Daniel Ponce de Leon is supremely confident that he will become the first man to defeat Yuriorkis Gamboa when the featherweights meet in the main event of an HBO Boxing After Dark broadcast from Atlantic City, N.J., on Saturday.
The 31-year-old southpaw says he’s already beaten someone who is not only bigger, stronger, faster and more skillful than Gamboa (20-0, 16 KOs), but someone who is flat-out better than the former Olympic gold medalist from Cuba.
This, even if the judges’ cards did not agree with him.
De Leon (41-3, 34 KOs) is coming off a 10-round, unanimous decision loss to unbeaten 22-year-old junior lightweight Andrien Broner (21-0, 17 KOs) in March that many ringsiders thought de Leon won.
When the scoring was announced following what was just the third junior lightweight appearance for de Leon, Broner’s victory was roundly booed by those in attendance at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
“I’m sure that Gamboa believes that he is the best fighter of any other fighter that I will have faced. But I have faced some fighters that have speed,” said de Leon.
“Look at my last fight with Broner, who is also a talented fighter. I’m confident just in the fact that Broner is a bigger, stronger and faster fighter and I feel that I did beat him.”
Broner ended a seven-fight winning streak that had included four knockouts and two straight stoppages by de Leon.
“So leading into this fight with Gamboa, I know what Gamboa is about, and I know that I’m going to have to stay on top of him.”
De Leon’s previous loss before Broner had come by first-round knockout against Juan Manuel Lopez (30-1, 27 KOs), who dethroned de Leon as WBO junior featherweight titleholder in June of 2008.
The loss to Lopez ended a 10-bout winning streak that had included seven stoppages for de Leon, whose previous setback had been by a unanimous decision loss to ex-titleholder Celestino Caballero (34-4, 23 KOs) in a junior featherweight bout in February of 2005.
“For me, that fight with Lopez is now an afterthought. That happened in the past, and I don’t think about the past,” said de Leon, a resident of Huntington Park, Calif.
“I’ve also gotten a few good victories since the loss to Lopez, so I’m simply thinking about the present. For me, today, it feels like this Saturday is the first fight in my career.”
Gamboa is coming off of a sensational fourth-round knockout of Jorge Solis (40-3-2, 29 KOs), whom he floored twice each in the second and final rounds and once more in the third.
Gamboa has said that he sees similarities between Solis and de Leon, whom he believes he can dispatch of just as swiftly.
De Leon, however, said that he won’t be stopped for the second time in his career.
“Since the JuanMa fight, I’ve had two mandatories which, for whatever reason, didn’t happen,” said de Leon. “So beating Gamboa will open up the doors for me so that my next fight would be for a world title.”
In victory over Gamboa, de Leon said that he would like a shot at WBC featherweight titleholder Jhonny Gonzalez (49-7, 43 KOs) of Mexico City, who will pursue his 10th straight knockout against Rogers Matagwa (27-14-2, 19 KOs) of Tanzania on Sept. 15.
De Leon would also like to foil the plans of Top Rank Inc. CEO Bob Arum, who wants to match Gamboa against the winner of a rematch between WBO titleholder Orlando Salido (36-11-2, 24 KOs) and Lopez should Lopez get beyond a bout with Mike Oliver (25-2, 8 KOs) on Oct. 1.
Salido dethroned Lopez with an eighth-round knockout in April, this after Salido already had lost a unanimous decision to Gamboa one fight earlier in September of last year.
There is also Indonesia’s Chris John (45-0-2, 22 KOs), owner of the WBA’s “super” title belt.
“Jhonny Gonzalez has called me out in the past, so I would fight him. I would also fight Orlando Salido or Chris John,” said de Leon. “It doesn’t matter which opponent it is. All that I want is a title opportunity.”
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com