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Boxing News, August 4, 2006

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Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing
Steven Lueveno, a Boyish but Far From Timid Featherweight



Californian featherweight Steven Luevano made a unique visit to the East Coast as the main even on Telefutura, and raised his record to 31-1 (14) by decisioning rugged Cristobal Cruz. Scores for the twelve-rounder were 115-110, 117-108 and 16-109

The 25-year-old southpaw Luevano came out cautiously and felt out his opponent. He likes to counter and pick his shots. Cruz, now 32-8-1 (21), may be crude in terms of technique but he has a few tricks in his bag. In the second and third, his long looping punches often hung over the back of Luevano’s neck like an octopus’ tentacles. With his other arm, he’d go to work on the body or slip in uppercuts. He wanted to see how Steven responded in close.

Apparently, not very well. Midway through the round Luevano threw a low blow that could’ve reached Chihuahua, Mexico.  Cruz dropped to the canvas and formed a ball. Referee Arthur Mercante, Jr. somehow ruled it a legal shot and began to count. The fighter rose at seven but wasn’t ready to continue, bending over as if stretching his hamstrings.  Mercante double-checked with an official if the blow was legal; it seems that person is blind, too.

The fourth featured hard exchanges. Luevano is the sharper puncher but Cruz is fearless. He’ll stand flatfooted and trade till he lands something big. With a couple ticks left on the clock Cruz walked into a right hook, which buckled him and sent him into an involuntary squat—but he never touched the canvas.

At the end of another hard-fought round in the fifth, Luevano threw another illegal blow directed at the crown jewels.  Cruz was badly hurt.  And again, no point was taken. After the break, Cruz was offered the customary five minutes to recover; he gave himself a minute.  When the boxing commenced, Cruz winged his shots while Luevano deftly played the matador.  I doubt Cruz has ever thrown a jab in his life.

Cruz kept trying in the seventh, eight and ninth, but his wild bulrushes only played into Luevano’s clean counters and nimble feet, which corner like a Porsche. With a minute left in the ninth Luevano hurt Cruz with a straight left. Rather exploit the moment, he inexplicably tossed the wobbly opponent to the canvas.  A point could’ve been taken in light of his past indiscretions, but of course wasn’t. Steven’s boyish features, as smooth and hairless as a baby’s bottom, lend him an innocence.

Luevano’s left hook to the gut at 2:15 of the ninth was faultless.  Cruz needed nearly the full count to make it to his feet and smartly left his mouthpiece on the canvas.

Weakened by all the punishment, Cruz was outgunned by a sharp-shooting Luevano in tenth and eleventh.  When Cruz was once again dish-ragged to the canvas, Mercante finally took a point.  This would do him no good. To his credit, he never stopped trying, and resembled a human windmill through the end of the bout.

Juan Manuel Lopez, a super bantamweight Top Rank has great expectations for, moved his record to 13-0 (11) when Edel Ruiz retired in his corner after the sixth. Ruiz, now 28-15-4 (19), represented a stern test for the 23-year-old boxer-puncher from Caguas, Puerto Rico.

The first two round were spirited as the veteran Ruiz employed tactics, legal and illegal, that kept the young southpaw in check.  He deftly tied up Lopez’s arms, and held and hit when the ref was out of position. He billy goats and does a fair job making it look accidental. When he kept it clean, he found a home for his right when the 2004 Olympian stood in front of him or dropped his guard after getting off.  Ruiz timed his jab and came over the top with left hooks.

With 20 seconds remaining in the second, things went from physical to nasty as they tussled on the inside, exchanging rabbit punches and low blows. If the ref didn’t intervene soon, things would devolve into a WWF-style grudge match.

In the following session Lopez showed why Bob Arum is putting his chips on him; he made adjustments. He took advantage of his lefty stance, circling to his right and lining up hard lefts to Ruiz’s grill.  He got up on his toes, weightless on spry legs, and displayed a dimension his journeyman opponent had no answer for.  He could’ve easily darted in and out and pot-shotted his way to a points victory. A more cautious, less aggressive kid probably would.  That’s ain’t him.

Towards the end of the round Lopez held Ruiz’s head in place and sliced him with an uppercut.  He was given a warning—had he brandished an ax, maybe referee John Callas would’ve taken a point.

As Ruiz continued to lead with his head in the fourth, Lopez continued pushing it down and resting his weight on it.  Another prospect might’ve panicked or lost control of his emotions.  Lopez’s shrewd response eroded not just Ruiz’s spirit but also his legs. Still, one of the commentators had the fight even going into the fifth.

Ruiz essentially folded in the fifth.  He feigned injury whenever Lopez leaned down on his neck and back. At one point, the ref called a knockdown without beginning a count. Lopez grew stronger while the other devised a way to gracefully bow out.  At the end of the sixth a storming Lopez had his man falling back on the ropes and covering up, tacitly requesting that someone stop it.

While Ruiz initially offered a hearty challenge, one began to understand those 14 losses were there for a reason. Top Rank’s matchmaker Bruce Trampler knows exactly what he’d doing, and made a wise choice for this gifted boxer on the rise.

Other Action:
Super featherweight Matt Remillard remained undefeated, getting a TKO in 4 over Oscar de la Cruz; middleweight Elvin Ayala also stayed unbeaten (16-0), stopping John Gottschling in one; cruiserweight Tyrone Smith won a four-round MD over Dione Craig; and another cruiserweight, Carlos Lovato, stopped Deric Flores in two.





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