Daniel Ponce De Leon’s technique is hard to describe. Some describe the form as one of a prehistoric bug who uses his arms as feelers and then attacks with brutish force. It’s so strange that it may be what’s keeping the WBO Super Bantamweight Champion off HBO’s Boxing After Dark this weekend.
While some may mock the Chihuahua, Mexico native’s technique, the fact is that De Leon (27-1, 25 KO’s) has brutalized all his opponents with the exception of one talented and extremely tall super bantamweight out of Panama named Celestino Caballero to whom he lost a decision. De Leon now looks to get back some big time buzz by making his first defense against undefeated Alejandro Barrera (18-0, 12 KO’s). Unfortunately, it’ll be happening before the cameras roll on HBO. While it was first announced that De Leon and Barrera would be the side dish on the Jhonny Gonzalez-Fernando Montiel main event, it looks like it’ll be undefeated prospects Paul Williams and Walter Matthysse who will be taking the lime light instead.
A big disappointment for De Leon who expressed much excitement about being part of the HBO production at the press conference announcing the bouts. “It feels somewhat disrespectful. These guys are decent fighters but I’m a world champion and Barrera’s undefeated. I don’t get it. It’s just wrong,” said De Leon from his residence in Los Angeles. “There are posters back home in Mexico saying I’ll be fighting on HBO all over restaurants and bars. It’s pretty disappointing. I was angry at first but I’m okay about it now.”
I had heard of the former Mexican Olympian’s prowess and finally saw him in action at the San Diego Sports Arena on February 2004 against the usually sturdy Cesar Figueroa. De Leon went on in his odd, chopping style and beat Figueroa into submission by the sixth round.
I happened to be sitting next to the great sports writer from the San Diego Union Tribune Jerry Magee who was awed by De Leon’s strength but termed him a “one armed fighter with a strange style”. I also happened to be sitting directly behind De Leon’s promoter Oscar de la Hoya and asked him to evaluate his fighter who had just viciously submitted Figueroa with an unrelenting body attack. “He’s still green. He has some work to do,” said the Golden Boy of his charge who was then 18-0.
Fast forward to June of 2005 and De Leon was now 25-1. De Leon had lost his undefeated status to Caballero in an action filled bout. De Leon was now facing Phillip Payne in a career rebuilding effort at the Show Palace in Oceanside, California. De Leon again went in and hacked and bulled his way to a seventh round stoppage. Noticing De Leon’s manager Joel de la Hoya Sr. at the venue, I had to ask about what he thought of De Leon’s technique. “It’s very strange. I know,” admitted Senor de la Hoya. “But he’s an incredibly strong kid. I’m going to get involved in more of his training and hopefully I can have more of an effect on the way he fights,” he said back then.
Obviously you can’t teach odd dogs new techniques. De Leon hasn’t changed much and no one realistically expects him to modify the style that’s bought his bread and butter. “This is the way I’ve always fought. I have a unique style. No one can ever emulate what I do. This is how I’m going to continue to fight. I have 25 knockouts in 28 fights. I’ve done pretty well for myself,” said De Leon. Pretty well indeed. De Leon is coming off a solid unanimous decision win over formerly undefeated Thai Sod Looknongyangtoy in his title winning effort.
It was last minute and HBO changed their B.A.D line up on what they’re billing “Mexican Storm Rising” and instead slated Williams and Mathysse as the co-main event. While the two welterweight up and comers have shown a lot of promise, they certainly haven’t achieved anything that merits a shot on an elite boxing network like HBO. “I have a track record of putting on great fights. This is a world title fight too. These guys haven’t done anything impressive in my eyes. I don’t even know who they are,” said De Leon.
The problem is that Barrera’s record indicates that his achievements aren’t anything to crow about either. HBO’s thinking maybe that a battle between two Welterweight knockout artists will ultimately intrigue its boxing audience more than De Leon-Barrera.
This is exactly the kind of thing that can start making a fighter question themselves and their abilities but De Leon’s confidence isn’t swayed. “This gives me more incentive to beat Barrera convincingly. Barrera is a good boxer with a good record. An exciting win over him should open up some eyes. I already have a lot of fans. My fights on Telefutura had great ratings. People like what I do. I leave my heart in the ring. I’m rugged and I can punch and people like to see those types of fighters. All I can do is keep working to win the respect of the boxing networks. Eventually I’ll win them over.”
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Who will win? Wladimir Klitschko or Tyson Fury?