Daniel Ponce De Leon had to chase a bit. But he chased well. And he chased relentlessly.
De Leon caught up with Al Seeger Saturday night in the main event of an HBO pay-per-view card in El Paso’s Don Haskins Center — caught up with him over and over and over.
Finally, 1:43 into the eighth round, Seeger’s corner could watch no more.
And just like that, De Leon improved to 30-1, scoring the 28th early stoppage of his hard hitting career. Seeger was game, showed some heart but was in way over his head. The Savannah, Ga., fighter dropped to 27-2 in his career.
De Leon retained his WBO junior featherweight title and also took Seeger’s IBA belt home with him.
Early in the fight Seeger was mixing it up, lunging forward in awkward fashion, going for it. Fortunately for him, De Leon never quite measured him with one of those atomic lefts during those lunges. But De Leon did land a short, crisp left hand in the fourth round and it was all but over. Seeger went into survival mode, simply trying to make it through the 12 rounds.
He had no chance.
As the fight wore on, Seeger was simply a heavy bag for De Leon — albeit a heavy bag that held.
Referee Laurence Cole deducted a point from Seeger for holding in the eighth round. That opened the gates for De Leon, who continued throwing serious leather until Seeger’s corner called for the stoppage. It was the right move. Seeger was taking a beating and it was not going to get any better.
“He didn’t want to fight,” De Leon said. “He was just grabbing and holding. He also fouled me quite a bit.”
Two of the three judges scored the seventh round 10-8 for De Leon, even though there was no knockdown. The entire fight was that lopsided. If they could have scored some of the rounds 11-8, the judges probably would have done so.
When the fight was finally and mercifully stopped, judge Levi Martinez had De Leon leading 70-62 and judges Gale Van Hoy and Ruben Carrion had the hard-hitting fighter from Chihuahua, Mexico, ahead 70-61.
A small but lively crowd of about 4,000 cheered De Leon every punch of the way.
“I know the people didn’t want to see me in the main event,” De Leon said. “They wanted to see [Juan Manuel] Marquez (whose opponent had visa problems).
But I hope I put on a good show for them.”
He did. At least, he put on as good a show as possible against a game fighter who was simply trying to survive.
The semi-main event was no such slam dunk. And the crowd actually ended up booing the decision, even though it favored the home town fighter.
El Pasoan Juan Lazcano, who has been trying to right himself since losing a decision to tough Jose Luis Castillo for the WBC 135-pound title in June of 2004, eked out a split decision over Manuel Garnica of Guadalajara, Mexico. Judge Jerry Wright had Lazcano winning in a walk, 98-92. But judge Levi Martinez gave the nod to Garnica 96-94. Judge Mark Ortega scored it 97-93 for Lazcano — leaving Lazcano, trainer Freddie Roach and all of Golden Boy Promotions to heave a huge sigh of relief.
Lazcano, who had not lost in six years before dropping that decision to Castillo in Las Vegas, has fought just four times since that last loss. He has wins over Marco Perez, Courtney Burton, Ben Tackie — and now Garnica. Lazcano is now 36-3-1 and Garnica is 20-6.
It was a back and forth affair throughout Saturday night’s fight. Garnica almost certainly won the first round. Lazcano appeared to take the second. Then it was back and forth, back and forth. Lazcano, coming off a seven month layoff, seemed sluggish at times. He just did not seem able to assume his usual hyperactive ring persona. He blamed that largely on Garncia and his style.
“He was a safe fighter,” Lazcano complained of Garnica. “But I was the power puncher. He landed some shots but he never hurt me. He didn’t want to fight. He just wanted to survive. He would hit once, then come in with his head, then tie up.”
For his part, Garnica said, “I didn’t really like fighting here in his hometown. I thought I won the fight. He is really a dirty fighter. During the fight, he said, ‘come on and fight; you don’t have any guts.’ I said yes I do.”
The two continued punching after the bell in the 10th and final round, ending in a clinch in Garnica’s corner. The two appeared to try to exchange close range head butts before calm was restored.
Lazcano said, “That’s how he is. Why didn’t he fight like that before the bell rang. He knew it was over so then he started punching.”
Oscar De La Hoya said prior to this fight that Lazcano would “have some big fights next year” if he got past Garnica.
He did that. Barely.
One of De La Hoya’s newest acquisitions, 21-year-old Antonio Escalante, delivered in big fashion Saturday night in a junior featherweight dance.
Escalante, also an El Pasoan, body bashed Puerto Rico’s Omar Adorno in the first round. In the second round, after landing a few more liver lacerators, Escalante came in with two big right hands to deck Adorno. The Puerto Rican fighter got to one knee, waited for the eight-count and tried to get up. But somewhere between his head and legs, the signals had been jumbled by those Escalante right hands and he staggered backward — a dazed man walking — and this fight was history.
“I had seen him fight once,” Escalante said of Adorno. “I knew he came forward and I knew he was a tough guy. I really expected a little more. I saw I hurt him in the first round with those body shots. But this felt great, fighting in front of my home crowd, on the undercard of an HBO show.”
Gerry Penalosa of the Philippines scored a big bantamweight win over veteran Mauricio Martinez of Panama. Penalosa, who improved to 51-5-2, scored his 34th knockout in the ninth round. Martinez is now 31-7-1.
Penalosa, the former WBC champ, dominated this fight. He led 79-71 on two cards when he closed the show at 1:06 of that ninth round. He finally ended the massacre with a crunching, wind-eliminating left to the body, then a big left over the top as Martinez was retreating, searching in vain for some breath. And Penalosa closed that show in spectacular fashion despite injuring that left hand in the very first round.
“Look,” he said, displaying a small knot on top of his hand. “I felt it after I knocked him down in the first round. But before the fight I said I will knock this guy out. And I did.”
And he did. And it seemed inevitable from the beginning.
Penalosa dropped Martinez in the first round and again in the fourth round. Penalosa used a crisp, sharp left for that fourth round knockdown and Martinez was forced to also nurse a cut over his right eye along with his other aches and pains. He was almost too game for his own good, taking quite a beating in those nine rounds of war.
Veteran Ben Tackie put another notch in his belt. But not that easily.
Tackie scored a sixth round knockdown over Mexico City’s Esau Herrera and that might have been just enough to turn the tide in their welterweight 10-round tangle. Judges Rocky Burke and Raul Valencia scored it 95-94 for Tackie. Judge Mark Ortega gave him a bit more breathing room with a 97-92 verdict.
All the same, Tackie improved to 29-6-1 while Herrera dropped to 12-3.
Miami’s Andre Berto remained undefeated, taking a fifth round TKO over Dallas’ James Crayton in another welterweight battle. Berto, now 15-0 with 13 punchouts, put an end to this whipping with 34 seconds left in the fifth. This one, though, was never a contest. Berto won all four rounds on all three judges’ cards before finishing in the fifth.
El Pasoan Saul Palacios got a unanimous decision over Alejandro Chavez of Juarez in a battle of young men making their pro debut. Palacios got the nod 40-36 on two cards, 39-37 on the third in their four-round junior featherweight duel.