Regarded as one of the greatest amateurs in a generation, new Matchroom signing Andy Cruz makes his professional debut this Saturday night. He takes on veteran Juan Carlos Burgos live on DAZN on the Baumgardner vs Linardatou in Detroit, Michigan.
Cruz has embarked on a new chapter in his boxing career, signing a long-term deal with Eddie Hearn and Matchroom in May 2023. At the age of 27, Cruz brings an impressive list of accomplishments from his illustrious amateur career, leaving behind a storied legacy in the amateur code as he sets his sights on conquering the professional ranks.
Cruz’s journey to professional boxing began with a bang, as he struck gold at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo in the Lightweight division. Despite the delay caused by the pandemic, Cruz showcased his exceptional skills, defeating Keyshawn Davis to claim the coveted Olympic gold medal.
Just three months later, Cruz continued his winning streak, capturing an incredible third consecutive AIBA World Championship gold at Light-Welterweight in Serbia. These victories added to his previous triumphs at the World Championships in Germany (2017) and Russia (2019), solidifying his status as a dominant force in the amateur boxing scene.
The Cuban boxing program has produced numerous talented fighters, and Andy Cruz is regarded as one of the most accomplished to emerge from this celebrated lineage. Alongside his Olympic gold, Cruz boasts three amateur world titles and two Pan American Games gold medals won in 2015 and 2019. With a formidable reputation, Cruz’s transition to the professional scene under the guidance of promoter Eddie Hearn is highly anticipated.
However, Cruz’s decision to turn professional comes with its own set of challenges. Historically, Cuban boxers have faced difficulties transitioning to the professional ranks due to the restrictions imposed by the Cuban government and boxing federation. Many Cuban fighters have excelled in the amateurs but faced hurdles when attempting to navigate the professional landscape.
“To sign a Cuban fighter was unexpected,” admitted Eddie Hearn, chairman of Matchroom Sport. “You don’t really expect Cuban fighters to turn pro. But when I witnessed Andy Cruz’s exceptional talent and saw him beat the best amateurs in the world with ease, I knew we had to sign him. It was like watching an artist draw a painting; I was mesmerized.”
Cruz’s decision to leave behind his storied amateur career and embark on a professional path was not without its risks. A falling out with Cuba’s boxing federation led him to leave the country, making him boxing’s hottest free agent. The challenges of adapting to a new country and a different version of the sport are significant, but Cruz’s talent and determination give him an edge.
Cruz speaks little English but in Spanish said, “I have matured a lot as a person in the last two years”. He went on to say “I have realized that every minute is important. That will be the type of fighter you will see in me, the fighter who wants to make the most of every opportunity that comes his way. I’m doing this not only for myself but also for the team that helped me get to where I am. Above all, I do it for the public that never abandoned me in the most difficult moments.”
Despite the language barrier, Cruz’s boxing prowess speaks volumes. With a staggering 140 amateur wins, according to the boxing database BoxRec, Cruz’s ability to adapt and overcome challenges is undeniable.
With a three-year deal with Matchroom Boxing, Cruz now has the support and backing to navigate the challenges that lie ahead. His talent, exceptional boxing IQ, speed, and timing make him a formidable opponent in the lightweight division. Matchroom and Cruz’s team believe he has the potential to dominate the talent-rich division in the near future.
“One day, this may be our greatest-ever signing,” Hearn declared confidently. “I would bet on Andy to beat any 135-pounder on the planet now!”
As Cruz sets foot in the professional realm, he carries the hopes and dreams of not only himself but also his family. He is determined to make his sacrifices worthwhile and ensure a brighter future for his loved ones. “I promise you all will see a fighter who will sacrifice to the fullest to reach the top of professional boxing,” Cruz vowed.
To kick off his professional journey, Cruz will make his debut in Detroit on July 15, where he is scheduled to face veteran boxer Juan Carlos Burgos in a ten-round bout. Cruz has the potential to become a dominant force in the lightweight division. Boxing fans can expect nothing less than a thrilling display of skill and passion as Cruz seeks to etch his name in the annals of professional boxing history.
By Lee Browne