Defying the odds has been a trademark in the career of George Cruz. On Aug. 22, 1987, Cruz was in the corner as the trainer for Marlon Starling in World Boxing Association welterweight title fight against Mark Breland.
Undefeated and touted by many as the next Sugar Ray Robinson, Breland was a 10-1 favorite that day. But Cruz and Starling devised a plan where Starling, instead of fighting in usual defensive manner, would wade through Breland’s jab in an effort to wear the New Yorker down. Starling endured some punishment, but in Round 11, he mounted an assault that forced referee Tony Perez to stop the bout. Starling had pulled the upset, and Cruz was in his corner. It was the crowning achievement in Cruz’s career.
Now living in East Granby, Cruz has been a fixture on the Connecticut Boxing scene for nearly 40 years. He has managed and trained several top pros and amateurs while working as the boxing director at the San Juan Center in Hartford. Cruz overcame heart problems that left him incapacitated for several months in 2005, but at age 68, he remains active. In September, he was the matchmaker for the first amateur card in Enfield in nearly 70 years.