By Keith Idec
Ronald Cruz plans to give Antwone Smith as much trouble in the ring Friday night as Smith had making weight.
Miami’s Smith was fined $1,500 by the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission on Thursday after he officially weighed 150 pounds for a scheduled 12-round, 147-pound bout against Cruz. Smith’s failure to make weight turned the first of three fights NBC Sports Network will broadcast beginning at 9 p.m. EDT into a 10-round, non-title fight (Cruz owns the WBC Continental Americas welterweight title).
Cruz is more concerned with winning against perhaps his most accomplished opponent.
“I’ve been watching his fights and I see some of his weaknesses,” Cruz said. “He’s a good inside fighter, but there are a lot of things I could do against him to prove to the world that I’m a good fighter, not only on the inside, but a good all-around fighter.”
The 25-year-old Cruz (17-0, 12 KOs) has displayed some improvement in recent victories over Prenice Brewer (16-3-1, 6 KOs) and Allen Conyers (12-7, 9 KOs), but he hopes to demonstrate that he is ready to face top welterweights. The 25-year-old Smith (21-4-1, 12 KOs) has lost two of his last three bouts, both by unanimous decision, but he has faced a higher level of opposition than Cruz during his six-year pro career (Kermit Cintron, Lanardo Tyner, Richard Gutierrez, Henry Crawford).
“This is a fight that I have to win convincingly to show my people I’m ready for the top fighters in my weight class,” said Cruz, who is promoted by Philadelphia-based Peltz Boxing. “Hopefully my team is confident enough to put me in there with them. That’s exactly what I’d like to do, fight the top guys.”
A capacity crowd in excess of 2,000 is expected to fill the Sands Casino Resort’s Events Center in Bethlehem, Pa., Cruz’s hometown. He beat Brewer by unanimous decision there June 1, but Cruz wasn’t satisfied with his performance that night, despite winning by the same large margin on all three scorecards (118-110).
“From watching my last fight, we were working on stuff in camp that didn’t show in the fight,” Cruz said. “I’m very confident that in this fight here we’ll be able to show everything I’ve been working on and show a lot of improvement in my game.”
Cruz acknowledged it was “stressful” trying to sell tickets to his hometown fans before the Brewer bout. His wife, Daisy Vega, and his trainer, Lemuel “Indio” Rodriguez, have helped alleviate some of that stress this time around.
Cruz also learned during his fight against Brewer that he has to relax in the ring if he is to reach his potential, particularly when he boxes before his hometown crowd.
“Probably because of the emotion of the crowd, and maybe the pressure on me, I wasn’t able to relax, like I always do,” Cruz said. “One of my strongest points is I always fight relaxed. Whenever a fighter’s relaxed, he’s able to throw things a lot smoother. So I wasn’t able to be as smooth as I always am.
“I’m confident that I will show it in this one. I expected it was going to be loud, but not like it was. It was more pressure than I expected it to be. To know I’ve already been through it, it’ll be nothing new to me. Like they say, I already broke the ice, so it’s nothing I haven’t already been through. I’ll be able to handle the pressure a lot better.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.