The 23-year-old slugger is hungry and confident as he heads into a potential career-altering bout versus boxing superstar Gervonta "Tank" Davis Sunday night on SHOWTIME pay-per-view.
“I thought that was Mike Tyson.”
That’s what two people said to me, pointing to the TV in the window of my driving school in Brooklyn. Most days, I run a loop of parallel parking tutorials. Last week, for about an hour, I ran a loop of Isaac Cruz’s viral first round knockout over Diego Magdaleno. His compact lefts and rights, to the body and head, followed by a pair of vicious uppercuts dropped Magdaleno in a heap along the ropes.
“It’s Isaac Cruz,” I told the two Mexican men who came inside to inquire.
I let them know Cruz is fighting undefeated boxing superstar Gervonta “Tank” Davis (25-0, 24 KOs) for Davis’ WBA world lightweight title on Sunday, December 5, live on SHOWTIME pay-per-view ( 8p.m. ET/ 5p.m. PT).
They asked if Cruz (22-1-1, 15 KOs) was good. I pointed to the TV in the window. Noticing the greys in their hair, I asked, “Remember Aaron Pryor? He’s something like that – good head movement, fast, and can take you out while backing up.”
“They should have named him Lil’ Tyson,” one of them said about Cruz.
“They almost did,” I replied.
Cruz started boxing when he was five years old. At an age when most boys are chasing the Good Humor truck, the 23-year-old Cruz began chasing his dream.
“I’ve wanted to be a professional boxer since I was seven,” Cruz told me. As he climbed the amateur and early pro ranks, and began collecting knockouts, the fans in the stands began shouting “Pitbull! Pitbull!” whenever he fought. Others called him “The Bomber” or “The Canon.” And many called him “Mini-Tyson.”
“We went with Pitbull,” Cruz said.
Cruz began fighting to stay away from the negative influences that lurked throughout the narrow, winding roads of the Magdalena Contreras neighborhood of Mexico City. There are at least four gangs operating there. At least one has ties to the notorious drug dealing and skull-collecting gang, La Union Tepito.
City officials have recently announced a plan to hire additional auxiliary and police officers to patrol the Magdalena Contreras area along with the planned installations of cameras throughout the streets. There is a plan to install metal detector arches on many street corners and an elaborate system of street arches that detect stolen vehicles passing through. Cruz has boxing to keep him from the traps and temptations of the street life.
“I’m trying to provide a better life for my wife and child,” Cruz explained.
“ I’m ready. Ready to bring the championship back to Mexico. ” Lightweight Contender - Isaac Cruz
Helping him to provide that life is his father, Isaac Sr., a former pro, and his grandfather, Memo, a lightweight who scored wins over Pipino Cuevas and Alfredo Escalera.
So far, his hard work is paying off. Manny Pacquiao is a fan. Canelo Alvarez sent him a video message offering well-wishes for the Davis bout and Julio Cesar Chavez reached out and advised him to always stay in the gym because one never knows when an opportunity will arrive.
Cruz was on his way to training when he got news that he might be facing Davis.
“I said yes without thinking twice.”
He was sitting by himself on a couch when we spoke over Zoom. His hair was neatly combed, and his snug shirt struggled to contain his muscular biceps. “I want to thank the entire Davis camp, Manny Pacquiao Promotions, and everyone who thought of me as a worthy opponent for Davis.”
Cruz is soft-spoken but not in a shy way. His responses are compact, like those left hooks that made two random boxing fans take a detour from wherever it was they were going and make their way into my driving school. I found out that they both favored Mike Tyson over Julio Cesar Chavez. “Chavez was a wrecking ball but Tyson, he was dynamite.”
I told them that I would be getting on a Zoom call with Isaac Cruz shortly and they asked if they could stick around to hear. When they heard that Cruz was fighting to bring another championship back to Mexico to share with the Mexican people, they broke their silence.
“Tell him he has fans here too.”
Cruz smiled and told them to tune in so that they can witness what happens when “two monsters collide.”
“I’m ready,” Cruz said. “Ready to bring the championship back to Mexico.”
Before hanging up, Cruz did something I haven’t seen in a long time. He thanked me for taking time out of my day to speak with him. After he hung up, one of the guys said, “He seems very confident.”
“It’s more than confidence,” I replied. “It’s in his DNA.”
For a closer look at Isaac Cruz, check out his fighter page.