Andy Cruz has been told his fights are already becoming unmissable for those he left behind in Cuba.

The Olympic gold medallist made his professional debut in July 2023 when over his 10-round debut in Detroit he outpointed Juan Carlos Burgos. He even more impressively stopped Jovanni Straffon in three rounds in San Francisco five months later, and on Saturday at the Caribe Royal Orlando in Orlando fights the 26-year-old Brayan Zamarripa Rodriguez – his third Mexican opponent in three fights.

Cruz, 28, is being fast-tracked towards a world title at a perhaps faster rate than anyone since Vasyl Lomachenko. That he left his home country legally means that his popularity hasn’t been threatened in the same way as some of his predecessors, but if the iconic status enjoyed by the great Felix Savon is likely to remain beyond him, he shared descriptions of scenes in Cuba that evoke images of those in the Philippines when the great Manny Pacquiao – another fighter who defeated numerous Mexicans – was in his prime. 

“My family tell me that each time I fight, everybody gets together and everything stops – the traffic almost stops – because everybody’s so focused on my fight,” he said. “The issue there is sometimes the connection isn’t great, so what people tend to do is get together in a place where they can all have a good connection, and they shout and they watch and they point at a big screen, so it’s fantastic what’s happening and it’s also an opportunity. They tell me that people continue to love me as a sportsman, and also as a person.

“That’s the biggest thing that can happen. I’m indebted to the fans – to the public – and even more to the people of Cuba, and I feel this support. It gives me strength to fight.

“[Providing for my family since turning professional makes] a big, big change. Before I was fighting I wasn’t earning a lot of money. Now with each fight I’m able to make a big difference to help my family – not just my family, but friends too. Friends that are going through tough times. It’s a pleasure to be able to do that. I’ve always been a person that’s liked to help people and this continues. God can see what I’m doing here; God can see I’m doing good and that’s appreciated too. 

“The difference you’ll find in Cuba – by sending this food over, by sending money as well, it makes things a lot easier for people. Food is very expensive in Cuba, and by sending this it just makes things a lot easier. It means they don’t have to battle so much and work so hard to have food for themselves and also their families. It makes things a lot easier for them to eat – it’s a really important thing I’m able to do.

“I talk to them every day – tell them to stay strong – and in return they offer their support; their advice. More than anything it’s about being able to send food and money, and the idea of trying to get them over here to live with me.

“I’m not sure how long it’ll take but I’m doing everything possible to get them here as quickly as I possibly can. They could enjoy seeing me in the ring, which would be very exciting for me.” 

Cruz turned professional under Matchroom – Cruz-Rodriguez features on the undercard of Edgar Berlanga-Padraig McCrory – and trains under the guidance of Derek “Bozy” Ennis. 

His third fight is his first in Florida, which has America’s biggest Cuban population, but it is in Philadelphia that he works under Ennis and alongside his trainer’s revered son Jarron “Boots” Ennis, whose controversial installation as the IBF welterweight champion and the criticism it has contributed to he insists hasn’t affected their close-knit gym.

“He’d have had that world title regardless of what happened,” Cruz continued. “All boxers want to prove and win their titles within a boxing ring and this isn’t an exception. It’s not his fault that everybody runs from him.

“We’re just continuing to work on bettering ourselves as boxers; polishing our skills. Whatever’s due to come – bring it on.

“Philadelphia’s becoming more my home. I’m getting used to it. I’m getting used to my coach; my teammates; I’m getting used to life there. It’s a little bit cold for me which I don’t really like; I still miss my family, but I’m able to help them a little bit more, and that’s what it’s about. It’s become more familiar, and it’s about shining on the big stage.”