photos and ringside coverage by Gary Purfield
Emerging welterweight, Ronald Cruz 16-0 (12 KO) won a lopsided decision over Allen Conyers 12-6 (9 KO) in the main event of the Peltz Boxing card held at Bally’s Atlantic City Saturday night. The hot prospect Cruz was riding an eight-fight knockout streak and had the support of a large contingent of fans from his nearby hometown of Bethlehem, PA. The fight was also televised by internet stream on Go Fight Live TV.
Ronald Cruz, along with promoter Russell Peltz, trainer Lemuel Rodriguez, and manager Jimmy Deoria, have chosen to take tough fights in his road to the top in an effort to develop his skills and challenge him so he is prepared when big fights come calling. Tonight, Cruz got a lesson on how tough it can be when a prospect challenges himself instead of taking easy fights.
While the scores showed a wide victory, it was not as easy as the final tally would suggest. Cruz clearly won almost every round (the Boxing Tribune also had it 99-90) but Conyers, who is known for having legitimate one punch-knockout power, was in the fight the whole time and made an effort at every turn to test the young prospect’s rugged chin. Along the way, the two hard-hitters put on an energized and action-filled fight that had the pro-Cruz crowd at Bally’s Atlantic City Casino on their feet and enjoying the action.
In a surprise move, Cruz came out fighting in a southpaw stance and stayed in the lefty frame the majority of the fight. At times it was effective with looping right hooks over the top, but often Cruz leaned forward exposing himself to Conyers heavy right hand and in general did not look as comfortable southpaw as when he was in his natural orthodox stance.
No one wasted time early as both fighters went after each other in round one and had their moments. In what was a close round, Cruz pulled it out in the final seconds when a straight left hand sent Conyers into the ropes and down to the canvas. The punch was legal, but Conyers hitting the canvas came after the bell sounded and was not ruled a knockdown. However, it swung the round to Cruz.
It may have been the worst thing for Cruz, as he spent a large part of the night hunting for that one head shot instead of applying the hard hitting body attack that is his trademark and the reason he had eight straight knockouts.
“Probably what got me off my rhythm was that first knockdown. I thought I had him and after that I started looking for one shot.”
Rounds two, three, and four played out the same as both men had their moments backing the other up and landing shots, but Cruz was getting the best of the action to win the rounds. Cruz was able to slip most of his opponent’s shots while often finding the top of Conyers head with his sweeping hooks from the southpaw stance.
Then, in round five, Conyers looked like he might make good on his nickname “The Dream Shatterer”– a name he did not earn by accident. Conyers has twice taken the undefeated record from well-regarded prospects and all nine of his knockouts came inside of three rounds. Late in the round, he pressed the young Puerto Rican into the corner and began a vicious assault that had the young challenger in trouble.
Cruz had a similar occurrence in his last fight against Anges Adjaho when he was thoroughly outboxed in round four. In that fight, Cruz came out with a vengeance the following round and stopped Adjaho. He would react in a similar manner on this night.
Cruz came out for round six finally set in the orthodox stance and had his best round of the fight. Cruz abandoned the retreat and counter punch style and went with his natural inclination of moving forward on the attack. He landed multiple overhand rights and seemed to have Conyers ready to go at any point.
“That’s probably just the warrior spirit in me. He gets a good round, gets a couple of good shots in, comes back to you got to get him back.”
Then, in round seven, in a curious move after his success the previous round, Cruz again turned southpaw. From this point the fight played out similar to the early parts of the bout with exciting action taking place while Cruz piled up the rounds.
When the cards were read it was no surprise to anyone in the ballroom that Cruz had won nearly every round, except Allen Conyers, who was frustrated and angry, feeling he had won the fight. Despite being nearly shutout, Conyers deserves credit for a hard-fought effort. He took numerous heavy shots that would have knocked out many fighters and never stopped pressing for the win, which helped make the fight such an exciting one for the fans.
Cruz was glad he had another win on his record, but was clearly not content with his performance. In the dressing room after the fight the soft spoken Cruz, who is as mild-mannered outside the ring as he is aggressive inside, talked about his disappointment in his performance and how he expects more out himself.
“What can I do, go back to the gym and work on mistakes. I knew I was ahead in the fight, but I knew I could have been doing a lot better. That’s what I wasn’t too happy about.”
Cruz was asked about his decision to fight southpaw the majority of the fight. He stated he felt it was a good move but acknowledged that it may not have appeared a smart decision to others.
“I’m always comfortable with the southpaw. I thought he was a little confused when I turned southpaw. I felt that way. Maybe I was wrong but I thought he was confused when I turned southpaw like he didn’t know what to do.”
Trainer Lemuel Rodriguez acknowledged that he would have preferred his charge to fight more orthodox, but overall was happy with his performance. Rodriguez talked about the fact that going in, they knew Conyers was dangerous, and his charge had to be smart about this fight instead of just aiming for the knockout.
“I can’t be more happy for this win. He’s a man [Conyers] who got a lot of tough fights. We know he’s a tough dude. So we were not looking for a knockout, we were looking to win round by round and we did it. I am so proud of him. He did great.”
Despite this not being a performance up to his own standards, it is another step forward and will provide valuable learning experience. Cruz is building a name for himself and has a solid fan base that turns out for his fights to go along with his top 15 ranking in the IBF. He succeeded in dominating a dangerous opponent in his first headlining appearance in Atlantic City. He showed that no matter what is happening on the cards, he plans on being a fan-friendly fighter that will deliver action up until the final bell.
“At the level of where I’m at right now, I’m looking to win fans and get a good fan base behind me and I’m a warrior so I’ll fight to the end, winning the fight or not. I’ll be smart but I’ll please the fans always.”
And he certainly has no intention of changing his tune and looking for easy fights. He was told after the fight if he wants every fight to be a star studded outing he should get in the ring with push overs so he will always look good. His immediate reaction was to laugh at the idea and make it clear that would not be happening because he plans on continuing to take on any and all challenges.
Now, for Cruz and his team, they will head back to where any smart prospect would go. Into the gym and the film room where they can capitalize on what was done well and use the lessons learned in a tough fight to make improvements going forward. That was the point in taking difficult developmental fights, to make a fighter that is truly prepared when the big fights happen.
In the co-feature, rising cruiserweight Garrett Wilson had an impressive outing, stopping the tough Pedro Martinez thirty six seconds into round three of a scheduled eight. Wilson 12-5-1 (6 KO) may not have the best record but his losses are largely due to taking fights early in his career on short notice and against opponents he was not ready for at such an early point in his pro boxing career.
Over the last year and half Wilson has focused on his training and scheduling fights where he can really prepare, as opposed to taking fights on short notice. That, along with the guidance of trainer Rodney Rice, has turned Wilson into a formidable talent in the cruiserweight division and gained him the USBA belt.
Both fighters are from Philadelphia and know each other well. But Wilson was clearly the more skilled fighter from the start and was able to control the action early and often. After a feeling out round, Wilson went to work in round two landing several hard shots, including a left hook that sent Martinez 6-5 (3 KO) reeling backwards and barely able to avoid a knockdown. Then, in round three, a flurry of punches, including a hard uppercut sent Martinez to the floor. Martinez got up but his nose was bleeding heavily and possibly broken, prompting referee Earl Morton to stop the fight.
Wilson knew from experience that Martinez gets stronger as a fight progresses and had intentions to not allow that to happen. Wilson also was smart in looking for the right opportunities and picking his shots.
“Well, I knew Pedro, as the rounds go on, he gets stronger and stronger cause that’s exactly how I am. I tried my best to figure out where the openings are and tried to take the open shots.
“I seen that he didn’t really close up his guard too much and that’s why I took advantage of the uppercut. He had his guard up to the side of his head and protected the front of his face, but his body wasn’t really protected and I could get in between there and take advantage of that.”
Trainer Rodney Rice agreed that Garrett was patient and fought the right fight as they had planned in camp.
“I am happy with it. He was patient, he wasn’t wild, he did what we came to do and he did it the way we came to do it. We could have done it a number of ways, but he put the jab in his face a couple times. As soon as he closed, we took him to the inside. No one thought Garrett would come inside. Hit him with a couple of short shots, boom, boom, boom, finished him.”
Now Wilson will move forward to continue climbing the ladder and try to add another regional title to his collection in an attempt to move towards his ultimate goal of a world title shot.
“If I had my way I’d be fighting Yoan Pablo Hernandez but I believe the next fight will be April 14th for the NABF title against Andres Taylor who I took a fight on twenty-four hour notice and fought him to a draw in his hometown.”
Rafael Montalvo and DeCarlo Perez squared off in a six round welterweight bout. Perez had a big entrance honoring Muhammad Ali’s seventieth birthday. Instead of music, Perez entered to the sound of Ali’s famous lines. Perez was decked out as an Ali clone with the white high shoes, white tassels, old school high cut white trunks, and even had the great one’s haircut.
Unfortunately for Perez, no one informed Montalvo he was fighting the greatest of all time. Montalvo took the first round by being active and landing harder shots. Then in round two he sent Perez to the canvas but it was not called a knockdown. The non-call was not an issue as Montalvo pursued the Ali look-alike with a fury Ken Norton would have been proud of and unloaded shots on his wounded opponent in the corner. Perez was out on his feet and the fight was stopped at 2:33 of round two. Montalvo’s TKO win moves him to 2-1 (2 KO) while Perez falls to 6-2 (2 KO).
Luis Cream, who is the grandson of Jersey Joe Walcott, scored a unanimous decision over Miguel Corcino by scores of 40-35 twice and 39-36 in an action-packed four-round welterweight brawl. The scores don’t reflect how close the fight was. Both men came out from the opening bell looking to land a knockout blow and each showed a good chin in surviving the other fighter’s heavy punches.
All four rounds produced wild action with both men throwing big looping punches, looking to finish the opponent in one shot. Cream landed the best shot of the many bombs when he planted a left hook on Corcino in round two to score the only knockdown of the fight. Cream improves to 3-0 while Corcino falls to 3-2 (2 KO).
Jeff Lentz 1-0 (1 KO) won his pro-debut with a knockout of David Navarro 1-5 at 2:34 of round one. Lentz knocked Navarro down midway through the round at which point he decided to act as if he was a title challenger and not in his first fight by standing over Navarro and posing like Ali over Liston. Lentz sent Navarro down again, prompting the fight to be stopped.
Antowyan Aikens won a unanimous decision over Charles Kirby by scores of 40-36 twice and 39-37 in a four-round super middleweight bout. Every round was close, which was not reflected in the scores. The Boxing Tribune had it scored a draw 38-38 but Aikens likely got the nod for throwing the harder punches that caught the attention of the judges.
Adding on to his night, Aikens then was handed the microphone and proposed to his girlfriend in the ring after his fight. She accepted.
Korey Pritchett won a split decision over Korey Sloane in the opening bout of the evening by scores of 39-37 twice and 37-39. The four-round junior welterweight bout was a rematch of a fight from last year that Pritchett won as well. Like in the first fight, Sloane was active but Pritchett landed the clean hard punches that did the damage.
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