By MIKE SMITH
It was a banner week for New Rochelle’s Champs Boxing Club, as two of the gym’s brightest stars—one male, one female—scored big victories in the ring.
On April 10, at B.B. Kings in Manhattan, Bryant “Pee Wee” Cruz continued his march through the pro ranks, stopping Minnesota-native Willshaun Boxley in the third round of a scheduled six-round bout.
Cruz (11-0) went to the body early and often and won every round on the scorecards in a one-sided effort.
“He came out and annihilated him,” said Cruz’s trainer and Champs BC founder Ryan O’Leary. “He hit with body shots, fast and hard. In between the second and third rounds, he told me was going to end it, he said that he had found something.”
The fight was an easier one for Cruz, who was tested by a pair of tough southpaws in his two previous bouts, something O’Leary credits to his charge’s willingness to learn as well as some new training strategies employed this time around.
For the first time ever, Cruz worked with a strength and conditioning trainer as well as a dietician in preparation for the April contest.
“I think that made all the difference in the world,” O’Leary said. “He came out so much stronger. In the past, he’s just a kid, he could eat whatever he wanted, but he’s a professional now and we’ve got to make sure his body is in optimum shape.”
On April 16, another Champs fighter scored a victory, as 106-pounder Natalie Gonzalez won a four-round unanimous decision at the Barclay’s Center to claim her first-ever Golden Gloves title.
Gonzalez, who has been one of the top area amateurs for the past few years, has been stung before by judges’ decisions and left little to chance on Wednesday night when she pummeled 33-year-old Jayln Janvier from the opening bell.
“She immediately went to the body and she didn’t take a break for four rounds,” O’Leary said. “Even in the fourth, when she knew her opponent could only beat her with a knockout, she never let up.”
Gonzalez’s win came after her third trip to nationals in January and, according to O’Leary, the 22-year-old has been a star in the making for quite a long time.
“She’s definitely earned it, she’s in the gym every day,” he said. “But even though she had more experience than this other girl, there is never a time when she takes anyone lightly or looks past them. I know how much this meant to her, and as a coach, this is one of the more satisfying victories.”
Both Cruz and Gonzalez will look to stay active in the coming weeks. Cruz already has his 12th professional fight scheduled for May 16 at Fox Woods Resort and Casino, though his opponent at this time has not been announced.
Given another Cruz win, said O’Leary, the Port Chester native could soon find himself on a Showtime card in the near future. Gonzalez is also looking to turn pro, but could have one more amateur fight before she steps into the professional ranks.