Christina Cruz knows how to pick her spots.
For now, a spot on the Olympic team is the only one that matters, and Cruz did nothing to hurt her chances Saturday afternoon at the USA Boxing National Championships at Northern Quest Resort and Casino.
Against an aggressive opponent 12 years her junior, the 30-year-old Cruz took advantage of a new scoring system to win the national title at 119 pounds. Runner-up Ayanna Vasquez landed more blows, but Cruz connected on the better ones, especially in the last round, to take a unanimous 3-0 win.
“She’s a strong girl,” said Cruz. “But with the new scoring system, I was able to pick my shots better. Plus, I think I kept my composure a little better in the last round than she did.”
Both fighters expected to be here. Cruz is 10-1 since a semifinal loss here at the trials, while Vasquez is one of the top young contenders in the country. Both took unanimous decisions in Thursday’s semifinals.
For Vasquez, an 18-year-old from Las Cruces, N.M., who won a bronze medal last year at the USA Boxing Championships, the day brought a tough loss but another step up the podium, to silver.
“I felt I was more aggressive,” said Vasquez, who added that she brought a better “mean streak” to the ring but resolved to get back to work next week and improve her work in the clinches.
For both fighters and dozens others, the week in Spokane was another sprint during the long marathon toward the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil. Nothing else really matters, even at the age of 30.
If time is flying it’s only because Cruz is having so much fun. During introductions, she high-stepped into the ring while wearing a stars-and-stripes bandanna.
“Actually I feel young, because of boxing,” said Cruz, who also beat Vasquez at last year’s nationals en route to the title. Later that year, she finished third at the Olympic trials in Airway Heights.
That was the same year she quit her job as a secretary in New York to box full time – but not as a pro, even though she has 100 bouts under her many championship belts.
“I feel we’re more recognized than pros,” Cruz said. “Being an Olympian is better than being a world champion, I think.”
Her next stop? Many of them. Cruz plans to “travel with the national team and see the world again.”
All the way to Rio, three years from now?
“I know it will go fast,” Cruz said.
Elite Men’s Finals
108: Leroy Davila, New Brunswick, N.J., dec. Leopoldo Martinez, Laredo, Texas, 3-0
114: Malik Jackson, Washington, D.C., dec. Shawn Simpson, Chicago., 2-1
123: Eduardo Martinez, Aurora, Ill., dec. Stephen Fulton, Jr., Philadelphia, 2-1
132: Kenneth Sims, Jr., Chicago, Ill., dec. Cresencio Ramos, San Antonio, Texas, 2-1
141: Jose Alday, Odessa, Texas, dec. Nicholas Jefferson, Tacoma, 2-1
152: Jamontay Clark, Cincinnati, Ohio, dec. Tony Losey, Wichita, Kan., 3-0
165: Le’Shawn Rodriguez, Shirley, N.Y., won on a TB over Daniel Thomas, Concord, Calif.
178: Geremias Torres, Holyoke, Mass., dec. John Magda, Rutherford, N.J., 3-0
201: Michael Hilton, Trenton, N.J., dec. Joshua Temple, St. Louis, 2-1
201-plus: Cam F. Awesome, Kansas City, Mo., dec. Paul Koon, Philadelphia, 3-0
Elite Women’s Finals
106: Elisha Halstead, Philadelphia, dec. Alejandra Mercado, Rockford, Ill., 2-1
112: Marlen Esparza, Houston dec. Virgina Fuchs, Kemah, Texas, 2-1
119: Christina Cruz, New York, dec. Ayanna Vasquez, Las Cruces, N.M., 3-0
125: Jennifer Hamann, Seattle dec. Rianna Rios, Alice, Texas, 2-1
132: Queen Underwood, Seattle dec. Tiara Brown, Fort Meyers, Fla., 2-1
141: Bertha Aracil, Yonkers, N.Y., dec. Faith Franco, Duarte, Calif., 3-0
152: Danyelle Wolf, San Diego, dec. Fallon Farrar, Staten Island, N.Y., 3-0
165: Franchon Crews, Baltimore dec. Raquel Miller, San Francisco, 3-0
178: Tiffanie Hearn, Oxnard, Calif., dec. Dara Shen, Alexandria, Va., 3-0
Senior Men’s Finals
114: Charles Williams, Colorado Springs, Colo., won in a TKO over Andrew Moy, San Francisco, (1:34 of third)
123: Gary Russell, Capitol Heights, Md., dec. Sharone Carter, St. Louis, 2-1
132: Canton Miller, St. Louis, dec. Javar Jones, Anderson, Ind., 2-1
141: Patrick Harris, Hyattsville, Md., won in a DQ over Robert O’Quinn, Lansing, Mich.
152: Reyes Marquez, Colorado Springs, Colo., dec. Melquiades Ramirez, Denver, 3-0
165: Christopher Galeano, Bronx, N.Y., dec. Marquis Moore, Colorado Springs, Colo., 3-0
178: Steven Nelson, Colorado Springs, Colo., dec. Randy Foster, Covington, Ga., 3-0
201: Alvin Varmall, Laplace, La., dec. Hakim Lopez, Lithonia, Ga., 3-0
201-plus: Stephan Shaw, St. Louis, won in a TKO over George Faavae, Carson, Calif., (2:52 of third)