Gabriela Fundora (right) lands a long right jab on Christina Cruz – Photo by Golden Boy/Cris Esqueda
The already very competitive flyweight division received a major shakeup this week with the result of the biggest women’s fight of the weekend.
Current IBF titleholder Gabriela Fundora stopped former amateur star Christina Cruz in ten rounds in the undercard of the Jaime Munguia-John Ryder event. It wasn’t an explosive stoppage, caused as it was by Cruz momentarily turning her back on her foe in the very last round and with only a few seconds to go in the fight. But as hasty as the stoppage may have seem, Fundora’s performance itself was a patient and progressive display of boxing ability.
Fundora, rated at No. 3 by The Ring going into the fight, used her considerable advantages in height and reach to keep Cruz at bay for most of the fight, and exhibited a poise and maturity well above her 23 years of age. Cruz, at 40, may have made the jump to the pros a little too late after a long and illustrious career as an amateur, but in her best moments she looked very capable of controlling the action and breaking through Fundora’s defense, but her best moments were short-lived, and Fundora cruised to victory with a dominant second half of the bout.
For all this, Fundora has been elevated to No. 1 in our flyweight top 5, a category in which Marlen Esparza still reigns as our inaugural champion.
“I agree with Fundora moving up,” said radio columnist Cynthia Conte. “She’s earned that spot. Christina Cruz was an excellent text for Gabriela, which she passed with flying colors. The ending was terrible but Cruz should’ve know better not to turn your back like that.”
“Strongly agree with Gabriela Fundora being elevated to the No. 1 spot,” said the writer Christopher Benedict. “Christina Cruz certainly had her moments, enough to keep things interesting until Fundora and Father Time caught up with her in the final round. Fundora’s height, youth, punching power, and pulverizing rangefinder of a jab make her a nightmare for anyone, namely Esparza.”
Cruz got her share of respect from the panel as well.
“Cruz was a great challenge for Fundora,” said writer and editor of Rincon Rojo magazine, Irene Deserti. “She forced her to rethink her fight. Cruz could not maintain the pace of the first rounds, which had given her good results. Good for Gabriela! She has grown a lot in her last four fights!”
“Really good test for Gabriela, but youth and long limbs were on her side,” said Lupi Gutierrez-Beagle, of Beautiful Brawlers. “I give Christina Cruz all the respect in the world. As an amateur she won seven National titles, six of them back-to-back, and was in the first-ever USA Olympic Trials.”
“It was a delight to see Cruz in action, especially in those early rounds when she couldn’t miss and her footwork provided a clinic on how to use the ring to keep a taller fighter at bay,” said historian Malissa Smith. “The 20-year difference, however, was telling. With Fundora beginning to figure out how to press her considerable advantages of strength, height, and the stamina of a well-tuned young athlete, Cruz began to lose momentum as well as to feel Fundora’s considerable power.
For some, however, it was her extended amateur experience what prevented her from making a successful transition to the pros.
“Cruz still fights like an amateur and was cooked after the fourth round,” said columnist Mark Jones. “I only gave her the third and fourth rounds. You can’t fight like an amateur and expect to impress seasoned professional judges.”
Diego M. Morilla has written for The Ring since 2013. He has also written for HBO.com, ESPN.com and many other magazines, websites, newspapers and outlets since 1993. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He has won two first-place awards in the BWAA’s annual writing contest, and he is the moderator of The Ring’s Women’s Ratings Panel. He served as copy editor for the second era of The Ring en Español (2018-2020) and is currently a writer and editor for RingTV.com.