BN: How do you feel about finally making your professional debut, against Juan Carlos Burgos?
I’m working hard to make the transition to this new boxing – to make my debut in the best way. This is my biggest test, and I’m ready for this challenge. This is gonna be something very interesting. Everything is different – I’m gonna fight someone with a lot of experience. Every opponent is tough; it’s going to be an interesting fight.
BN: You’re an unusual profile of fighter for Matchroom. What made you choose them?
Before I knew about all the offerings, and everything, I let my team know that I wanted to go with the best company. The one who would fight for my interests, and for my future. It’s an honour for Eddie Hearn to say that [I’m his greatest ever signing]. If he talks like that, it’s because of my work – the results that I have in everything that I do. I’m gonna make those words come true in this upcoming fight and all my fights with him.
It’s amazing [that there is already a high level of interest in my debut] because I know that other people following me are doing so because of the great things I’ve done in my amateur career. I know that I have a lot of eyes on me, and I’m gonna make sure what I did in amateur boxing, I can do in professional boxing.
BN: Can you see the similarities between the attention surrounding you and that around Vasyl Lomachenko in the build-up to his debut 10 years ago?
For Lomachenko it was a very hard debut [against Jose Luis Ramirez], but later he adapted very quickly during the fight. I’m working very hard to have a great debut. I [also] know that there’s a lot of athletes that had a great amateur career and [proved] not so great in the pros.
BN: How do you feel about talk of fast-tracking you into a big fight before you have even made your debut?
I’m working hard to get everything into the ring – to wait for all the people’s comments – because I know I’m gonna do a great job. I’m learning how to sit [down] on my punches; to make things more difficult for my opponent. I’m just learning everything that is new for me, because in amateur everything is different – the way you punch; the way you fight – everything. I’ve got a high [boxing] IQ – I’m confident in all of it. It’s really something different to me, but I’m the best under pressure.
Everybody knows that [when Lomachenko fought and lost to Orlando Salido in his second fight] he didn’t fight to his maximum level, and that happened because of his inexperience. Lomachenko was fighting someone more experienced than him, and that guy took Lomachenko along and made Lomachenko do everything that he wanted, because Lomachenko [was] new to [professional] boxing.
Not just for me – for all boxers – Lomachenko is a legend. Everyone has something to learn from him. Obviously, he’s an inspiration to me.
BN: Eddie Hearn said that you’re capable of fighting for a title this weekend. What’s realistic?
I’m happy to be here; getting ready. God’s timing is perfect; I’m gonna keep learning about professional boxing. I don’t have a minimum or maximum time, so when I’m ready I’m gonna get it.
I’m gonna keep moving in God’s time. I’m just letting my team do their work; I’m gonna be preparing. I’ve got a lot of hunger for victory.
BN: Regardless, does your age increase the need for you to be fast-tracked?
Maybe – because a lot of people think that’s too fast for me [to fight for a title this weekend], but I’m just getting ready. I’m gonna show the people that I can do it; that I can fight with the best out there.
BN: To what extent can you and Robeisy Ramirez define a new era for Cuban boxing?
Cuban boxing has a long history of great fighters, and I want to be part of this history. Robeisy Ramirez, he is a personal friend – we were teammates in Cuba. He is gonna achieve a lot of things because he’s one of the greatest boxers from Cuba.
BN: How do you reflect on the previous era, led by Yuriorkis Gamboa and the great Guillermo Rigondeaux?
Gamboa – he is also a legend of Cuban boxing – is one of the greatest fighters from Cuba. He could [have] achieved more here in professional boxing than he possibly could in his amateur career. Sometimes it happens – I’m sure that he was capable of achieving better things.
Rigondeaux is a master. Rigondeaux is one of the best fighters from Cuba – one of the greatest ones. All the people there love him – like he’s the best.
You can try, but you’ll never be sure that you can get [respect beyond Cuba]. That’s what happened to Gamboa and Rigondeaux – they tried their best and things just happened that way.
BN: How wary are you of avoiding falling into the same trap of indiscipline that has undermined so many other Cuban fighters?
It happens to a lot of Cubans when they come to the United States and have all that freedom. When boxers get freedom, a lot of boxers start doing a lot of things – they lose focus on their work. There are a lot of boxers that train and do everything well. [But] freedom is one of the things that could drive one crazy.
I’ve seen it in a lot of boxers when they lose focus in their careers – I won’t make the same mistake. I want to be different. I came to this country to get everything – to be one of the best boxers in the world. I didn’t come to play in this country.
BN: What do you need to become a similarly successful professional?
Well, everything is different. I’m gonna have to protect myself more. I’m not gonna stay the same, tactically, because I know here it’s more dangerous. There’s different gloves; different bandages; everything is different.
BN: What made you decide to train out of Philadelphia, under Bozy Ennis?
I just want to make everything different from all the Cuban boxers that come to the United States. I know that in this place I’m gonna make the best transition, because I saw the work that Bozy did with his son [Jaron “Boots” Ennis] – he’s one of the greatest fighters now. His dad is one of the best trainers here. So it’s the best place to make a transition here in the United States because they are the best here – in Philadelphia. Philadelphia is a city of boxing; I’m gonna learn a lot from here.
Co-manager Yolfri Sanchez, who is living with Cruz in a hotel in Philadelphia, interjects: I chose [Bozy Ennis], then I talked to [Andy] and let him know. He’s very humble; he listens to everyone. The whole team wants to make everything different [from other Cuban fighters’ more traditional route] with him, and he’s comfortable with it.
[Ennis is] serious with his boxing. I’ve seen all the videos; I’ve seen how Boots trains; he trains three times a day; he works a lot. Sometimes it’s not good to have the same people from your country around you – you could lose focus. Here, he’s alone. He’s working and training every day; no distractions.
Cruz continues: I feel very happy here. I feel more comfortable, because of the way they received us here. They want to work hard with me; they pay a lot of attention to me; they’re always very good at teaching me to do everything.
I’m just trying to adapt to this new world. I want to achieve everything – just like I did when I was an amateur boxer. I’m just focusing on making my life better. Doing what I came here to do.
The only [other] thing I do is rest, since the training here is very hard. Everything is new for me, so I just rest.
BN: How difficult was it to leave your family and friends behind in Matanzas to relocate to the US?
I miss my family a ton. The most difficult thing about all of this is missing my family – being away from them. I have one son [Anthony Taylor] who is one year old now. I wanted a different name [for him], and I liked the name [Cruz and the mother of his son have separated, but his girlfriend remains in Cuba].
It’s very hard, because all fathers want to be there for their son. It’s very difficult to miss the first steps of my son. I’m doing this all for him and my family.
BN: How good is the lightweight division you’re about to join?
I think all the attention I’ve been getting is because of the division I’m fighting in. All the guys in this division have a lot of talent; they work hard everyday to be the best; each one of them has a lot of skills.
[Gervonta] “Tank” Davis is a complete boxer; he’s a master in the ring. He’s got a lot of experience, and he’s one of the greats.
Shakur Stevenson is an intelligent boxer. He’s almost the same as Davis; he makes his opponents do what he wants them to do. So, he’s one of the greatest too.