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Ponce De Leon Back on the Warpath

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Ponce De Leon Back on the Warpath – Some of the hardiest people in the world, the indigenous Tarahumara, reside in the sierras of Chihuahua, Mexico. For centuries, a mix of below zero winters, high altitudes, drought stricken summers and a lack of modern technology, have made the area habitable only to the truly rugged.

Daniel Ponce De Leon, of Cuauhtémoc, Mexico, a former world champion and Tarahumara himself, was lucky enough to escape those harsh conditions and through sheer guts, some luck and determination, rose to become an Olympian boxer and eventually a world champion in the 122 pound division.

“The Tarahumara have gone through a lot but they always persevere,” De Leon, 31, said from his home in Southern California. “I always carry their resilience and fighting spirit into the ring with me.”

De Leon (41-4, 34 KO’s) is looking to make a run for another world title after two consecutive losses to current world champions Yuriorkis Gamboa and Adrien Broner. In losing, De Leon still managed to put on competitive showings against both men. “There are some who felt I won the fight against Broner,” he stated. “He’s a good, fast fighter but he couldn’t do much to me and I got to him. I lost but the experience helped me grow as a fighter quite a bit.”

Currently fighting in the featherweight division, he gave his career a serious shot in the arm after signing a management deal with Frank Espinoza, who also manages the careers of world champion Abner Mares and several undefeated prospects. “For a few years I was handling matters myself and it was very difficult. It was hard for me to focus,” he stated. “It makes me motivated to know I have Frank taking care of the business aspect of my career. All I have to do now is train hard and win.”

Espinoza thinks De Leon has a lot left despite coming off two losses. “He put on good performances. I don’t think those losses brought his stock down very much,” Espinoza said. “He’s proven he has what it takes to be a world champion. He did it before and he’ll do it again. He has the punching power and mindset of a champion.”

De Leon must first try and get through tough Tijuana fighter Omar Estrella (15-3-2, 10 KO’s) on Saturday, January 21st in Ensenada, Mexico. Anyone in the boxing business knows to never count out a fighter who’s come through the Tijuana boxing system. They may have spotty records sometimes but they’re usually well-tested and usually full of bad news for their opponents. “I know a little bit about Estrella. He’s strong and has a solid technique. He has a deceptive record,” De Leon said. “I would never look past him. I trained just as hard for him as I did for any world champion.”

De Leon’s awkward technique, or lack thereof, has been the subject of debate by critics who believe that throwing power punches with such reckless abandon leaves De Leon open to sharpshooters like Gamboa and former world champion Juan Manuel Lopez who devastated De Leon with a first round stoppage. “The fact is that he caught me cold,” De Leon remembers of the 2008 loss. “He’s a good fighter but it was a lucky punch. I’ve worked on tightening my defense since then.”

His quest for self improvement has led him to devouring hours of Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao fights. “I’ve been really studying them,” he said. “I’ve actually made some small changes to my style from what I’ve learned.”

But let’s face it. There’s no way to teach a 31 year old boxer new tricks. De Leon at his core is a heavy fisted brawler who shows up to dish out punishment. He loads his punches with ill will and terrible intentions. If he connects, his opponents feel the power. If he connects enough, they usually end up on the canvas. That’s just the way Daniel Ponce De Leon is and no amount of studying Pac-Man and Mayweather footage will ever change that.

He insists he’s improved his defense quite a bit since the Lopez fight. “I don’t get hit as much as I used to. What happened against Lopez would never happen again because I’m not the same fighter,” he stated. “If the re-match against Juan Ma doesn’t happen it won’t be the end of the world but I’d love to face him again.”

He may not have to wait long if everything lines up properly. Lopez is scheduled to fight a rematch against Orlando Salido who stopped the Puerto Rican star and stripped him of his undefeated status with an eight round stoppage in April of 2011. If Lopez wins, De Leon will have his sights set on him. “There are a lot of great fights for me. There’s W.B.C. champion Jhonny Gonzalez which I think would be a great fight for me also,” he said. “But getting a fight against Juan Ma Lopez would be tremendous. Revenge is always sweet.”

He’s determined to get back on top this year. “My goal for 2012 is to get a featherweight world title,” De Leon said. “I’ve always accomplished my goals. Even as a young kid, I always set my sights high and eventually succeeded at whatever I set out to do.”

He realizes he’s at the age where the window of opportunity starts slowly closing for most fighters. “I’ve had a career where I haven’t taken much punishment and I’ve always maintained myself in great shape but I realize I have to make the best of the next few years,” said De Leon. “God willing, I expect to be champion and I expect the next stage of my career to be even more successful than the first. Keep watching me. You won’t be disappointed. The least you’ll ever get from me is a war inside the ring.”

Saturday night’s De Leon vs. Estrella fight will be broadcast on Televisa from La Bodega De Boxeo in Ensenada, Mexico. Also on the broadcast will be bantamweights Leo “Terremoto” Santa Cruz (18-0-1, 10 KO’s) vs. Alejandro “Payasito” Hernandez (24-8-2, 13 KO’s).

Golden Boy Promotions and Box Latino will promote the event.

Comments for the author? Twitter: @fightmedia

Ponce De Leon Back on the Warpath / Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel.

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Results from the Big Apple: Hunter Bombs Out Wilson; Algieri Wins Too

Arne K. Lang

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Results from the Big Apple: Hunter Bombs Out Wilson; Algieri Wins Too

TrillerVerz Fight Club, the new name for Triller, was at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden tonight for what ostensibly was the first installment of a regular monthly series. A Lou DiBella-promoted boxing card was the appetizer for a battle-of-the-bands-type showdown between local rap groups The Lox and Dipsit, legendary groups according to the promotional material colliding in an iconic confrontation.

The first batch of tickets put on sale were reportedly gone in 15 minutes. The gate was reportedly the highest in the 53-year history of the room. But empty seats were visible during the boxing portion of the telecast informing us that the rap battle was the allurement.

The main event was a 10-round heavyweight contest between Michael “The Bounty” Hunter, son of the late heavyweight fringe contender of the same name, and Mike “White Delight” Wilson, the pride of Central Oregon. They were originally slated to fight on June 19 in Miami on the undercard of Teofimo Lopez’’s mandatory title defense against George Kambobos Jr, but that card fell out when Lopez tested positive for Covid-19.

This was a rematch of sorts. They had met 14 years ago in the finals of an Olympic qualifying tournament and Hunter won a narrow decision. There was nothing narrow about tonight’s fight. Hunter was dominant from the get-go and blasted Wilson out in the fourth round.

It didn’t bode well for Wilson that he weighed a career-high 224 ¼. The 38-year-old Oregonian was soft in the belly and Hunter landed some hard shots there in the first two rounds. In Round Four, he snapped Wilson’s head back with a harsh uppercut and followed up with a short overhand right. Wilson went down hard and when he arose, leaking blood from several facial cuts, referee Ricky Gonzalez rightly waived it off.

Hunter, 33, improved to 20-1-1 (14). He has expressed interest in meeting Dillian Whyte, but it appears more likely that his next opponent will be Trevor Bryan who has a seat at the table at the WBA heavyweight title buffet. Wilson, who hadn’t previously been stopped, falls to 21-2.

P.S. – The sojourn back east worked out well for Las Vegas gym operator Bones Adams, the former WBA super bantamweight champion. Adams worked Jonnie Rice’s corner on Saturday night in Newark. With Michael Hunter in attendance, Rice turned his floundering career around with a smashing upset of Michael Coffie. Tonight, Adams was the primary advice-giver in Hunter’s corner.

Algieri – Les Pierre

In the chief undercard bout, Chris Algieri returned to the ring after an absence of more than two years and showed well in a 10-round welterweight contest with Brooklyn’s Mikkel Les Pierre. At age 37, Algieri, the Stony Brook University grad and former 140-pound world title-holder, was superbly conditioned. He was credited with throwing 910 punches, out-landing his 36-year-old opponent while winning a wide decision: 99-91 and 100-90 twice. Algieri had Les Pierre almost out in the eighth round when he threw the kitchen sink at his adversary. But he lacked the power to finish the job.

Now 25-3 (9), Algieri believes that he can once again be a force. That’s doubtful. He just doesn’t punch hard enough. But based on tonight’s showing, he earned the right to meet a more formidable opponent. Les Pierre, who is originally from Trinidad and Tobago, fell to 22-3-1.

Also

In off-TV bouts, welterweight Ivan Golub, a 32-year-old Brooklyn-based Ukrainian, improved to 19-1 with a wide 10-round decision over hard-trying Louisiana native Eric Walker (20-4) and light heavyweight Joe Ward, a highly decorated amateur from Moate, Ireland, won his fourth straight after a fluke loss in his pro debut with a 6-round decision over Louisiana’s Tory Williams (5-1-1). Ward won every round on all three cards.

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Late Sub Jonnie Rice Bursts Michael Coffie’s Bubble on a PBC Card in Newark

Arne K. Lang

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Every thing that could go wrong went wrong as promoter Al Haymon and his associates were patching together tonight’s card at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. But it couldn’t have worked out better for journeyman heavyweight Jonnie Rice who turned his career around with a smashing TKO of heavily favored and previously undefeated Michael Coffie.

Positive Covid tests scuttled two 10-round fights on the undercard. The main event had already been disheveled when Coffie’s original opponent Gerald Washington flunked his Covid test. Enter Rice (pictured on the right) who was on standby and seized the moment.

Rice, a Columbia, South Carolina native who has been living and training in Las Vegas, came in sporting a 13-6-1 record but five of his wins had come against no-hopers in Tijuana and he had yet to defeat an opponent in a match where he was the “B” side. But these facts were misleading as five of his six losses had come against hot prospects with undefeated records and he had honed his craft sparring against the likes of Tyson Fury, Filip Hrgovic, and Michael Hunter.

Based on “strength of schedule,” Rice, 34, had the edge over Coffie, the 35-year-old ex-Marine who brought a 12-0 record but was relatively untested. And Rice, who started fast, took the fight to Coffie and out-landed him. Coffie’s left eye was swelling and he wasn’t firing back when the referee waived it off in the fifth round.

Dirrell-Brooker

Tonight’s PBC fare came in two helpings with appetizers and the main event on FOX preceding a club-level show on FOX’s affiliate FS1. The main event of the nightcap was a 10-round light heavyweight bout between Andre Dirrell and Christopher Brooker.

Dirrell, who previously held an interim version of the IBF 168-pound world title, looked very sharp coming off a 19-month layoff, scoring three knockdowns before the fight was waived off in the third round. The Flint, Michigan native improved to 28-3 (18). Philadelphia’s Brooker fell to 16-8.

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Junior middleweight Joey Spencer (13-0, 9 KOs) scored an 8-round unanimous decision over James Martin (7-3). Spencer won comfortably on the scorecards – 80-72 and 79-73 twice – but was unimpressive.

Local fan favorite Vito “White Magic” Mielnicki Jr (9-1, 5 KOs) rebounded from his first pro loss with an impressive second-round stoppage of Noah Kidd (6-4-2).

Philadelphia welterweight Karl Dargan (20-1, 9 KOs), a former two-time national amateur champion, returned to the ring after a long absence and  stopped LA’s Ivan Delgado (13-4-2) in the third round.

New Jersey heavyweight Norman Neely advanced to 9-0 (7) with a unanimous decision over rugged Texas brawler Juan Torres (6-4-1). Neely won all six rounds on all three cards.

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Leigh Wood’s Big Upset Spangles the Rebirth of Eddie Hearn’s Garden Party

Arne K. Lang

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Last summer, hamstrung by the pandemic, Eddie Hearn hit upon the idea of holding boxing events outdoors in the expansive backyard of the family estate on the outskirts of London (now Matchroom Sport headquarters) where he grew up. Four shows were staged there.

The series has been revived. Today was “episode 1” of Season Two of Matchroom Fight Camp, otherwise known as Eddie Hearn’s Garden Party. Two more shows are penciled in over the next two weekends.

The match-up getting the most buzz was the welterweight contest between fast-rising Conor Benn and battle-tested Adrian Granados. Unfortunately, Benn tested positive for Covid-19. But the main event, a WBA world featherweight title defense by Can Xu (aka Xu Can) against Nottingham’s Leigh Wood stayed intact and produced a memorable upset.

Xu, who is co-promoted by Oscar De La Hoya, was installed a 4/1 favorite. Although he wasn’t a big puncher with only three knockouts to his credit in 20 starts, he rode into Hearn’s backyard riding a 15-fight winning streak for the third defense of his WBA “regular” title. But he started slow, perhaps the result of ring rust — it was his first fight of 2021 after missing all of 2020 – and he never did crank up the volume that had carried him to victory in his three title fights.

Wood, a stablemate of Josh Taylor who has made great gains since hooking up with Ben Davison and Lee Wylie, landed the heavier punches and was ahead on the cards when he took the fight out of the judges’ hands in the final minute of the final round. He decked Xu with a hard right hand and then trapped him on the ropes, forcing the stoppage that came with only 17 seconds remaining.

The 32-year-old Wood improved to 25-2 (15). Xu falls to 18-3. The deposed champion has a rematch clause so we may have a sequel.

Other Bouts

Chris Billam-Smith, trained by Shane McGuigan, won a hard-fought 12-round split decision over Belfast’s Tommy McCarthy in a cruiserweight scrap with three domestic titles at stake. The judges had it 116-112 and 115-114 for Billam-Smith, now 13-1, with the dissenter favoring McCarthy (18-3) by a 115-114 tally.

McCarthy wobbled Billam-Smith late in the first round with on overhand right, but could never land his Sunday punch on the Bournemouth fighter in a see-saw struggle with many close rounds. There were no knockdowns but McCarthy suffered a cut over his right eye near the end of round six from an apparent head butt.

McCarthy had Carl Frampton helping out in his corner which infused the contest with the aura of a grudge match. Frampton was the best man at Shane McGuigan’s wedding, but their friendship dissolved in a bitter court fight. At the end of the grueling fight, Billam-Smith and McCarthy embraced in a show of mutual respect.

Liverpool super-welterweight Anthony Fowler whose lone setback came at the hands of Scott Fitzgerald (a split decision) won his sixth straight with an eighth-round stoppage of Germany’s Rico Mueller whose cornerman was on the ring apron when the slow-acting referee waived it off at the 2:12 mark. Fowler, who is also trained by Shane McGuigan, improved to 15-1 (11). His next bout is expected to come against fellow Scouser Liam Smith in October. This was the second fight this month for the game but out-gunned 33-year-old Mueller (28-4-1) who was subbing for veteran Tex-Mex campaigner Roberto Garcia who pulled out with a back injury.

Also, Jack Cullen (20-2-1, 9 KOs) scored a 10-round unanimous decision over Avni Yildirim (21-4) in a 10-round super middleweight contest. Yildirim, from Turkey, was looking to atone for his hollow performance against Canelo Alvarez this past February. While he had his moments, he was out-worked by the lanky Lancashire man who won by scores of 100-90, 08-92, and 97-93.

Photo credit: Alan Walton / Matchroom Boxing

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