PORT CHESTER, N.Y. -- A 24-year-old from Port Chester is now ranked in the top 20 internationally after landing his seventh professional knockout Friday, Nov. 21, at Resorts World Casino in Queens.
Bryant "Pee Wee" Cruz defeated Engelberto "Guarura" Valenzuela of Mexico in the superfeatherweight class on a technical knockout in the second round of the eight-round bout. Cruz is now 13-0 and is expected to box again in January.
The fight was called, according to his coach, Ryan O'Leary, "because he was overwhelming him. It was exciting."
O'Leary, who owns Champs Boxing Club in New Rochelle and has coached boxing for 23 years marvels at Cruz's steady determination. "He was never the fastest or strongest, but he always showed up. He got consistently better."
A former Port Chester police officer, John Ferraro, brought Cruz and some other local youths to O'Leary six years ago when they were getting into trouble in the village, according to O'Leary.
"He didn't listen to anything I said, but he showed up every day,'' O'Leary recalled, and then after two months of training, Cruz began paying attention.
O'Leary coached Cruz up to a No. 2 ranking as a U.S. amateur. Friday's win was in a new professional belt weight class of 132 to 135 pounds, he said.
Early on, since Cruz didn't watch television or pay attention to leading fight contenders, O'Leary said, "He had no fear. He didn't care who they were."
Cruz put his undefeated streak on the line against Valenzuela -- who was 9-3 with three knockouts -- going into Friday's fight at the UBF Inter Continental Americas Lightweight Championship.
Cruz recently told QueensLatino.com : "I am working hard every day. I am giving 110 percent. . . . I know each fight will be hard and I know I can't take anyone lightly. I am just going in there and I am doing what I have to do to win."