A wide range of fans who watched Andy Cruz of Cuba (2-0, 1 KO) defeat Jovanni Straffon of Mexico (26-6, 19 KOs) on December 9 at the Chase Center in San Francisco for the IBF Lightweight International championship belt on the Haney vs. Prograis undercard and were left in awe. There is growing anticipation about Cruz’s future.
As reported from ringside by Gayle Falkenthal for NY Fights, Cruz couldn’t miss, and Straffon’s chin could only hold up so long. To be exact, until 53 seconds in the third round when the referee stepped in between Cruz and Straffon to stop the onslaught.
Cruz said his team’s objective was to work on sitting down on his punches, and it’s clear he’s making good progress.
“I feel like a kid with a new toy,” said Cruz after the fight. “I’m delighted with this new form of boxing and show that I’m able to adapt to this, to shine at a new level.
“All of my life I’ve been an amateur boxer. It’s so much experience I’ve got from being in the ring. I’m new to the professional ranks, it’s completely different in the professional ranks. All I need to do is show adaptations, find the right team, and also be able to work hard and show my best.”
Cruz Not Your Typical Cuban Style Fighter
Dubbed “El Diamante” (The Diamond), Cruz made his amateur debut in Cuba in 2011 at age 16. A veteran of more than 150 amateur bouts, Cruz’s amateur career is filled with impressive accomplishments. It includes two gold medals at the Pan American Games, three gold medals at the AIBA World Championships, and an Olympic gold medal in the Tokyo 2020 Games. Cruz defeated American Keyshawn Davis to win the gold.
Matchroom Boxing chairman Eddie Hearn did not strike gold in signing Cruz to Matchroom in May of 2023 in a long-term deal. Hearn mined a diamond.
In just his second professional fight, Cruz did not need much time at all to judge distance against Straffon. He immediately went to work in the short-distanced fight, landing clean, strong shots.
With his high guard and orthodox stance, Cruz already looks like a veteran with his calculated straight right hands. His perfectly-timed pivoting when his opponent moves in while throwing hooks simultaneously at times is mixed with precise jabs, hooks to the body, and long and short uppercuts from midrange and the inside.
Cruz’s timing was so on point that in round two, he countered Straffon as he lunged in trying to catch Cruz to the body while jumping back with a downward one-two with finesse. Meanwhile, Straffon was bending down, resulting in him stumbling backward a few steps.
“I feel delighted with the results. I’m really happy the way things went. I didn’t think it would happen so quickly,” admitted Cruz. “I was completely focused on my work I’ve been doing and what my corner was telling me to do. I mixed it up with my own ideas and the results came.”
Offense On The Mind Of Andy Cruz
Cruz possesses and executes channeled aggression, blended with efficiency. It results in high punch accuracy. In his fight against Straffon, CompuBox shows 60.3% total punches landed, 54.5% total jabs landed, and 61.9% power punches landed for Cruz.
Cruz has a style similar to welterweight Jaron “Boots” Ennis. No surprise, as coach Bozy Ennis is in Cruz’s corner. The chemistry between Ennis and Cruz was completely fluent, even though there is a language barrier.
Cruz is soaking up fight knowledge from Ennis in the corner like a sponge, and it showed in San Francisco. Cruz is only going to get better thanks to Ennis. Getting the opportunity to train and spar with Jaron Ennis, Cruz is a serious threat in the lightweight division, which has a plethora of highly-skilled fighters.
“What I want to do is make good on a promise that I made to my mother, which is to go and shine at a high level,” explained Cruz. “I’ve already done that in the amateur ranks. This is for her, for my family, for my son, who is two years of age, who I dearly want to have alongside me, and for my grandma, who passed away. I’m sure she is looking down on me with pride. For my wife that was here with me, and everyone.”
How quickly will Cruz climb to the top? It depends on how quickly Hearn moves him at Matchroom. Hearn is impressed so far with Cruz and strongly believes he is a threat to any name in the division. Expect to see Cruz, who is now 28 years old, pushed up the ranks quickly provided he keeps winning, keeping him active in order to overcome his late start as a pro fighter.