Just days before Bernard Hopkins’ age-defying and record-setting performance against Beibut Shumenov last Saturday; New York’s Christina Cruz made history of her own. On April 17th, the 31-year old defeated Jennifer Chieng in the 125 lb. final to win her eighth consecutive pair of N.Y. Golden Gloves in front of a packed crowd at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. With the win, the national champ broke her own record of seven straight that she set in 2013 and holds the records for both consecutive Golden Glove championships (previously held by Mark Breland and David Villar at five), and overall championships (previously held by David Villar at six). With the Olympics on her mind, Christina has no intentions of slowing down just yet. She took time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions for us.
Jim McGrady: First off, congratulations on winning your eighth pair of Golden Gloves, that’s a huge accomplishment. What was going through your mind this year when you were preparing for the tournament?
Christina Cruz: To win, and look good doing it. Because I travel so often, the Golden Gloves tournament is the only time I get to perform in front of family and friends so I like to be at my best for them.
JM: Has it ever been difficult to keep focused when you’ve competed at this level so many times already?
CC: It’s actually not that difficult. I always train hard regardless of the competition, and I never underestimate my opponent, that’s the same whether I’m fighting locally or in a national competition. This is a sport where anything can happen, so my mind is always where it needs to be.
JM: So, you have no problems staying motivated and driven year after year?
CC: No, it’s not hard at all, I love boxing and I love to win. No matter how many times I win, the feeling is always brand new. Each time I fight, I want to look better than in my previous bouts. The love I have for this sport is what drives me to keep going.
JM: You’ve won the gold in both Madison Square Garden and the new venue, at the Barclays Center. What were your feelings when the finals moved to Brooklyn?
CC: it was bittersweet; I was sad and excited at the same time. I grew up in Hell’s Kitchen, been there my entire life, and the Garden is just blocks away. I consider it my home; it’s where my boxing career was started and where I made history when I broke Mark Breland’s consecutive win record. At Barclays, I made history when I broke the all-time winning record which was held by David Villar, which was also an amazing feeling.
JM: Well, you’re definitely doing something right with eight pairs of gloves around your neck. The offers to turn pro must be endless. Any thoughts about joining the paid ranks?
CC: I have flirted with the idea on a few occasions, but in the pros, women don’t get the recognition they deserve. And I have to do what’s best for me, which is to remain an amateur. Right now I’m enjoying every minute of being an Olympic style boxer.
JM: Speaking of that, you mentioned after your seventh Gloves win last year that the Olympics was your goal, is that still the case?
CC: That’s another reason why I haven’t turned pro; it’s hard for me to give up my Olympic dream. At the 2012 Olympic trials I fell short, and placed third. I feel that if I don’t try again I’ll live with regret. Whether I make it or not the next time around, knowing that I tried will make it easier to live with,
JM: You were already in your 20s when you starting fighting, is that right?
CC: Yes. Lucky Troche, a longtime friend introduced me to the sport when I was 22. I was hesitant to start because of my age but he kind of “forced” me to try, knowing I’d be good at it being that I was already an athlete. I’m thankful to him for that, if it wasn’t for him I would have never found my love for boxing.
JM: What was your athletic background like before boxing?
CC: My Dad had gotten my brothers and I involved in sports at a really young age. I was swimming before I said my first word. I played just about every sport, but I was mostly involved with basketball and baseball, which I started playing at around four years old and continued throughout high school.
JM: So going back to boxing, you must have a pretty solid training regimen to stay on top all of these years. What’s your training regimen like?
CC: When I’m preparing for a fight I train twice a day. My morning session is strength and conditioning workout and the late afternoon I do my boxing session with my trainer Marcos Suarez.
JM: Have you built up any rivalries over the years?
CC: Being that there are few women in the sport, you sometimes face the same opponent often so yeah, rivalries get built all the time.
JM: What else is on tap for you this year?
CC: This year is World Championship year so USA Boxing has us busy, making sure we have the training and fights we need to be ready. Right now I’m looking forward to some international fights, probably in July.
JM: I have to ask, any extra neck training needed to lug around all those gold gloves?
CC: Ha ha, I get that question all the time. I definitely can’t wear them all at the same time, they’re way too heavy!
JM: So is it safe to assume we’ll see you attempt for a ninth straight Golden Gloves win in 2015?
CC: Yes. I think 2016 could be the last time I compete as an amateur, so watch out for win number 10 too!