The Fundamentals With ... Ismael Salas

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The legendary Cuban trainer breaks down what Rolando "Rolly" Romero must do when he defends his 140-pound World Title against hard-hitting Mexican superstar Isaac "Pitbull" Cruz Saturday, March 30 in a PBC PPV on Prime Video, live from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

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Thurman vs. Tszyu & Romero vs. Cruz Kickoff Press Conference

On Saturday, March 30, Premier Boxing Champions makes its groundbreaking debut pay-per-view on Prime Video (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT) with a stacked boxing event streaming live from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. In what promises to be an action-packed co-main, WBA Super Lightweight World Champion Rolando “Rolly” Romero (15-1, 13 KOs) defends his title against Mexican star Isaac “Pitbull” Cruz (25-2-1, 17 KOs).

Romero recently began working with legendary Cuban boxing coach Ismael Salas. Salas has also trained Felix Savon (widely believed to be one of the best amateur boxers of all-time), Guillermo Rigondeaux, Jorge Linares, Yuriorkis Gamboa, and Yordenis Ugas, to name a few. 

Here, Salas took a few minutes out of a busy training camp to break down boxing fundamentals, his insights into his fighter Romero, and the match-up versus Cruz.

It All Starts with the Jab

For the Cruz bout, Salas is adamant that variety is key, particularly with regard to Romero’s lead hand.

“Rolly will have the longer reach against Cruz,” Salas said. “Rolly has to use the lead hand, but in different ways. Change the timing, change the level…it can be the jab, double jab, body shot, and so on. Variations—that's what we're asking for in this fight.”

Footwork & Positioning

“Rolly has his own way of moving. He is awkward and he’s got crazy angles, so he can go in and out in his own way. 

“Rolly’s got good explosiveness and good power. My way is not to change anyone's style. It will be the same style but improved. I’d like to give him more precision and help him with his muscle memory coordination. Then he can just be himself.”

Protect Yourself At All Times

Romero and Cruz have a common opponent in Gervonta “Tank” Davis. Salas saw Romero’s fight with Davis live, though it was before they started working together.

“I remember in one interview, ‘Tank’ said he felt the power of Rolly more than the power from Cruz,” said Salas. “Now with Isaac is moving up, I don't think the power will be increased. No way. 

Conditioning kills talent. Legendary Trainer - Ismael Salas

“Rolly was doing good work against Davis,” Salas continued. “But he made a mistake and got knocked out. So I started from that point with Rolly. I said, ‘You have to be more patient, you have to be more focused and not get distracted.’ So one of the things we’re focusing on in the gym is concentration.

“In the Cuban style of boxing, we have very clean defense. I cannot bring Rolly to use that style. If you try to make a big adjustment in the defensive skill of a fighter, he cannot do good attack tactics, and there’s no way he can do good counters. Because defensive skill is in the middle of attack and counter. So I will try to keep the middle one, the defensive skill, as he does it.”

Control Distance

“Pitbull” Cruz has fought his entire career at lightweight and is moving up to 140 for this bout. He is known for being a pressure fighter, and particularly because of his smaller stature and shorter reach compared to most of his opponents, he tends to fight in close range.

“Styles make fights,” Salas said. “We got a sparring partner who is very good, very tough. He has got a similar fighting style to Isaac Cruz. We are making adjustments in sparring for how Rolly faces this kind of style, Mexican style, and making sure we get the best from Rolly when fighting that style. 

“Isaac is too small for this weight class. But he’s a very good and solid fighter. We are looking for his weak points and his strong points.”

Champion Mindset

“Of all the things I request from Rolly, the most important is to just be focused on what we’re doing every day. The limit is only the sky. So we have a winner’s mindset, but with daily work. And I love the work Rolly's doing now. 

“We’ve increased the time of the rounds in sparring. We're doing four-minute rounds with 30 second breaks. To be a great fighter, you need to work hard. I don't care what anyone says. You can have talent, but if you don't work hard for your talent, it's nothing. Conditioning kills talent.”

For a closer look at Rolly vs Pitbull, check out our fight night page. 

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