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Daniel Ponce de Leon


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Daniel Ponce de Leon was one of the best fighters in the feather divisions of the 00's and early 10's. He was a great puncher at 122 who captured the WBO title there and held it for 3 years, making 6 defenses. He lost it to his nemesis Juan Manuel Lopez, brutally. His greatest success and victory was when he in 2012 managed to win the WBC feather title against Jhonny Gonzalez, one of definitely the greatest featherweights of this century. However, that reign proved to be a short one as he lost the title soon thereafter. He is not to be confused with the baseball player of the same name, ofc. Here we go.

Daniel was born on 27 July 1980 in Ciudad Cuahtemoc, Chihuahua State, Mexico. He belongs to the Tarahumara Amerindian nation. His fighting nickname was "El Leon"-Lion. Due to the harsh conditions of his living environment in the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains, he was the only one of his five brothers to survive into adulthood-which means he was a born fighter. As amateur, he was the 1997 International Junior Olympics champion at light flyweight and also the 1999 Pan American Games bronze medallist at flyweight. He also qualified for the 2000 Olympics as a member of Mexican team, but didn't win a medal there as he went out in the first round to eventual gold medalist, Volodymyr Sidorenko. He relocated to Huntingon Beach in California to start a professional career, which he did on 31 March 2001.

At first, he fought as a bantamweight and won his 21 first fights by knockout! In October 2004, he won the WBO NABO super bantam title against Emmanuel Lucero, by KO 3. After defending it by a KO 4 against Julio Gamboa, he faced off against the formidably-tall and hard-hitting Celestino Caballero of Panama in an IBF-eliminator, 17 February 2005 in Hollywood. The 5'11 Caballero had 4 inches on 5'7 De Leon and put him down in round 8, but De Leon weathered the storm and put up a good fight, but lost on all scorecards in the end-some by a closer margin than others. After making another defense of the WBO NABO title, on 29 October same year, he was matched against Sot Kokietgym of Thailand in a fight for the WBO title which was vacant. De Leon went down in the second round but came back to win by UD, even though some complained about the decision, like Kokietgym himself. He was now the world champion after 4 years as a pro.

After easily dispatching Gerson Guerrero in 2 rounds, he signed for a rematch with Kokietgym, in order to silence the doubters. And what a fight it turned out to be, or better said-a no fight! It was held at the MGM Grand, 15 July 2006, and after only 52 seconds, Ponce ended the fight with a huge left cross! He then fought Al Seeger, the reigning IBA champion, and stopped him by TKO 8 in his third defense to add another, albeit insignificant, title to his collection. His fourth defense would be a lot tougher however, as he faced the Filipino defensive and technical wizard, Geronimo Gerry Penalosa, on 17 March 2007, at the undercard of Barrera vs Marquez. PDL struggled greatly against Penalosa and although he kept throwing punches, very few of them actually landed, while Penalosa had him in trouble with several of his attacks. In the end, De Leon took home a very controversial unanimous verdict, with ridiculously wide scores. 

He again scored a first-round ko in his fifth defense, when he stopped the promising 23-0 Filipino Rey Bautista. He first sent him down with a barrage punctuated with a left hook and then finished him off with another. He made his sixth and final successful defense against Eduardo Escobedo, this time on points, 8 December 2007, to close out the year. And then came JUANMA! This fight happened on 7 June 2008 at Boardwalk Hall in AC and it was a case of a destroyer getting destroyed. Ponce went flying at his opponent as usual and landed some good left-rights, but Juanma stood his ground. Midway thru the first round, Juanma landed a big left hand followed by a big right hook which put the champion down. As Ponce rose, he was hit by that same killer combination and then a right hook which sent him down and out of the fight, at 2:25 of round 1. 

After this devastating defeat, he left 122 and became a featherweight. In 2009, he won a WBA eliminator fight against Roinet Caballero on points, but didn't get to fight for that title, for some reason. After knocking out Orlando Cruz and Antonio Escalante, both in 3 rounds, and decisioning Cornelius Lock, he was given a fight at 130 against then-up and comer Adrien Broner. It was on 5 March 2011 at Honda Center in Anaheim and Ponce controlled the early rounds while Broner won the middle rounds, but Ponce again finished strong and outlanded Broner in the end. Still, he was controversially cheated for the win by all three judges, one even by as wide as 99-91! Harold Lederman had Ponce winning by 96-94. He then took on the super-fast and hard-hitting Yuriorkis Gamboa of Cuba, coming back to featherweight. However, the fight had to stopped prematurely after 8 rounds, when Ponce suffered a laceration on his forehead due to an accidental head clash. He was clearly behind on the scorecards and so lost by technical decision.  

However, things finally picked up for him the next year, as he first won the WBC United States title by KO 6 against Omar Estrella and defended it by UD against Eduardo Lazcano, before getting to fight the WBC champion Jhonny Gonzalez on 15 September (Gonzalez's birthday) at the MGM Grand. In a big surprise and upset, De Leon dominated the fight and even put Gonzalez down in round 6. Once again, the fight was stopped in the 8th because of an accidental cut, this time on Jhonny's right eye. The scorecards were all clearly in favor of the challenger and so finally, after 4 years, Ponce De Leon was a world champion again! However, this joy would prove to be short-lasting as De Leon faced Abner Mares, back then 25-0-1 and a hot contender and after being dropped in round 2 but making it a fight, he was again down in round 9 and stopped on his feet shortly thereafter. Ironically, Mares would then go on to lose the title in his first defense to Jhonny Gonzalez, in 1 round. 

On 15 March 2014, he and Juanma had a late rematch for the WBO International super feather title, at Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez in Bayamon, PR. In the second round, Ponce flew at Juanma and hit him with a combination that put him down. Upon rising and resuming the fight, Juanma nailed him with a MASSIVE uppercut which put him down. Even though Ponce beat the count, he was down once more before the fight was stopped, late in round 2. He was obviously a spent force now and after being stopped in his next fight against Miguel Roman by TKO 9, on 7 June that year, he retired. He was almost 34 at the time of his last fight. His record is 45 wins with 35 ko's and 7 losses, 4 by ko.

Daniel Ponce de Leon was a popular, never say die fighter who, despite being knocked out more than once, was a tough guy, fast on his feet and had explosive power and heavy hands for his weight. He now lives in West Covina, California, with his wife and four children, where he trains and manages fighters. He is known as a nice guy. Never the most polished boxer, De Leon used his natural attributes such as speed, power and tenacity to win against some fighters that were technically more gifted, such as Jhonny Gonzalez for instance. Thank you.





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--- Aced another one, Boz!

Used to report his Telefutura fights on ye auld Boxing Central, my first foray in fight writing, and what a pleasure, nay thrill he was. On his grave it will be recorded, "He came to fight"

Boxing Central was part of Boxrec that got hacked out of existence back in the day. Boxrec survived, but not BC.

Anyway, little Ponce BTFO of Broner before it became fashionable to do so, indeed terribly robbed.

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