By: Sergio L. Martinez
On September 15, 2012, former Mexican Olympian and former WBO Super Bantamweight Champion Daniel Ponce de Leon will attempt to claim the second world title of his career as he is scheduled to face current WBC Featherweight boss Jhonny Gonzalez in Las Vegas. The fight is slated for the Saul “Canelo” Alvarez-Josesito Lopez undercard and is sure to be an action-packed contest as both Ponce de Leon and Gonzalez are hard punching, high contact combatants that rarely take a step back.
Regardless of the fight’s outcome, Ponce de Leon has reaped success beyond his limited talent and ability. A full-blooded Tarahumara Indian born in the mountains of Mexico, Ponce de Leon was able to thrive and beat the odds after four of his siblings that preceded him died due to difficult living conditions. This stoic Mexican destroyer is a pillar of strength and fondly recounts his boxing life.
Speaking to Boxing Insider from his training camp in Big Bear, California, Ponce de Leon said, “I’ve always dedicated myself to working hard and have had the opportunity to compete against some of the best fighters in the world. I am a former Olympian that proudly represented my country of Mexico and as a professional fighter, I have been a world champion. I get another shot at a title now. I am content with my life and career up to this point, as boxing has given me the opportunity to help my family get ahead and I love what I do.”
For Ponce de Leon, the road to another world title opportunity has been a long one. After winning the WBO belt in 2005, Ponce de Leon successfully defended his crown seven times in two years, with five of those victories ending by knockout. Although never a stylist, the Mexican earned respect as a devastating puncher with a relentless attacking style. In 2008, Ponce de Leon’s championship reign came to an end when he suffered a knockout loss to rising Puerto Rican star Juan Manuel Lopez.
It is hard to fathom why it has taken over four years for Ponce de Leon to obtain another crack at a title. “I never expected it would take this long,” says the fighter. “It has been too long. I’ve fought better fighters than most of these so-called champions out there since my lost to Lopez, so I don’t understand why others have received titles fights before me.”
In boxing, as in life, politics plays a major role in determining which fighters get opportunities to challenge for titles. This often forces boxers to sign with certain managers and/or promoters in an effort to provide themselves the best opportunity to, at minimum, challenge for a world title in hopes that a belt will lead to big paydays and a secure future.
Still, even if one has the right people on one’s side, it does not automatically lead to these coveted opportunities. Ponce de Leon is well aware of this situation and stated, “The politics does get in the way. I have good promoters and managers too, like other fighters, but the bottom line is that the title holders out there just wanted easier fights because they feared me. So, their promoters got them what they wanted. At this point, I really don’t care, as I finally got my chance against (Jhonny) Gonzalez and that’s all I care about right now.”
In Gonzalez, Ponce de Leon faces a fighter that has won titles in different weight classes after multiple opportunities have been afforded to him. It would appear that Gonzalez represents exactly the fighters Ponce de Leon is referring to.
“Jhonny Gonzalez is a world champion that has had four title defenses, and I think I have fought better opposition than he has, but I am not a champion and have not had a title fight since 2008,” explains Ponce de Leon.
“How is that possible? I guess the champions out there just were afraid to give me an opportunity. I’ve been ranked number one for different organizations in the past few years but the champions wouldn’t fight me. The WBC has given me this opportunity and I’m going to make the best of it.”
This is in no way a personal attack on Gonzalez, as Ponce de Leon made it clear that he respect Gonzalez’s skills and believes that this will be a grueling fight.
Ponce de Leon offered this assessment about Gonzalez: “I completely understand that this is going to be a brutal and very difficult fight because Jhonny Gonzalez is also a very strong and determined fighter. He has solid skills, great technique, and is a hard puncher. This guy, to be honest, I feel is a complete fighter now. He has (Ignacio) ‘Nacho’ Beristain in his corner and I’ve noticed a great improvement. I mean, he has solid defense, heavy hands, and is technically sound. I don’t know if this fight will end by knockout or decision, but I’m ready for anything. I have confidence that I’m going to win this fight because I have the antidote to neutralize him and win.”
His entire career has been a struggle, so it only makes sense that Ponce de Leon would have to face and vanquish a fighter like Gonzalez in order to obtain another title. Nothing has ever been handed to Ponce de Leon and his boxing resume is proof of this.
Still, Ponce de Leon feels that his career is the very definition of a true fighter and offered the following on fighters that have been given a lot without having to work for much: “That’s just the way boxing is and there is the commercial side to boxing that everyone must always take into account. There are those with great talent but with no support, so they accomplish nothing. And then there are those that may not have that much in the way of talent but are commercially viable due to their name or are just lucky, so careers are built for them. That’s just life, so I put up with it. But when given the opportunity, one must make the most of it.”
In closing, Ponce de Leon asked that boxing fans “please tune in … to watch my fight on September 15 and show support for the sport. There may be those that don’t believe in me or believe that I can do it, but I’m going to give everyone a great fight. I know that everyone will be paying hard-earned money, so I am going to make sure that I give everyone watching a great fight. I’m not getting any younger, but I’m as hungry as I’ve ever been and I intend to take the title on September 15. Thank you all for your support.”