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Terri Cruz, the up-and-coming featherweight boxer from north Denver, recently took one on the chin in her drive for a belt. But as she's done throughout her life, she's come up swinging.

"Oh, yeah," she says. "I'm still training hard and hoping for a title shot."

Cruz, considered one of Colorado's toughest female boxers, lost a six-round decision on October 1 to top-ranked Elena "Baby Doll" Reid of Phoenix. Encouraged by her hometown crowd, Reid swept the first four rounds before Cruz came on strong in the fifth and sixth, rocking Reid numerous times.

"She did good," says Steve Mestas, Terri's trainer, promoter and boyfriend. "She probably moved up in the rankings even though she lost."

Cruz, now 6-3-2, views the loss as an educational exercise. The bout was her first six-rounder, and Reid, although ten years younger, has more formal experience, too. The 21-year-old Reid stepped into the ring at fifteen and once held the Arizona kickboxing title; at 115 pounds, she's rated number one in the world by three organizations. Cruz, on the other hand, learned her craft on the hardscrabble streets of Raton, New Mexico, where her father had launched his own pro career ("Queen of Heart" August 1). In 1999, with no amateur experience and no formal training, Cruz stepped from a bar brawl and into the ring, then proceeded to hold her own against some of the best fighters in the world. Before the Reid bout, Cruz, a 31-year-old single mother of three, had not lost a fight since November 1999. In fact, she'd just come off two first-round KOs.

Despite the setback, Cruz is not discouraged. "Hell, no," Mestas says. "She got so much stronger with this fight. This was one heck of a learning experience."

Next month, Cruz plans to put those lessons to the test in a tentative match against Canadian native Robin Pinto.

Cruz's older brother, Arturo Jr., has suffered a setback of his own. After winning the World Athletic Association welterweight belt several weeks earlier, on September 21 he suffered a sixth-round TKO at the hands of undefeated Pueblo native Andres "Panda" Pacheco. Arturo Jr. had been a last-second replacement for Elco Garcia, who'd backed out five days earlier because of health problems.

Arturo Jr., now 18-12-2, had only a few days to prepare for the fight, which settled the Universal Boxing Council's Intercontinental Junior Middleweight title. The 154-pound Pacheco pummeled 140-pound Arturo with body shot after body shot before the referee finally called the fight at 1:37 of the sixth.

Although the jump up in weight class and the short notice may have contributed to his loss, Arturo Jr. isn't complaining. He's too busy preparing for his November 22 match against undefeated (17-0) lightweight Juan Diaz in Atlantic City. A victory against Diaz would not only increase Arturo Jr.'s stature, but it would also add a little luster to the WAA belt he won by KO over John Roby in August.

"It feels good, real good," Arturo Jr. says of the title. "I haven't gotten out of the trailer park yet, but I'm working on it."

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Harrison Fletcher