|Ponce de Leon Turns the Page|
By Steve Kim
For featherweight Daniel Ponce de Leon, his 10th year as a professional was one he’d rather forget. Yeah, he made some money as he appeared on HBO twice in 2011 but he was 0-for-2 in a pair of bouts against Adrien Broner and Yuriorkis Gamboa. The awkward, hard-hitting southpaw is looking forward to a much more productive 2012 as prepares to face Omar Estrella this weekend in Ensenada, Mexico.
“A year of a lot of experience,” is how he described the past year, through his friend, Marco Lopez, before his training session last week at the Maywood Boxing Club.
But by “experience,” does he really mean “disappointing”?
“There was a fight [against Broner] where I thought I got robbed, number one, and then the one with Gamboa that was up in the air; anything could’ve happened,” he recalled. “But I feel very comfortable. I feel complete because I gained a lot of experience.”
There’s no doubt which outing was the most bitter. “The Broner fight because I felt I won that fight and the people know I won. So hopefully, we can get a rematch with that fight.” The Broner fight was contested at junior lightweight and since then, Ponce de Leon has moved back down to featherweight. The goal for him and those who handle his career is very simple as he heads into the last stretch of what has been a productive career.
“Try to get him a big fight and the fight I’ve been wanting to make for years is the Jhonny Gonzalez fight,” said Golden Boy Promotions matchmaker Eric Gomez. Gonzalez holds the WBC featherweight strap. “Back when Jhonny was with us and they were both champions, we were trying to make that fight for the longest time. We made a significant offer for Jhonny last year when he had captured the title. They turned it down. That’s the goal; that’s one of the fights. I think it’ll be a terrific fight. I think that’s it’s a fight that the Mexicans will get behind; it can sell. It’ll be exciting and if it’s not him, any of the other champions, everybody else.”
One change that Ponce de Leon has made in the background is picking up the services of the respected Frank Espinoza, who will guide his career from this point forward. “I was alone for four years, so I felt I needed someone to back me up and guide me and Frank’s doing a good job and now he’s going to help me,” said Ponce, who has a record of 41-4 with 34 knockouts to his credit.
Espinoza, whose current roster already includes the likes of IBF bantamweight titlist Abner Mares, Carlos Molina, Antonio Orozco, Luis Ramos and Ronny Rios, believes that Ponce de Leon has one more run in him at the world-class level.
“I feel he does,” said the manager, best known for guiding Israel Vazquez and Martin Castillo in the past. “I thought the last fight that he had was a competitive fight. Gamboa did win the fight but the fight before that with Broner, Ponce won that fight but it went the other way. So I still think there’s a lot left with him. It still seems as though he has a lot of power. He’s still young and he still has the passion for the sport.” And his vision mirrors Gomez’s, in regard to Ponce de Leon’s future. “We want to get him some fights, get him back on track again. After coming off two losses, we want to get him some wins. The plan is, down the line, hopefully in 2012, we’re trying to possibly get a fight with Jhonny Gonzalez. That’s a fight we want or an Orlando Salido. Anybody at 126, I think that’s where he should be.”
Ponce de Leon is now 31 (an age where you’re not exactly old- but not exactly young either) and according to those around him, he still has the same energy and focus toward the sport. Lopez, who is a daily presence around the fighter, says, “I see that he’s very motivated and he loves what he does. I was with him in his last training camp in Mt. Baldy for seven weeks together, 24 hours a day, seven days a week and what I saw from him is that he’s one of the most disciplined fighters- probably the most disciplined fighter- I’ve ever known. He’s on schedule as far as his training, his motivation, everything. He’s very disciplined, a very hard worker.”
The reality is that Ponce de Leon needs a strong work ethic. His success in this business has come as a result of getting everything out of very limited, natural talent. Roy Hobbs he ain’t. It’s not unusual for him to be back to the grind in the gym a week or two after earning six figures in his previous fight. He may not be great but he’s a pro. He says, “I have even more passion [for boxing] because all these years have served as experience and good paydays motivate me even more.”
Ponce de Leon’s goal for the New Year is very simple.
“To win this belt,”- the bout versus Estrella this weekend is for a regional WBC title- “and then after that, go for a world title and fight a Salido or a Jhonny Gonzalez.”
This fight is taking place at the Bodega Del Boxeo in Ensenada, a bit of a road game for Ponce de Leon.
“It’s a concern,” admitted Espinoza, who just recently inked his charge. “I’m not too happy about going to Ensenada. It was changed from Tijuana but it’s still in Mexico and Omar’s from Tijuana. He’s Erik Morales’ fighter. But yeah, I did feel uncomfortable going over there to face him. I accepted the fight but with the condition that we have a fair playing field.”
Gomez explained to Maxboxing, “The agreement we made with both sides and we talked to the commission and they were sensitive with the concerns that Ponce had and his team, we agreed on neutral officials, all the officials being from California.”