|The Fight Before the Fight for Ponce de Leon|
Tonight, featherweight contender Daniel Ponce de Leon takes on Eduardo Lazcano at the Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. But perhaps the biggest battle this week for Ponce de Leon, a former 122-pound beltholder, is not looking too far ahead to bigger and more significant fights against the likes of Jhonny Gonzalez. He admits the fight against Lazcano is a tune-up/stay-busy type of affair.
But Jorge Linares can tell you how dangerous those can be.
“That’s what I want. If everything comes out fine against this guy, I’m looking for Jhonny Gonzalez or Elio Rojas,” said Ponce de Leon through Joel De la Hoya (yeah, Oscar’s brother), last Friday at the Maywood Boxing Club, the day before Gonzalez retained his WBC strap against Rojas in Mexico.
Fights of this nature are really of the must-win variety. Perhaps in other bygone eras when boxers were much more active and fights didn’t need network approval, a loss was considered nothing more than an inconvenience or a bump in the road. Now it can kill a fight. When asked if he found it hard to focus on these types of fights after a 2011 when he performed twice on HBO, he said, “I’m always giving good performances. I think HBO’s always going to be interested because I give great fights and I’m always ready. I’ll be prepared for anything.”
Ponce de Leon’s message is clear: Don’t forget about me.
His manager, Frank Espinoza, told Maxboxing, “I like to keep my clients active; honestly, it’s the only way they stay sharp and maintain a certain level. I don’t think fighters today really fight enough and it shows in the way they fight. We could’ve just sat out and waited around for a bigger fight but that’s not really the way I like to do things. Ponce agreed and that’s why he’s fighting Lazcano.”
When asked about any potential risk, Espinoza stated, “Well, there’s risk in anything. I mean, you have to be intelligent about the choices you make as a manager and, again, our goal is to win the big fights and you can’t do that, in my opinion, if you don’t have a sharpened fighter going out there for you.”
In other words, fighters should fight. Yeah, what a novel concept.
Today, there are a select few fighters who are afforded the opportunity to collect huge annuities from either HBO or Showtime. Ponce de Leon isn’t one of them. He still has to go out there and make a hard living, whether it’s on the cable premium networks (where he earned six figures) or on Fox Deportes (which is televising tonight’s bout) and he’s a fighter more than willing to do that. He’s never been the most stylish or technically sound boxer but he’s one who has gotten everything out of his natural ability. It’s not unusual for him to be back at the gym just a week or two after he fights; in fact, it’s the norm for this heavy-handed lefty.
“I still have the passion; it’s never gone away and this is something I love to do,” he said.
The easiest bout to make from Golden Boy’s perspective is Gonzalez. Eric Gomez, matchmaker for GBP, stated, “That’s exactly what we’re looking towards; the guy he’s facing is promoted by the same company as Jhonny, Promociones El Puebla.” This fight is at the top of his agenda. “I’ve tried to make that fight personally for about four or five years now,” said Gomez. “I tried to make that fight when they were both with us, when they were both champions. We’ve discussed it a bunch of times and we came really close on making the fight last year and we just couldn’t come to terms. Now, assuming everything goes well, we’re going to sit down and really discuss it and we’re going to make them an offer and see if we can get it done.”
But before all that, Gomez will hold his breath. It’s fights of this nature that make decision makers more nervous than the big fights. You can live without winning a championship fight; it’s blowing that fight before you get there that is heartbreaking. In certain respects, you can argue that this bout is every bit as important as a potential match-up against Gonzalez.
“It is because you know what’s at stake,” Gomez agreed. “There’s so much at stake and an injury or a loss can derail it, everything you’ve been working on. So it’s always tough; it’s always a tough thing.” What they are depending on is a boxer to be a consummate pro. “Being prepared as if it’s a world title fight, preparing for the best and that’s what he has to do and that’s what I’m hoping he did. But he’s a professional, from all the fighters we work with, we’ve never had a problem with Ponce de Leon. He’s been great. He’s really been great to work with and now, he’s got a new manager in Frank Espinoza that’s a veteran and keeps him in line.”
Espinoza, who also counts Abner Mares, Luis Ramos, Ronny Rios and Jose Hernandez among his clients, says, “Ponce is ready to go. In fact, he’s always at the gym staying in shape. I wouldn’t have pulled the trigger on this fight if he wasn’t. We should get some quality rounds in this Friday and then focus on a significant fight after that.”
So what does Lazcano bring to the dance?
“He’s a southpaw; he comes at you very aggressively. It can be complicated being a southpaw but I’m ready for anything and I think it’ll be a great fight,” said Ponce de Leon.
And from there, he’s looking to face anybody with a major belt around his waist.
“I’m ready for anything that comes my way. Obviously, I have to take care of my opponent on May 4th but Jhonny Gonzalez, Orlando Salido and Chris John, I also want those guys as well.”