NEW YORK—Christina Cruz walks into Brooklyn’s world-famous Gleason’s Gym on a Wednesday morning in October, a few minutes later than she hoped.
“Traffic was crazy,” she exclaims as she gets ready for her sparring session.
No matter. She waited 22 years to get into boxing in the first place. A few more minutes aren’t going to hurt.
Cruz’s story is a rarity—especially in the boxing world.
A tomboy growing up with two brothers in Hell’s Kitchen, New York, she excelled at sports from a young age, but had never tried her fist at boxing.
No matter. She’s a natural athlete.
“I knew back then whatever I set my mind to I could do it,” said Cruz. “I was always good at picking up things fast.”
Not to mention late.
Four years after high school, Cruz found herself working as a secretary and not particularly liking it. When a friend convinced her to go with him to a boxing gym, she found her calling.
“The second I walked in with him, I fell in love with the sport.”
Sports like basketball and softball had previously been her passions and she excelled at them. Getting her to brag about how good she was though, isn’t easy.
“I would say I have a lot of championship trophies,” said Cruz laughing.
But there’s no joking about her achievements since she started boxing in 2005.
Ten years, nine Golden Gloves, and five USA national championships later, the 112-pound boxer is one of the best in the country—even if she doesn’t seem the type that wants to destroy her opponent in the ring. By contrast, UFC champion Ronda Rousey could strike fear into the eyes of anyone who recognizes her—man or woman.
Contrary to the stereotypes that go with female boxers, Cruz somehow maintains her soft side in a sport that features brutality.
Her training routine, however is anything but soft. Six days a week, six hours a day—three hours of strength and conditioning in the morning followed by three more hours of boxing drills in the afternoon. In between sessions she’s recovering while trying to eat right to stay at her weight.
Maybe that demanding routine is part of why she doesn’t really want to turn pro.
“If I do go pro, it’s just to say I did it but it’s not something I look forward to,” said Cruz.
She’s already preparing for life outside the ring. In addition to her six-day a week boxing schedule, she’s taking computer science classes to ready herself for a professional career after boxing.
Hopefully she’ll enjoy it more than being a secretary, yet what could compare to being one of the best in the ring? Cruz seems ready for the transition though.
“It’s taken up so much sacrifice and time and I love the sport and I know I’ll always be a part of it—it’s always going to be a part of my life.”