Ronnie Shields is the only trainer in boxing today that has two world champions in the same weight class — Erislandy Lara and Jermall Charlo (154 pounds).
The highly regarded Houston-based Shields also has a bevy of young prospects in his top-notch stable, including unbeaten lightweight Bryant “Peewee” Cruz and undefeated middleweight Steed “The Stallion” Woodall, who’ll be featured tonight on Showtime.
What are your general thoughts on Cruz and Woodall?
“I think they’re both very good, and getting better. They should be contenders very soon. I know they’re ready to show the public and boxing fans what they have, that they belong. That’s why it is so great for them to be part of this ShoBox card at this stage of career. The competition picks up when you’re on ShoBox but this is how you prove you belong. ShoBox is the way to start if you are determined to prove you belong in the upper echelon of your division, and both Peewee and Steed are very determined to do just that.
“I’m proud of both guys for giving me everything they have every day. They are tremendous human beings and I look forward to continuing to work with them. I can’t wait for the day both guys get their hands raised as world champions.’’
How long have you worked with Cruz?
“This is our fourth fight together. The first time I saw him fight was at BB Kings in New York. Kevin Rooney had asked me to take a look of him. I liked what I saw, so he came to Houston to train. Then, he went back to New York and didn’t look impressive in his fight there. After that, he came back to Houston, I got him an apartment and we’ve been together since.’’
How would you describe Cruz’ style and work ethic?
“Peewee can box when he has to box. He has a really good jab, and is really fast when he uses it. When he has to put on pressure he can do it that way, too. He loves fighting that way, throwing punches all the time. But he’s still learning.
“In and out of the ring, Peewee is very dedicated. There are no problems in the gym. He loves to train, works hard, does what he’s supposed to do and loves to learn. I expect big things from him.”
On fighting late substitute Dardan Zenunaj?
“We know very little about the Belgian kid except that he’s a solid featherweight/super featherweight that comes to fight. We were supposed to fight a kid from Brooklyn, Jesus Ferrer, but he got injured.
“This fight is at 133 pounds, the same as it would have been for Ferrer. Peewee is more of a 130-pounder anyway. When the original fight with Ferrer, a lightweight, was made, it was contracted for 133 pounds. Since both Peewee and Ferrer are DiBella fighters, it was decided to compromise on the weight and split it down the middle. So nothing’s changed weight-wise.
“One thing’s for sure, Peewee is not taking Friday’s fight lightly.’’
Has there been anything about Cruz and/or his development that’s surprised you?
“He hasn’t surprised me at all, not yet. He’s still a young fighter. I think we’re putting him fight-wise at the right pace. We’re excited about his first fight on ShoBox, where people can really see him. Opportunities like this is how you show your capability and what you’re about.
“So many fighters that start on ShoBox wind up fighting on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING. We’re trying to get to that point — fight a few times on ShoBox, show fans how you improve while stepping up in class each time. It (ShoBox) keeps up with you in your career, who you are, where you came from and where you end up.’’
How long have you been with Woodall and what are your general thoughts on him?
“This is my second fight with him. Steed was a top amateur in England. He’s definitely more of a puncher, a really good puncher, one of those kids with dynamite in both hands, and is very strong.’’
How did you and Woodall hook up?
“The first time I was at one of his fights, I didn’t really pay attention to him. Then I got a call right after the fight (Rooney) to see if I had seen his fight. When I said I didn’t, they asked me if I would take a look at him and see if there was anything I thought I could do to improve him.
Then, his manager called me. After that, Steed and his manager came to Houston, we talked, they checked out our gym and he has been here since.’’
Is there one specific thing you concentrate on in training with Woodall?
“Defense is something we have to work on a lot. Steed takes a lot of chances in there. He’ll come straight at you. What we stress in the gym is that if he is going to fight like that then the most important thing to that is to add a good jab first.
“His thing is to catch and counter what the other guy gives.’’
On the upcoming fight with Steve Rolls?
“I’ve been watching a lot of tape on Rolls, and he’s a really good fighter. You can’t underestimate him, that’s why he’s unbeaten. He’s a tall guy (at 5-feet-10, Rolls is three inches taller than Woodall) whose definitely got some skills. Steed has to be really careful.
“A key for Steed is to impose his will on him, show who the better fighter is. This is going to be a good fight.”