By Jake Donovan
Hours after Puerto Rico upset the United States in the semifinal round of the World Baseball Classic, Orlando Cruz gave his fellow Boricuas plenty more reason to cheer. The featherweight continues to inch closer towards a major title fight after stopping Aalan Martinez in six one-sided rounds Friday evening in Kissimmee, Florida.
The Boxeo Telemundo series rotates locations between central Florida and Mexico. Given the locations and promoters involved, the series has developed a trend of repeatedly staging matchups pitting Puerto Rico versus Mexico. Friday’s main event was memorable only in its one-sided nature, as Cruz never gave Martinez a chance.
The opening round was fought at a measured pace but quickly erupted when Cruz was able to score with a straight left late in the frame. Martinez was caught off-guard, the shot knocking him off balance and stumbling into the ropes. The referee correctly ruled that the ropes broke the fall, thus scoring the sequence a knockdown.
A warning was issued to Cruz in round two for rabbit punching, but was running on full adrenaline thanks to the opening round sequence and the capacity crowd cheering his every move. His energy made for a high-speed chess match, leaving Martinez to look like a slow plodder always one step behind during every exchange.
Cruz sensed a scared fighter in front of him and adjusted accordingly. The fourth round accentuated the overwhelming difference in speed between the two. Combination punching led to the second knockdown in the fight for Cruz, flooring Martinez in the corner late in the round.
The minute rest between rounds was hardly enough for Martinez to clear his head, so he did everything possible to buy time in an extended fifth round. Another knockdown came early in the round, immediately followed by a convenient dislodging of his mouthpiece, allowing for a brief break in the action. Cruz immediately went on the attack, but strayed well south of the border, prompting Martinez to take a knee and stay down for well over a minute.
Another knockdown midway through the sixth round proved to be enough. Martinez was bloodied, battered and clearly had the fight beaten out of him. The referee had seen enough, waving off the fight without a count.
The official time was 1:19 of round six.
Cruz advances to 20-2-1 (10KO) with the win, his fourth straight since suffering back-to-back knockouts. Martinez snaps a four-fight win streak as he heads back to Mexico with his record now at 14-2-1 (9KO).
The flashy Puerto Rican southpaw made headlines late last year when he publicly declared his homosexuality. That point was further driven home the point Friday evening in sporting trunks decorated half in 'La Bandera' (the Puerto Rican flag) and the other half in the colors of the LGBT (Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender) alliance.
The story by night's end, however, was the confirmation of a genuine featherweight contender on the horizon.
Adrian Perez had an easier go of things in his rematch with Angel Albelo (3-6-2, 1KO), taking a unanimous decision in their four-round support bout. Scores were 40-36 across the board in sequel to their Aug. '11 affair, which Perez (9-4-1, 1KO) won in a much closer contest.
Luis Olivares (2-0, 2KO) made quick work of hapless Victor Vega (0-2), twice flooring the Puerto Rican before the bout was stopped at 1:03 of the opening round of their super lightweight contest.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox