Miguel Cruz had to see it for himself, and what he saw he didn’t like. With remote in hand, he sat at the edge of his seat, pulling back, leaning forward and going through all the gyrations he knows he should have done as he watched the replay of his January fight against southpaw Alex Martin.
It then dawned on him with a chill, something no fighter likes to admit: He lost, even though he was awarded a split-decision victory.
Miguel Cruz vowed to himself that a second meeting would be different and he made sure of that Tuesday night, leaving no doubt in his mind nor on the judges’ scorecards as he knocked Alex Martin down twice and earned a 10-round unanimous decision in their 147-pound rematch at the Sands Bethlehem Event Center in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
“It was hard to admit, and hard for me to watch [the first fight with Martin], but I had a staph infection and I woke up two days later wondering what was wrong with me the first time we fought,” Cruz said. “When I was fighting [Martin] the first time, I thought it was close, but I thought I won. Then I rewatched it and I really didn’t think I won.
“It’s why I really, really wanted to beat him this time. Martin underestimated me this time because I didn’t have any power that night. I had no legs; I had nothing. I still managed to finish. I didn’t even know how I made it through, to be honest. I could barely stand the last two rounds. This time I was healthy and strong, and I trained for him like he was [Ivan] Drago from Rocky.”
Fighting on the eve of his 27th birthday, Cruz won by scores of 96-92 on all three scorecards, with judges Steve Weisfeld, Kevin Morgan and David Braslow in complete agreement through the first six rounds before ultimately reaching the same conclusion.
“This was everything for me,” Cruz said. “Alex Martin has been like a chapter in my life that I’m glad to get over with. I feel like I just graduated to the major leagues right now.”
After a quick exchange late in the first, Cruz (16-0, 11 KOs) unfurled a picturesque left hook on the southpaw’s jaw, splashing him to the canvas with less than five seconds left in the round. Martin was still wobbly when he got back on his feet, as referee Gary Rosato reached a count of seven.
Fortunately for Martin, the bell then ended the round. But the 27-year-old Chicago resident was still in trouble.
“ This was everything for me. Alex Martin has been like a chapter in my life that I’m glad to get over with. I feel like I just graduated to the major leagues right now. ” Miguel Cruz, on winning his 147-pound rematch with Alex Martin
“Cruz caught me leaning in the first round, but I wasn’t really hurt until I got up,” Martin said. “I got caught off balance. I’ve been hit harder than that and I didn’t even fall. If I had my balance, I wouldn’t have gone down.
“I didn’t underestimate him. I thought I was going to be able to stand in front of him and try and knock his head off. He did look a lot sharper this time than he did last time. I saw no sharpness in him last time. I should have let my hands go more.”
Martin (13-2, 5 KOs) was dropped again in the fourth, though not with the force of the first knockdown. He argued to Rosato that he was hit in the back of the head, which he was, but the referee admonished him for ducking his head.
In the fifth, Martin landed a left well below Cruz’s belt line and the Puerto Rican needed a couple of minutes to gather himself. The delay seemed to spark Martin, who then found a rhythm as he worked behind his jab.
While Cruz looked like he was slowing in Round 6—possibly as a residual effect of the low blow—Martin was on his toes and confident, and his punches became more crisp and accurate.
Martin continued his effectiveness into the eighth as he tagged Cruz with a counter left before following moments later with a left to the jaw, but he couldn’t land anything significant enough to overcome his early deficit.
Instead, Cruz boxed effectively over the final two rounds as he maintained a wide edge over Martin to remain unbeaten.
In undercard action, Clarence Booth overcame a slow start before gaining a fourth-round TKO of Anthony Mercado in their 147-pound bout. Booth (15-3, 8 KOs) entered the fight having lost two of his last three, including a seventh-round TKO loss to Sergey Lipinets in March. Mercado (10-3, 9 KOs), fighting for the first time in nearly a year, lost for the third straight time.
Also, Avery Sparrow (7-1, 3 KOs) defeated Isaelin Florian (6-1, 3 KOs) by six-round unanimous decision in an action-packed 128-pound bout in which both fighters were dropped twice, including an exchange of knockdowns in Round 1.
For a complete look at Cruz vs Martin, visit our fight page.