By Keith Idec
Luis Cruz considers himself Puerto Rico’s next big boxing star.
It’ll take an impressive performance Saturday night in Las Vegas for the undefeated prospect to start making the type of progress to make his proclamation a reality. On paper, Cruz’s 10-round junior lightweight fight against Mexico’s Juan Carlos Burgos on the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez undercard appears to be the toughest bout of Cruz’s four-year pro career.
The 23-year-old Burgos is 27-1 (19 KOs) and has lost only a unanimous decision to Japan’s Hozumi Hasegawa (29-4, 12 KOs) in a 12-round fight for the since-dethroned Hasegawa’s WBC featherweight title last Nov. 26 in Nagoya, Japan.
“This is very special for me, to be on such a big card,” Cruz, 26, said Thursday during a press conference at MGM Grand. “I look to make a splash.”
A boxer-puncher who’s co-promoted by Top Rank Inc. and Miguel Cotto Promotions, Cruz’s biggest win to date is a 10-round unanimous decision defeat of faded former contender Martin Honorio (31-6-1, 16 KOs) on April 16 in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. He most recently stopped Atlanta’s Antonio Davis (28-7, 13 KOs) in the sixth round Sept. 10 in Atlantic City, but Cruz’s handlers expect the outcome of this fight to better determine how he is coming along.
“Believe me, he is not in easy,” promoter Bob Arum said. “This is a real tough, tough battle in the 130-pound division.”
Since Cruz-Burgos will be one of four bouts broadcast by HBO Pay-Per-View, Cruz recognizes it’s an encounter in which he must captivate fight fans.
“I want the whole world to tune in,” said Cruz, who expects to contend for a world title at featherweight. “There’s a new superstar from Puerto Rico at 126 pounds. And [Saturday night] I’m going to show the whole world. … I hope to put on a great performance [so] for my next fight [I can] get a fight with [any] of the big names at 126 pounds.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for the Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.