There’s no doubt that WBO super bantamweight champion Daniel Ponce De Leon (29-1, 27 KO’s) felt disrespected by HBO when his originally scheduled TV fight against Alejandro Barrera was replaced by a match between unproven welterweight prospects Paul “The Punisher” Williams and Walter Matthysse on the Jhonny Gonzalez vs. Fernando Montiel undercard. “I’m a world champion,” he said back then. “What have these guys accomplished?” He’d fought on just about every Spanish language network but Ponce De Leon looked forward to getting some real exposure on a big time program like HBO’s Boxing After Dark. He was shocked to hear his fight was downgraded to being part of the non-televised undercard. “I did feel bad about it but I made the best of the situation,” Ponce De Leon said. “I made sure people noticed me that night.”
Those that attended the event at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California were treated to a brutal display of power by De Leon as he annihilated Barrera’s replacement, Gerson Guerrero, in two rounds. His original opponent bailed out when he found out his fight wasn’t being televised. It was an impressive performance that left Guerrero laid out on the canvas after a devastating uppercut. Guerrero was cut up badly around the mouth after that particular exchange. There was so much blood that it somehow ended up smeared on the back of Guerrero’s head. It was a testament to the raw power of Ponce De Leon.
The suits took notice especially after their replacement bout turned out to be an unspectacular one-sided drubbing of Matthysse. “I convinced people that evening. It was easily the best fight of the night,” De Leon said. “I made the people at HBO and Golden Boy take notice. After I knocked out Guerrero the way I did, they had no choice. They put me on against Sod Looknongyangtoy on HBO first and now I’m on their pay-per-view.” Ponce De Leon knocked out the Thai fighter with an impressive left hook in the first round when they fought. The demolition is arguably the leading candidate for knockout of the year. The 26-year-old is now scheduled to fight Al Seeger (27-1, 21 KO’s) on Golden Boy Promotions’ pay-per-view titled “Mexican Glory” from El Paso, Texas.
The Sierra Madre Mountains of Chihuahua, Mexico are inhabited by an Indian people known as the Tarahumara. Famed for being prodigious long-distance runners and farmers, Daniel Ponce De Leon wants give his people a boxer they can be proud of. “My goal is the same one that most fighters have. To do something big. To make history. I’m the second world champion out of Chihuahua,” he said. “Jesus ‘Matador’ Chavez was the first. I want to make Mexico proud and I want to represent the Tarahumara’s as best as I can.”
Ponce De Leon is slowly accomplishing his goal. After winning the vacant world title from Looknongyangtoy in their first match, he wants to eventually take on the biggest names in the division. “There are plenty of fighters out there in my weight category that can make for big fights,” he said. “There’s the other two world champions, Israel Vazquez and Celestino Caballero.” Caballero, the nearly 6-foot tall, 122 lb. phenom is of special interest to the 5-foot-5 Ponce De Leon. Caballero, the WBA champ, is the only man to beat him and he expects their paths will soon cross. “I’m going to have to fight him if I’m going to unify the titles so eventually we’ll see each other again,” said De Leon. “It’ll be different this time. I wasn’t prepared for such a tall opponent. I hadn’t seen any tapes of him at all so I wasn’t familiar with his style. I have no doubt that if we meet again I’ll beat him.”
Israel Vazquez, the WBC champion who’s been garnering so much attention for his standout performance against Jhonny Gonzalez is someone that also comes to mind. Ponce De Leon was impressed by the Mexico City native’s resilience and fighting spirit that pulled him through what seemed to be a one-sided affair for Gonzalez. “Israel Vazquez is a great champion. He made an amazing comeback and a statement by winning the fight after looking like a beaten man. It was a great victory. If the timing is right, he’s someone I’d definitely like to face,” said Ponce De Leon.
For now, Ponce De Leon has Seeger to contend with and he’s no easy pickings. The 5’8” tall and rangy fighter out of Savannah, Georgia has some of the same assets that made Caballero such a nightmare for Ponce De Leon. “I’ve been sparring with a lot of tall fighters in order to adjust. I know he’s got a great jab, he’s got great movement and he’s a knockout puncher like I am. I’ve studied him well. I’m completely prepared. I know I’m going to win,” he insists. While considered a knockout puncher, Ponce De Leon contends that he trains to win and not necessarily for the KO “God has blessed me with knockout power but I prepare for a twelve-round fight every time. You never know how a fight’s going to go.” He’s aware that Seeger is dangerous and is treating the fight accordingly. “I trained for this fight like it’s the toughest of my career. That’s the way a champion has to look at every fight. There’s no other way.”
Although a Tarahumara, Ponce De Leon is no runner inside the ring. He moves forward launching powerful, odd punches from strange angles that have stopped 27 of his 30 opponents. “I only run on the roads when I’m training for a fight. The ring’s not for running, it’s for fighting, so don’t expect to see me running around. That’s not what I do,” he said. He’s confident his training has paid off and promises that Seeger won’t be the same once the evening’s over. “If the knockout comes – then great. We’ll see if he can handle my power. Even if he does, he can expect twelve rounds of hard punishment. That’s the only thing I can promise you.”
Check out Ponce De Leon defending his title against Al Seeger as part of Golden Boy Promotions’ Saturday night pay-per-view card from El Paso.
For more information go to: http://www.hbo.com/boxing.