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Leonardo Cruz (born January 17, 1953 in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic), better known in the world of boxing as Leo Cruz, was a world Jr. Featherweight champion from the Dominican Republic.
Leo was the brother of Carlos Cruz, a man whom many recognize as one of the greatest fighters to come out of the Dominican Republic. His brother Carlos had conquered the world Lightweight title by beating Carlos Ortiz in 1969, and was on his way to a rematch with Ortiz at San Juan, when his Dominicana De Aviación DC-9 jet crashed shortly after take-off, killing everyone on board. With that, Leo had to learn how to deal with life's hardships at a very young age (see: Dominicana DC-9 air disaster).
He began his successful professional boxing career in Puerto Rico, with a string of wins. Despite having beaten future two time world champion Lupe Pintor, however, Cruz was still a virtual unknown when given a chance to win the WBC world Jr. Featherweight championship. Despite losing by a knockout in the 13th round against world champion Wilfredo Gómez, his stock around the boxing world rose after that fight. Cruz kept on fighting, and winning, until he was given a second world title try, this time by the WBA world champion Sergio Palma, in Buenos Aires. Cruz was beaten by a decision in 15 by the Argentine world champion, but in a rematch on February 1982 at Miami, Cruz became world champion by defeating Palma by a decision, also in 15 rounds.
Cruz in his first defense knocked out Benito Badilla of Chile in eight rounds, at Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan. When Gómez left his WBC title vacant soon after, Cruz became recognized by most fans as the universal world champion. Then, he defeated South Korean challenger Soon-Hyun Chung, by decision in 15; after dropping him in round eight; also in San Juan. In his first defense at his home country, Cruz put his title on the line on August 1983 against Nicaraguan challenger Cleo Garcia at Santo Domingo. Cruz retained the title by a decision.
With a defense against Puerto Rican Victor Luvi Callejas looming ahead, Cruz went to Milan in February 1984, and, while defending his crown against Italian Loris Stecca, was stopped in round 12, therefore losing the world featherweight title.
Cruz attempted a comeback in 1985, winning one fight, but retiring for good after that.
- Perez, Santos (1982-06-10). "Palma vs. Cruz, one more time". The Miami News. Retrieved 2010-12-17.
- "Fans' Spirit Helps Cruz Earn Decision". Gainesville Sun. Associated Press. 1982-06-14. Retrieved 2010-12-17.
- "Leo Cruz makes first title defense". St. Joseph News-Press. Associated Press. 1982-11-13. Retrieved 2010-12-17.
- "Mancini blasts rival, who is critical". Star-News. 1982-11-14. Retrieved 2010-12-17.
- "Cruz defends title". Reading Eagle. United Press International. 1983-03-16. Retrieved 2010-12-17.
- "Sports Shorts". The Lewiston Daily Sun. Associated Press. 1984-02-22. Retrieved 2010-12-17.
- "Stecca overcomes Cruz". Reading Eagle. Associated Press. 1984-02-23. Retrieved 2010-12-17.
Sergio Victor Palma
|WBA Super Bantamweight Champion
12 Jun 1982– 22 Feb 1984