Last Update: Wednesday, July 23, 2014
|Seeking His Own Glory After Fighting This Weekend At The Forum, Kickboxer: Ron Cruz Wants To End His Amateur Status|
|Written by Mike Terry|
|Thursday, 19 June 2014 01:56|
Photo Credit: Stephanie Drews
Tuning Up — Ron Cruz (right), seen here in a sparring session with Lucas Crews (left), is ready to battle in the June 21 kickboxing card “GLORY 17 Last Man Standing” event at the Forum.
Ron Cruz is a charismatic 22-year-old from North Hollywood who will firmly shake your hand, engage animatedly in conversation, laughs easily, and will consider you a friend if you aren’t already one.
But it wouldn’t be smart to get on his bad side.
Cruz is a competitive amateur kickboxer, fighting in the Muay Thai combat style evolved out of 19th century Thailand warfare techniques into a contemporary combat sport that features fast hands, crunching kicks, elbow and knee strikes, and endless toughness.
Cruz, who has been training for seven years and fighting competitively since 2008 with a 14-3-1 record including five knockouts, is part of the undercard of the “GLORY 17 Last Man Standing” kickboxing event this Saturday, June 21, at the Forum in Inglewood. The event is televised on both Spike TV and a Pay-Per-Vew basis.
Cruz will be matched against fellow middleweight Sonny Singh from Milpitas, California. They will fight a maximum four rounds for an IAMTF Promoter’s Title 165-pound belt. There are four amateur bouts on the undercard beginning at 3:35 p.m. The Cruz-Singh bout is the final one.
Adding another belt to his collection doesn’t motivate Cruz, however. Going out with a top performance does. He hopes this will be his last amateur fight, moving on to the pros later this year.
“I have a lot of faith in myself,” said Cruz, recently taking a break from a training session at the 818 Boxing Club in Pacoima. “I believe I’m going to make it big. That’s what I’m hoping and a lot of people see it too, so I’m glad and thankful.”
His support is growing beyond his Facebook friends and the 75-plus gathering that plans to cheer him on at the Forum. Cruz is getting financial backing from several companies including Wilcox Sound and Communications, LA.Hi Apparel, Stephanie Drew Photography and Painful Addiction Tattoo. The support has enabled Cruz to travel as far away as Chicago and Virginia.
Cruz, who grew up in North Hollywood, first learned about martial as a boy. ““When I was a little kid I used to do Tae Kwon Do from the age of 8-13,” he said. “I wasn’t bullied as a kid, but I was chubby, and kids did make fun of me. I was a little more of a loner when I was younger. I got into Tae Kwon Do because my mother wanted me to be active. When I started to get older, though, I started getting tired of it; I didn’t see effectiveness of it… I then decided I wanted to do something a little more raw.”
His mom then took him to a ninjutsu school, but Cruz wasn’t into the sword and stick fighting he saw. “I thought ‘where am I going to fight with a sword? I want to fight with my hands,’” he said. The next martial arts school was a Muay Thai school. Cruz realized he’d found his calling.
“From the moment I walked in, I fell in love. I saw people hitting the pads, kicking bags, screaming, spit flying. I thought ‘this is it, this is the real deal.’ I saw something that just captured me,” he said.
Cruz took one last crack at a team sport, playing football as a 200-pound lineman at Village Christian High School in Sun Valley. But his heart now belonged to the contact of Muay Thai. “I wanted to get into something I could excel at.”
He begins his day with a 3-4 mile run. During the day Cruz manages his family’s business, a discount store. (They also own Erika’s beauty salon, both in North Hollywood.) The late afternoons and evenings are for training either at 818 Boxing Club or the Muay Thai Academy in North Hollywood with trainer Anthony Fisher. The regimen includes five rounds of shadow boxing, another five rounds on the bag, kicking, hitting pads with his trainers to work on combinations for 6-12 rounds “depending on what he has in store for me.”
Endurance is critical, Cruz said. “What I do is all standup. It involves everything you can think of standing up — elbows, punches, kicks. And if you drop [the opponent] to the floor, you let them get up. That’s what I like about it…I like the respect of it. If you hit them and they drop you let them get up. ‘Come on, let’s do this like men, standing up. If you can’t continue that’s fine.’
“For the most part I’ve felt my opponents have had respect for me, and I give them the same respect. There’s no reason to be disrespectful. You can say what you gotta say, but as soon you get in the ring there are no words; nothing can help you once you’re in there.”
His trainer Edgar Ponce Gomez, who's been working with Cruz the past three years, said his protege’s composure is as important as his physical tools.
“He’s composed when he gets into the ring,” Gomez said. “He remains calm. I’ve got some other guys who get nervous or try to ‘kill’ their opponent in the first round. By the second round they’re burned out.
“And now he’s stronger than he’s ever been. “(He’s training) every day and he trains hard. That’s why he’s ready to turn pro."
His first bout was at the age of 17, fighting in what is known as a “smoker” — underground, unsanctioned fights between gyms that are frowned upon by the California State Athletic Commission. But Cruz did well; in fact he won his first six bouts before heading to Chicago in 2011, where he got another education about his sport.
“The fight I had in Chicago was a little shady,” Cruz said. “I went to fight a hometown boy; I’d had six fights and was undefeated. I thought he had 20 fights when it was more like 55. I didn’t see him weigh in. He wore cloth wraps while the rest of us wore gauze. He had lace-up gloves while I had velcro gloves.”
That was Cruz’ first loss and yet “it is my favorite fight out of all of my fights” for what he learned.
Although kickboxing is an international sport and Muay Thai fighters can do well in tournaments and mixed martial art events, the physical toll on competitors can end careers in the early to mid-30s. So Cruz is eager to see if he can earn a living from his passion. But first is the battle against Singh, who sports a 9-3 record. This is both a final exam and a coming out party.
“I’ve seen him fight,” Cruz said. "He’s got a different style; he switches his feet a lot, goes back and forth from southpaw to orthodox. So I’ve been working on some stuff to deal with that.”
At least his future is in his hands — and feet.
|Last Updated on Friday, 20 June 2014 22:15|