The regular weekend crowd at the Suicide Boxing gym in San Fernando hasn’t arrived yet. And if they did, they wouldn’t be getting much work done. The facility was taken over early this morning by several young pro boxers working with Ron Cruz to prepare for his next bout.
Cruz, out of North Hollywood, is in the midst of 12 rounds of sparring. He started with heavyweights, 200-pounds and up, to get hit by and absorb power punching. Then he battled with 132-pounders to confront speedy hands. Now he’s battling other boxers around his weight —which will be 154 pounds by next week — to develop footwork and defense while occasionally throwing his own punch.
All of this with little or no rest. But Cruz doesn’t seem winded or spent. He’s looking sleek and feeling sharp.
Cruz, who is 9-1 as a pro, will box Pedro “The Pit Bull” Lopez for the Baja California State super welterweight championship in Tijuana, Mexico on Oct. 21. It would be his first professional boxing belt if he wins, even if only the hardcore boxing aficionado would have heard of it. But it is also the first step in building a resume that would lead to bigger and better things
Lopez has been fighting since 2009, mostly in Mexico. He has one thing Cruz doesn’t have — experience.
“I’m focused more on my training,” said Cruz, 25, when asked about the upcoming fight. “Videos can show you one thing, but when you get to the fight it can be a whole other game. So I just listen to my coaches, do what they tell me and work really hard.”
Hard work will have to be Cruz’s path to the big time. Although he turned pro in 2014, he doesn’t have a prototypical amateur boxing background. Cruz came from martial arts, specifically Muay Thai boxing, which includes throwing kicks and elbows as well as hands. Although he won several amateur belts, Cruz was not interested in becoming a MMA fighter.
Because he is not coming out of a Golden Gloves or USA Olympics program, Cruz does not have an instantly recognizable name that would have promoters lined up to throw wads of money his way. Instead he will create his reputation fight-by-fight.
“We’ve gotten some offers, but we don’t feel they’re suited to us yet,” Cruz said “They’re kinda throwing us to the wolves, making us big underdogs. Right now we’re trying to meet with promoters, socializing with the boxing community.”
Cruz has put himself in the hands of well known local trainer Edgar Ponce, who helps run the 818 Boxing Club in Pacoima. They’ve been together since his Muay Thai fighting days. There’s no one else Cruz wants alongside him on his boxing odyssey.
“You have trainers with big names that helped all these ‘guys’ to win titles. But if you can’t trust somebody it doesn’t mean anything,” Cruz said.
“I can trust Edgar with my life, my family, anything. To me, loyalty is the biggest thing. And he’s a great coach, a loyal guy. If he doesn’t know how to do something, he’ll find the somebody who does. And he’ll tell you straight out.”
Ponce — who’s worked with five-time world champion Virgil Hill among others — believes Cruz has the talent, work ethic and single-mindedness needed to become a titleholder. But he doesn’t want to rush that talent. That’s one reason Cruz will have fought his last five fights in Tijuana, including this one.
“What I’m doing is building him up because he had no amateur fights,” Ponce said. “I’m taking him over there for experience. He’s almost ready; when he’s had about 15 fights, he’s ready to fight a big fight. The opportunities are over there so I’m gonna keep him over there.
“Ron learned how hard it can be in his first fight in Mexico. He fought a hard fight. The guy didn’t look in shape; but he fought hard. He probably gave Ron one of his hardest fights. He won, knocked the guy down in the sixth round, and knocked him out. But Ron sees it doesn’t matter how you look, you’ve got to train hard. The guys over there are no pushovers. They don’t get paid a lot, but they’re there to fight.”
Even though Cruz admits he can be impatient, he is sticking to whatever timetable Ponce sets out for him.
“I also believe we have to gradually increase our tests. But the path we take [now] is the right one,” Cruz said. “We have to take a different path from most fighters because I didn’t have that amateur background.
“The Olympics guys get signed as soon as they finish their amateur careers. They’ve got those big promoters looking at them. Promoters look at me like I’m nothing. That’s why I have this big chip on my shoulder; I have something to prove. I’m ready to start beating those guys. But you have to do it the right way. You can’t run before you crawl, you have to do it step-by-step. Build a good foundation so the house will stand.”
Cruz still maintains his job as a licensed vocational nurse working for Premiere Healthcare Services in Sherman Oaks. But he’s starting to develop some local sponsorship support, including Wilcox Sound & Communications and Ten Four Accessories.
His best support, at least emotionally, comes from girlfriend June Ramos, whom he met at the 818 gym. Her son, one of Ramos’ three children, was taking boxing lessons there.
“She’s amazing. She’s the best,” Cruz said. “I never thought I’d find somebody like that. So I’ve always been real hesitant to take relationships seriously. But once I met her, it was awesome. She’s so loving.
“I love her kids. It’s been two years with them. She is so much involved in my life, so understanding with everything. She understands my lifestyle, my dreams, and she supports them.”
But now his attention span is narrowing to Oct. 21. Cruz hopes this is another step of doing it the right way, toward becoming a champion. Until then he will not leave the gym until all the sparring is done, all the heavybag work is done, all the jump rope, running and video work is done.
That way Cruz can leave it all in the ring on fight night.