Erika Cruz scored an upset in tonight’s Ring City USA main event, dominating against Jelena Mrdjenovich to take the WBA featherweight title and possibly move on to an even bigger bout with Amanda Serrano.
Cruz (13-1, 3 KO) won on technical decision scores of 70-63 across the board, after the fight was stopped early in the seventh due to cuts on Mrdjenovich (41-11, 2, 19 KO). Since the main cut was ruled to be caused by a clash of heads (replays showed it may well have been a punch that did it), it went to the cards. At that point, there was no doubt; Cruz had won every round.
Bad Left Hook scored the fight 70-64 for Cruz, giving the 25 seconds of the seventh round a 10-10 instead of going 10-9 either way.
Mrdjenovich, the 38-year-old Canadian veteran, just had an awful night here. The Ring City team felt she “got old,” and maybe, but however you slice it she was getting tagged by the aggressive Cruz from the first round, and it never stopped. Cruz isn’t the most technically sound fighter, but she was landing her wide shots regularly, and Mrdjenovich never got out of the starting blocks here.
Trainer Johnathon Banks urged Mrdjenovich between every round to box and noted she was “giving the fight away” a couple of times. In the end, Jelena never found the rhythm, and Erika Cruz won her first world title in convincing fashion.
Cruz dedicated the fight to her father, who has trained her throughout her career but couldn’t be at the fight tonight.
“Every round that went by, I thought of my father. I couldn’t come this far and disappoint him, and I didn’t do that,” she said. “We have the belt!”
Amanda Serrano, the WBC and WBO titleholder who recently fought on Ring City USA, was watching the fights and congratulated Cruz via social media, and also let it be known she wants to do a three-belt unification.
Usually this might get a quick bullet point recap with some highlights below, but this one was wild and dramatic and deserves a bit more attention.
Ruiz (17-1, 12 KO) was fighting for the first time since 2019, when he lost a second round KO against Javier Flores in California. He decided to replace his father in the corner with veteran trainer Manny Robles, and he took this fight against Mominov, a Kazakh fighter who came in unbeaten.
Mominov had the better of the first round rounds, but he’d also shown something else he’s become known for: Dirty tactics. He went low on Ruiz a few times, and then in the fifth really cracked Ruiz with a nasty low blow. Ruiz took most of his allotted five minutes to recover, then came back just firing. Not only did Mominov lose a point by deduction (deserved) for the foul, but he was dropped in the fifth round, too, and all of a sudden the fight was on.
Mominov went down again in the seventh round, and though he fought hard trying to win it in the eighth, it was too little, too late. Ruiz got the win on scores of 75-74, 76-73, and 76-73. Bad Left Hook had it 75-74 for Ruiz. Mominov is now 12-1 (8 KO).
- Juan Pablo Romero UD-10 Deiner Berrio: Romero stays unbeaten, going to 14-0 (9 KO) with a clear win over Berrio, who drops to 22-3-1 (13 KO). Romero, a 31-year-old Sergeant in the Mexican Army, isn’t really a prospect and doesn’t look like he’s going to be a late blooming contender, but he fought in the Olympics in 2016 and is a decent, well-disciplined fighter at 140/147. Berrio, a Colombian based in Los Angeles, is 30 so he’s no young fighter, either, and he just didn’t throw enough. He gave a last-ditch KO a shot in the 10th and final round, throwing what he had, but he only had about a half-round of that in him. Bad Left Hook had the fight 97-93 for Romero.
- Christian Mbilli TKO-5 Jesus Antonio Gutierrez: A fun fight to watch, but ultimately really one-sided, with Mbilli (18-0, 17 KO) taking some shots from Gutierrez (27-5-2, 14 KO) but mostly having his way, pouring on the pressure from the opening bell and never relenting. Mbilli is a bit small in height at super middleweight, standing just over 5’8”, but he’s sturdily built and has a lot of energy and some power. “The game plan was to destroy him round by round,” Mbilli said, and that worked. Gutierrez hung tough but went down in the fifth, was really done there, but got up and was dropped again for the finish. Mbilli is 25, born in Cameroon but fights out of France, and has proven willing to travel, fighting at home, in Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. a couple times now. He says he’s “ready for everyone” after this fight. Someone to watch.
- Jalan Walker D-6 Angel Antonio Contreras: A step up for Walker, who just turned 19 in January, and it doesn’t quite pay off, but it’s not a huge setback, either. He was disappointed but composed about it in his post-fight interview. Scores were 58-56 for Walker, 58-56 for Contreras, and 57-57. I scored the fight 58-56 for Walker and felt it was closer to 59-55 Walker than anything closer than that, but the last three rounds were competitive, Contreras (11-4-2, 7 KO) definitely won the sixth round. Walker (8-0-1, 7 KO) remains a good prospect at featherweight, he’s someone top promoters should still have an eye on. He made some tactical mistakes here, staying in the pocket a bit too much, which was fun for us to watch but also gave the 26-year-old Contreras the only real chance he had to win this or even be competitive. But he’ll be back.
- Daniel Bailey KO-1 Luis Alvarado: Bailey is a 24-year-old Army vet and four-time Army champion, on the show here for obvious reasons on both sides, I’m sure. Alvarado (1-3, 0 KO) didn’t really seem to want to be here. He took a shot to the chin, went down, complained he was hit in the back of the head (he wasn’t), and it was over in 27 seconds when he took the 10 count. Bailey has worked with the Terence Crawford camp, so commentator Jamel Herring knew him well and spoke highly of him. If you’re in or near Myrtle Beach, Bailey will be fighting May 15 on a card promoted by Christy Martin.