The only thing missing on Christina Cruz (Atlas Cops N Kids) was a cape.
The 112-pound wonder woman placed an exclamation point on her Daily News Golden Gloves career Thursday night by toying with Florina Novac (Evolution BC) on the way to victory at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. Cruz recorded a second-round stoppage to earn her sixth straight Gloves championship.
That broke a tournament record set by New York amateur boxing legend Mark Breland, who watched carefully from ringside.
“I never go for a knockout, but I did want one,” Cruz said with a smile. “I wanted to go out the way I did, just like the great ones like Mark Breland and Sugar Ray Robinson. This is my last time fighting in the Garden as an amateur.”
Women’s boxing legend Christy Martin placed the record-setting pair of Gloves around Cruz’s neck, which is surely running out of real estate.
“It was such a shock,” Cruz said. “My trainer said, ‘Look who’s there,’ and it was Christy Martin. It’s such an honor; she’s such a role model in the sport.”
Sticking with his bull-like style, 152-pound Benjamin Baez (White Plains Youth BC) continuously charged at Ronniel Vargas (Atlas Cops N Kids) with his shoulders hunched and head down. Vargas countered with speed and height, keeping his distance from his shorter opponent. In the end, the matador conquered the bull for a 4-1 win.
“I wasn’t nervous the whole day, but when I got in the ring, I felt all the pressure just drop on me,” Vargas said. “(But) I won. That’s what’s important.”
In addition to the honor of being a Gloves champion, Vargas will remember his first title for its sentimental value. The youngster follows in the footsteps of his brother Ronnie, who was gunned down in the Bronx in 2008 at the start of his promising professional career.
“It doesn’t take boxing to make me think of my brother,” Vargas said. “He’s in my heart 24/7.”
With his followers fueling his fire, Joe Schiraldo (FDNY Boxing Team) beat Dequan Burgos (John’s Gym) to win his first Golden Gloves title. Upon hearing the news, the ecstatic fireman dropped to his knees in celebration.
“The crowd really helped; I had over 100 people here to see me,” said Schiraldo, who has been fighting for only 10 months. “This is one of the greatest feelings of my life.”
Former champions Juan Roman (Brotherhood BC) and Michael Stoute (Veteran’s Memorial BC) couldn’t separate themselves for two rounds, but Roman seized control in the third, mixing flurries with speed and strength to take his second Gloves title.
After several tries, Vassiliy Zherebnenko finally won a title with a 4-1 victory over Bryant Cruz (Main St. BC) in the 132-pound open final.
The Gloves finals are back at the Garden Friday night at 7:30.