LOS ANGELES-After the thrill of victory has subsided what do you do next if you’re WBO junior featherweight titleholder Daniel Ponce De Leon?
Well you accept a fight in an Indian-owned casino in the Southern California area with just a few weeks rest.
Ponce de Leon consented to become the first headliner for Golden Boy Promotions on Sept. 28, after the company recently agreed to stage fight cards at the Morongo Casino near Palm Springs, Ca. It will be the first of several fight cards in a year’s span.
“We’re really excited to enter this partnership with Morongo,” Richard Schaefer, CEO for Golden Boy said on Thursday Aug. 30.
The Mexican fighter is a Tarahumara Indian and because of his Indian blood he eagerly consented to fight at the Morongo Casino.
Only three weeks had passed since Ponce De Leon’s first round knockout victory over the young and eager Rey “Boom Boom” Bautista. Just catching his breath he received a call from his promoters to see if he were interested in becoming the main event.
The Indian ties made the decision easy.
Ponce De Leon fights Colombia’s Reynaldo Lopez (28-4-2, 19 KOs) at the Morongo Casino. The non-title fight is the first of a series between new partners Golden Boy Promotions and the Morongo Indian Tribe.
Because of time constraints Golden Boy Promotions had been forced to stage fight cards in Texas and Arizona. In California, the fight cards need to begin at 5 p.m. so it can air across the country by 8 p.m. The problem was boxing fans cannot get to the boxing arenas at 5 p.m. But the Morongo Casino has been able to fill the arena on a regular basis regardless of the early starting time.
Now Golden Boy Promotions can return to its California base.
“We really wanted to start out with a punch and nobody punches harder than Daniel Ponce De Leon,” Schaefer said at the Liberty Grill in the shadows of the Staples Center.
Though Ponce De Leon fought last Aug. 11 in Sacramento in defense of his WBO title, the fight only lasted about two minutes.
“I wasn’t tired or hurt from the fight so I know I can fight again,” says Ponce De Leon (32-1, 29 KOs).
His promoters were ecstatic by his decision.
“In less than 15 minutes he said yes,” said Eric Gomez, the matchmaker for Golden Boy. “Ponce De Leon really doesn’t care who he fights.”
The junior featherweight champion had been lounging around his house and visiting his Hawaiian barbecue restaurant near Bellflower when he got the call. He had been expecting his next bout to come against the new WBO bantamweight titleholder Gerry Penalosa. The veteran Filipino had surprisingly knocked out Jhonny Gonzalez for the title during the Philippines vs. Mexico World Cup. He wanted revenge against the Mexican who was the only fighter to emerge victorious during the challenge matches.
Ponce De Leon’s team had agree to fight Penalosa and was so confident that he also welcomed traveling to the Philippines to make the fight. The Mexican warrior thought the call from Golden Boy Promotions was to update him on the negotiations. But instead it was an offer to fight in the first match made by both the Morongo Indian’s casino and Golden Boy.
“Here we have an Indian fighter from the Tarahumara Tribe to fight at the Morongo Casino owned by an Indian tribe, what an honor,” said Joe Hernandez, who co-manages while adding that his fighter has an intense pride for his Indian roots and that fighting at a casino owned by Indians was pivotal point in taking the fight.
The soft-spoken Ponce De Leon with piercing eyes seldom makes boasts unless he’s confident he can make them true. And he feels strongly about his ethnicity.
“I am an Indian from Mexico,” Ponce De Leon (32-1, 29 KOs) said. “I’m very happy for this fight.”
Schaefer said that the agreement with Morongo envisions about four fights in 2008 and possibly two in the remainder of this year. He also said Golden Boy Promotion’s president Oscar De La Hoya will be present at the first fight and at least one of the fights next year.
Sean Sullivan, the general manager of Morongo Casino that cost more than $250 million to finish in 2005, said De La Hoya’s company represents a high caliber fight entertainment company that usually goes to Las Vegas.
“We couldn’t be more honored and proud to have a more legitimate and honorable partner than Golden Boy Promotions,” said Sullivan.
Morongo Tribe has about 775 members and established one of the longest running bingo and gaming operations in the state.
John Molina Las Vegas-bound
Lightweight sensation John Molina will be fighting on Sept. 15 in Las Vegas on the Juan Manuel Marquez defense of his WBC junior lightweight title against Rocky Juarez.
The hard-hitting lightweight wants to be known as “The Choir Boy”. More than a few people witnessed his second round demolition a few weeks ago at Soboba Casino.
So why does he want to be known as the “Choir Boy?”
“Because people say I don’t look like I can fight,” said Molina (8-0, 6 KOs) while preparing for his upcoming fight. “I surprise people.”
No opponent has been named.
“We should have an opponent this week for John Molina,” said Gomez, the matchmaker for Golden Boy Promotions who are staging the fight card. “But he’s definitely on the card.”
Ben Lira trains Molina. Sergio Diaz, who co-manages Antonio Margarito, advises Molina too.
Jose Navarro Moscow-bound
Former 2000 U.S. Olympian Jose Navarro (26-2, 12 KOs) of South Central Los Angeles will be fighting Dmitri Kirilov (28-3, 9 KOs) in Moscow on Oct. 13 in a non-title fight.
Navarro, 26, a junior bantamweight, has twice fought for the world title but lost by decision. Each fight took place in Japan. Maybe Russia will be better luck for the talented fighter who is trained by Frank Rivera.
Kirilov, 28, lost a split-decision to IBF junior bantamweight titleholder Luis Perez in Massachusetts last May.
The fight takes place at the Khodynka Ice Palace in Moscow.
WBC junior welterweight clash on Saturday
England’s Junior Witter (35-1, 20 KOs), who holds the WBC junior welterweight title, defends it against Vivian Harris on Friday Sept. 7 in England.
Witter, 33, an unorthodox fighter with speed and power, is defending the title for the second time. He stopped Mexico’s Arturo Morua in nine rounds last January.
Harris (28-2-1, 18 KOs), the former WBA junior welterweight titleholder, has captured three impressive wins since losing to Carlos Maussa in 2005. In his last bout he gutted out an impressive 12-round decision win over Juan Lazcano in a brutal clash.
Look for Harris’s height, reach and speed to cause problems for Witter. He could become the second New York City based fighter to emerge with a junior welterweight title.
Last week New Jersey’s Kendall Holt was stopped by WBO junior welterweight titleholder Ricardo Torres of Colombia in the 11th round.
Paul Malignaggi, of New York, has the WBA version of the junior welterweight title.
Fights on television
Fri. ESPN2, 7:30 p.m., Lamont Peterson (21-0) vs. Frankie Santos (15-3-3).
Fri. Telefutura, 8 p.m., Abner Mares (13-0) vs. Chino Garcia (24-3-2).
Fri. Showtime, 11 p.m., Nick Casal (16-1-1) vs. Antonio De Marco (14-1-1).