what I mean? I wouldn’t do it. 

“But that’s what they [Cuban fighters] do when they come here – they’ve so many amateur fights [Cruz went 140-9 as an amateur]. And that was their job over in Cuba – that’s what they do. All they do is box. 

“So, I guess they know more than me, but with my son, I would never do that. Gradually – four rounds, maybe three or four, six rounders, and then eight rounders.

“It don’t really concern me; it’s just that I wouldn’t do it. That’s the way we work here. It’s an unnecessary risk. Then, [in Juan Carlos Burgos] – he just fought Keyshawn [Davis, losing via points over eight rounds in December]. So, I think what they’re trying to do – they’re trying to make a statement. 

“That’s what I think they’re trying to do, but I can’t fault them for that. But that’s on them. I’m gonna do my job, and they gotta do their job. You’re picking this fighter, so that’s on you.

“I would tell them [if I thought they were making a mistake], but it’s gonna be up to them, because they’re the managers. But I would tell them, ‘No, no, I wouldn’t do that right now’. Oh yeah, I would try to stop that.”

Cruz’s co-manager Yolfri Sanchez identified Ennis as the trainer to transform Cruz into an equally successful professional. He lives with the fighter at a hotel in Philadelphia, and often joins their training sessions to translate.

“[Cruz] understands some of the stuff that I be doing now,” Ennis said. “I mean, before, he didn’t understand it. His manager [Yolfri Sanchez] is gonna come in with him anyway; he speaks for me.

“Sometimes [Sanchez] doesn’t have to be there. [Cruz will] go in there, and I’ll tell him to do something with my hands – to the body, or to the head, or something like that – and he does it. He knows what I’m saying to him sometimes too. When I say, ‘Jab, more jabs’, he understands that now. 

“When he first started here, he would finish work on the bag, and he would sit down. I said, ‘Yo, we don’t sit down. You gotta complete the whole regiment. After you hit the bag, you jump rope and exercise, or before that you might shadow box; you might get in the ring and box’. I said, ‘No sitting down. Bullshit! Bullshit!’. That’s what I said. So, he’d come in, ‘Bullshit! Bullshit!’ 

“So, now I told him, no bullshit, because he’s been doing what he’s supposed to be doing now. We have fun, man. I think he can be something.”