By Jake Donovan
Orlando Cruz continues to inch closer towards a title shot. The next step will come one week sooner, as his regional featherweight title fight with Aalan Martinez takes place on March 15 at the Kissimmee Civic Center in Kissimmee, Florida.
The bout moves up one week from its originally scheduled March 22 air date. Telemundo will televise, giving the network four straight Fridays of boxing action, as part of a revised format for the 2013 season.
All four shows are presented by All-Star Boxing, which also has its hands in the April 6 show in Macau. The show is highlighted by Brian Viloria’s unified flyweight title defense and the pro debut of Zou Shiming, bust also features Wilfredo Vazquez Jr, who returns to the ring since his bounceback win last October.
“We’re very busy the next few weeks, which is great for our company,” said Tuto Zabala, Jr. of All-Star Boxing, the primary promoter for the Boxeo Telemundo series.
Cruz (19-2-1, 9KO) enters the fight riding a three-fight win streak. His last ring appearance received more attention than usual, as the bout was preceded by his publicly declaring his homosexuality. The announcement made him the first active openly-gay boxer.
The news was followed with a rousing 12-round decision over Jorge Pazos. March 15 will mark his fourth consecutive Telemundo appearance to have aired in Central Florida.
Cruz and Martinez share a common bond, as their most recent losses came against fighters who went on to pick up featherweight belts. Cruz’ current three fight win streak follows back-to-back knockout losses, including a Feb. ’10 3rd round stoppage at the hands of Daniel Ponce de Leon, who topped Jhonny Gonzalez last September to win a featherweight title.
Martinez (14-1-1, 10KO) has won four straight since suffering the lone loss of his career. The defeat came in April ’09 against Evgeny Gradovich, who scored an upset 12-round split decision win over Billy Dib Friday evening to capture a portion of the featherweight crown.
At risk is Cruz’ number one ranking to the belt currently in possession of unbeaten Miguel Angel ‘Mikey’ Garcia. The goal for the resurgent prospect is to challenge for the title by year’s end, though he first has to get past Martinez in a Puerto Rico versus Mexico matchup of dueling southpaws.
“It’s a big risk for my fighter,” Zabala Jr. admits. “He wants to challenge for the title at some point, but has no interest in protecting his ranking. This kid (Martinez) is a real test, which is what Orlando wants. He wants to test himself and prove he’s ready for the world champions.”
Jake Donovan is the Boxingscene.com Managing Editor, as well as a voting member of the Yahoo Ratings Panel, Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox