Unbeaten welterweight contender says despite tough task that awaits him in veteran Josesito Lopez, he will be able to showcase his all-around skills this Saturday night on FOX.
It’s not exactly common these days for a fighter and trainer to work together for 15-plus years. But that is the case for undefeated 27-year-old welterweight contender Miguel Cruz (17-0, 11 KOs) and his coach O’Neil Watson.
“I started with him when I was 13,” Cruz said. “I had my first two fights with another trainer and I got my butt kicked. I was passionate about boxing and I really wanted to do well, but I didn’t have somebody who was able to provide me with the right direction on how to win these fights.
“One day [Watson] came into the gym and he was training some pros. My father asked him to train me. At first [Watson] was kind of reluctant—he didn’t want to deal with amateurs. He let me kind of tag along.”
In their first fight together, Watson helped Cruz obtain revenge.
“He trained me for a fight against the kid who beat me in my first fight, who was a lefty. [Watson] basically taught me how to beat him, and then we did. That was probably one of the best days of my life,” Cruz said. “That was the beginning of everything.”
Growing up, Miguel split his time between the United States and Puerto Rico. Born in Fairborn, Ohio to native Puerto Rican parents, he and his family moved to Puerto Rico until Cruz was about two years old. They then transitioned to Florida, where they remained for several years.
“We lived in Florida till I was about 15. I spent most of my childhood in Lake Mary, Florida,” Cruz said. “I graduated high school and started college, and [spent] most of my amateur boxing career, in Puerto Rico.
“I was obsessed with the sport since I was probably about five or six. My father watched a lot of boxing and they had a lot of tapes lying around the house. When he would go to work, I would take the tapes and put ‘em in and just start watching. That was what brought me into boxing.”
Looking back, Cruz spoke fondly about the fighters who most captured his imagination.
“Felix Trinidad was my favorite fighter,” he said. “Prince Nasim Hamed. I used to love him a lot. Arturo Gatti is somebody else I watched a lot. He was on one of those tapes that I watched over and over.”
Cruz became an accomplished amateur boxer in Puerto Rico.
“I just started to get better and I developed. I was fighting often because in Puerto Rico you fight much more often. I qualified for the national team, I traveled a few times—I completed internationally. It was a great learning experience for me as a young kid to compete at that level.
“In the United States it’s different—you see high level competition, but it’s more difficult to see international competition. So it was a good experience and I felt like it was an advantage that I had. I fought about seven Olympians.”
“ I’m gonna surprise a lot of people. Not myself, because I know what’s gonna happen. I’m going to bring some fireworks to this show. ” Unbeaten 147-pound contender Miguel Cruz
After amassing an amateur record of 65-15, Miguel turned professional in late 2012. He’s known for being a big puncher, but like all good fighters, he understands the importance of solid fundamentals to achieve success in the ring.
“You’re not gonna knock everybody out,” Cruz said. “You have to have something to fall back on. You have to be able to outpoint people. My power is a big help—a lot of times I’m hurting these guys and that’s what’s allowing me to win these fights. But the fact that I’m able to land these punches the way that I’m looking to land them is also part of the strategy in the first place. So it does definitely require an ability.”
This Saturday, April 28, Cruz faces tough veteran Josesito Lopez (35-7, 19 KOs) in a 10-round, FOX-televised main event (8:30 pm ET/5:30 pm PT) from El Paso, Texas. Lopez represents a major step up for Cruz in terms of experience, and Miguel has an honest assessment of the type of fighter he’s facing.
“He’s got a lot of heart,” Cruz said. “I see him as a warrior, which I believe will work to his detriment in this fight. He’s a smaller fighter but he’s definitely experienced. There are things I’m gonna have to be wary of. But at the same time, I’m the bigger, stronger, younger, better athlete. I think when you see the fight, you’ll realize that. I’m the better fighter overall.”
As far as preparation goes, Cruz has enough experience to know that he can’t overlook any opponent. He ensures he’s ready for any foe.
“I prepare the same way—mentally, physically, emotionally. This is obviously the biggest fight of my career thus far," said Cruz, who scored a UD win over David Grayton in November and a decisive victory in his rematch with Alex Martin this past June.
"But I prepare myself the same way—just a little different when it comes to sparring and strategy. Every opponent gets a different strategy, but at the same time they get the same level of preparation. I’m gonna be ready.”
Outside of the gym, Cruz is a normal 27-year-old. But all conversations steer back to boxing eventually.
“I like to go to Puerto Rico. That’s where I love to be. I do like to go to the gym—I enjoy working out, so it’s not really a job. I stay in the gym because I like it.
“I’m a laid back, fun guy. I like to freestyle and rap...I don’t necessarily want to pursue a career in it, but I’m pretty good.
“I enjoy fighting. I enjoy this.”
Miguel had one final message for the fans ahead of his clash with Lopez.
“I would love for the fans to know to not miss it. It’s going to be an exciting fight. I’m gonna surprise a lot of people. Not myself, because I know what’s gonna happen. I’m going to bring some fireworks to this show.”
For a closer look at Miguel Cruz, check out his fighter page.