Professional boxer Christina Cruz, known as “The Hell’s Kitchen Kid”, was born and raised in the neighborhood. She racked up a closetful of titles, awards and wins in her amateur career — and that success has continued since she turned pro in 2021. This is Christina’s West Side Story

Christina Cruz boxing
Christina Cruz heading to work in the boxing ring. Photo: Janice Yim

So, what’s your New York story? Born here, or just arrived?
I was born and raised in Hell’s Kitchen.

What was your first job? What do you do now?
My first real job was bussing tables at Manhattan Plaza Cafe. I was about 14 years old at the time. I remember they had the best french fries and I used to sneak corn muffins from the bread basket into my mouth in between breaks. Now I’m a professional boxer, known as “The Hell’s Kitchen Kid”. I started boxing at a local club in 2006, and since then I’ve racked up a total of seven USA National Championships and two world medals in the bantamweight division. I also hold the record for most consecutive NY Golden Glove titles. I’m undefeated since turning pro in 2021.

What’s your favorite New York minute (or moment) so far?
Being a kid in Hell’s Kitchen in the late 90s. My friends and I had so much fun running around the neighborhood. I got to experience what Hell’s Kitchen was like back then and what it is now. I feel like I’ve transformed with it.

Christina Cruz Manhattan Plaza
Christina Cruz and her “little bro” outside Manhattan Plaza. Photo supplied

Share with us why you love Hell’s Kitchen
I love Hell’s Kitchen because it is so cultured. It’s a melting pot of different types of people but we all know how to coexist together. It’s like it’s own little world. 

What’s your superpower or hidden talent?
My hidden talent displays my artistic side. I won’t get too much into it because it is a secret, but I have a finsta (fake Instagram) that displays it. 🎨🖌

What else should we know about you?
On August 10, at Sony Hall on W46th Street, I will be fighting in my fifth professional boxing fight. I hope to see you all there. Hell’s Kitchen was my playground growing up — and because of that, it has made me into the athlete I am today.

Christina’s Favorite Hell’s Kitchen Places

Little Pie Company — 424 W43rd Street (bw 9th/10th Ave)
I get nostalgic every time I walk by and smell those pies. It’s such a Hell’s Kitchen staple.

Claudio’s Pizza — 598 10th Avenue (bw W43/44th St)
I’ve eaten at Claudio’s Pizza since I was a toddler. Ha ha! As a teenager, my friends and I would buy a slice and sit on the stoop next door. Those same friends and I sometimes still do it. Their pizza tastes as good as it did in the 90s. Ask for a fresh slice.

Sonny’s Grocery Store — 767 10th Avenue (bw W51/52nd St)
They still have early 2000s prices. 

Guantanamera — 939 8th Avenue (bw W55/56th St)
Guantanamera has great Cuban food — but what I love best is the live music.

Sacco Pizza — 819 9th Avenue (bw W54/55th St)
Some of the best pizza you will ever taste.

Empanada Mama — 765 9th Avenue (bw W51/52nd St)
Such a large variety of empanadas. There’s always an empanada for someone, even the picky eaters.

Pío Pío — 604 10th Avenue (bw W43/44th St)
Good Peruvian food. Ask for their Arroz Chaufa and green sauce to put on their chicken.

You can follow Christina on Instagram @christinacruzbox. If you know someone who would make a great West Side Story (or you would like to nominate yourself), please fill in this form —

You can check out more West Side Stories and reader recommendations on W42ST’s Hell’s Kitchen Local App.

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    1. I was wondering that, too—maybe she means the St. Francis Cafe that used to be near the MPHC (health club).

      1. I believe the Manhattan Plaza Cafe was the cafe that used to be in the 484 building of Manhattan Plaza. It had two levels, as I recall. They did have good food! When they closed (I can’t recall the year), Manhattan Plaza Health Club took over the space and converted it to what are now the cardio and the reception areas, if I’m not mistaken.
        I haven’t thought about it in years!

        1. UPDATE: I asked my wife what the name of that MP restaurant and she said it wasn’t Manhattan Plaza Cafe, so please pardon my above misinformation!

  1. UPDATE: I asked my wife what the name of that MP restaurant and she said it wasn’t Manhattan Plaza Cafe, so please pardon my above misinformation!

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