The comeback trail. It’s a path that Daniel Ponce de Leon has been on before.
After losing his WBO junior featherweight strap via a first-round knockout to Juan Manuel Lopez in 2008, Ponce de Leon had to rebuild his confidence and restore that of the public in him. For seven fights, the southpaw slugger from Ciudad Cuauhtemoc, Mexico, bombed out competent but overmatched opposition, accentuating his better attributes (read: power) while minimizing his shortcomings.
Ponce de Leon found himself back on HBO’s airwaves last year, first against the larger Adrien Broner at 130 pounds, then against the best featherweight in the business, Yuriorkis Gamboa. Despite losing back-to-back matches, the 31-year-old veteran is hitting the comeback trail with more confidence than his last trip up Redemption Road.
“(The losses) have not affected me. To the contrary, they benefited me because I gained a lot more experience,” said Ponce de Leon (41-4, 34 knockouts), who faces Omar Estrella (15-3-2, 10 KOs) on Saturday at the Bodega Del Boxeo in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico.
Prior to this bout, Ponce de Leon, who is promoted by Golden Boy Promotions, enlisted the services of veteran manager and fellow Southern California resident Frank Espinoza to his team. In the past, Ponce de Leon was self-managed, handling the day-to-day business affairs by himself. Espinoza, who also handles IBF bantamweight titleholder Abner Mares, feels that three or four tune-ups could put Ponce de Leon back in the featherweight title picture.
“Daniel had expressed to us that before signing with us… he found himself being stressed about the business side of things,” said Espinoza. “Now that he is in good hands he can focus on what he does best and that’s fighting.”
Both Espinoza and Ponce de Leon hope that a winning streak could lead to title opportunities against featherweight titleholders Jhonny Gonzalez or Orlando Salido. Calls to Golden Boy Promotions matchmaker Eric Gomez were not answered on Wednesday.
Estrella has never fought an opponent the level of Ponce de Leon, but has served as a sparring partner for world champions Erik Morales, Antonio Margarito, Humberto Soto and Antonio DeMarco. Ponce de Leon says that he doesn’t know much about him. That could end up working to Ponce de Leon’s advantage.
“His record is tricky, but that’s why I prepared myself to give a good fight,” said Ponce de Leon.
“In the ring, there’s no small enemy.”
Translations provided by Donovan Castaneda and Claudia Perez
Photo / Craig Bennett-Fightwireimages.com
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to GMA News and the Filipino Reporter newspaper in New York City. He is also a member of The Ring ratings panel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.