Daniel Ponce de Leon has worked hard to rebound from a crushing first-round knockout to Juan Manuel Lopez in June of 2008. The former 122-pound beltholder, who lost his title to Lopez, has won seven consecutive bouts, including an impressive third-round KO of featherweight contender Antonio Escalante last September.
However, de Leon’s momentum could be dashed by Adrien Broner, the talented lightweight prospect he faces on the undercard of the Saul Alvarez-Matthew Hatton fight on Saturday in Anaheim, Calif. Both bouts will be televised on HBO.
Broner (19-0, 16 knockouts) is a bigger, faster stylistic nightmare for the plodding de Leon, but the 30-year-old veteran is willing to take the chance in order to redeem himself to a wide audience.
“There is a risk in fighting Broner, but the opportunity to fight on HBO was too great to pass up,” de Leon told RingTV.com through translator Mark Hernandez at a media workout Tuesday in Los Angeles. “I lost (to Lopez) the last time I fought on HBO. I want to show everybody watching on Saturday that I’m a better fighter than that. I want to show the fans what I can do against a really good fighter.”
The junior lightweight bout, which is scheduled for 10 rounds, is a difficult one to call. Broner, a 21-year-old amateur standout from Cincinnati, has blazing hand speed and has fought as heavy as 140 pounds. However, the brash young prospect, who has stopped his last 10 opponents, has never faced a fighter as experienced and heavy handed as de Leon (41-2, 34 KOs).
The rugged southpaw from Chihuahua, Mexico, expects a tough fight.
“I have watched video of Broner,” de Leon said. “He’s fast, he’s got power, and he has the classic African-American boxing style, which I admit I’m not comfortable with, but I’ll adjust. I believe in myself and my abilities.”
De Leon’s confidence stems not only from his greater experience but his much-improved technique. In recent bouts, most notably against Escalante and fringe contender Cornelius Lock, de Leon set his power punches up with a crisp jab while exhibiting balance, patience and poise that was once thought beyond his ability.
The evolution from wild brawler to boxer-puncher was a necessary one, according to de Leon.
“It’s something I needed to do,” he said. “I worked on my technique with my trainers because I had to. Before, I was able to knock out anyone I fought with any kind of punch. But those one-punch knockouts stopped happening as my opposition got better and bigger.”
Improved technique and winning another world title were goals de Leon set for himself following his loss to Lopez. He achieved the first goal, which will undoubtedly help him in his pursuit of the second goal — if he gets past Broner.
“Everything changes,” de Leon said. “If you make adjustments, you will continue to progress. If you don’t, it’s the end of the line.”
Photo / Carlos Delgado-Hoganphotos-Golden Boy Promotions