When their 130-pound rematch was announced earlier this month, Juan Manuel Lopez said he expected "a difficult fight" with Daniel Ponce de Leon, a fellow two-division titleholder whom Lopez stopped in the first round for the WBO junior featherweight title in June 2008.
"These two met six years ago at 122 pounds," states Anson Wainwright of RingTV.com. "On that night, Lopez's straighter punchers landed before Ponce de Leon's wider shots."
But a lot has changed since then for the southpaw duo whose rematch represents a crossroads bout for each of them.
"In his last handful of fights, Juan Manuel Lopez has demonstrated the characteristics of a fighter that is completely shot," said Mark Ortega of RingTV.com. "This isn't close to the same Lopez who starched Ponce de Leon within a round all those years ago."
A 33-year-old Mexican Olympian, Ponce de Leon (45-5, 35 KOs) was last seen in the ring earning a unanimous decision victory over Joksan Hernandez in November after having been dethroned as WBC featherweight beltholder following a ninth-round knockout loss to Abner Mares last May.
Ponce de Leon had won the 126-pound belt with an eight-round technical decision over Jhonny Gonzalez last September. "The Tarahumara Destroyer" ended a 12-fight winning streak (which included 11 knockouts) for Gonzalez, who regained the belt with a first-round stoppage of Mares last August.
The 30-year-old Caguas, Puerto Rico-based Lopez (33-3, 30 KOs) is 3-3 in his past six fights, being stopped in all his losses. Lopez was last in the ring for a fourth round knockout loss to Mikey Garcia last June.
Lopez sandwiched a second-round knockout of Mike Oliver in October of 2011 between stoppage losses to Orlando Salido in April 2011 and March 2012. Lopez had won two fights by ninth and second round knockout before facing Garcia.
"I think that Lopez was always one of those guys you thought had a tremendous amount of skills and then somewhere down the line, it just never worked out for him," said Tim Smith of RingTV.com.
"That knockout against Ponce de Leon was a long time ago, certainly before Lopez started getting whacked out by everybody including Orlando Salido, who knocked him out a couple of times."
As follows, RingTV.com sought the opinions of 20 insiders as to what they feel will transpire in Lopez-Ponce de Leon II.
Daniel Ponce de Leon TKO 8 Juan Manuel Lopez: Juan Manuel Lopez is at home and desperate for a victory. A hometown crowd and desperation are two reasons to give Lopez a chance at a career-saving victory.
But they don’t give him a chin. A weakness exposed by Orlando Salido is a target that Daniel Ponce de Leon won't miss in his fight to avenge the first round stoppage he suffered against a very different Lopez six years ago.
Record: 5-2 [Last pick: Alvarez TKO 7 Angulo]
Daniel Ponce de Leon TKO 6 Juan Manuel Lopez: Let's keep this simple. Juan Manuel Lopez is clearly not the fighter he once was. The wars with Orlando Salido and the one-way beating from Mikey Garcia have more than likely taken whatever he might've had left when there was talk in 2011 of a future super-fight with Yuriorkis Gamboa.
That all seems like a lifetime ago now, so does the first fight between these two back in 2008. Times have changed and that Lopez no longer exists. Ponce de Leon isn't exactly as fresh as a daisy himself but he should still have enough left to overpower "JuanMa" and gain revenge for that embarrassing first round stoppage loss.
Look for [Ponce] de Leon to recover from a flash knockdown early before rallying to win a war of attrition based on superior firepower and the fact that the timing of this rematch favors [Ponce] de Leon.
Record: 5-2 [Last pick: Angulo TKO 10 Alvarez]
Daniel Ponce de Leon KO 8 Juan Manuel Lopez: I think that it's strange that we think of Juan Manuel Lopez as being shot because look who his losses came to. He had two by knockout to Orlando Salido and then he had the one to Mikey Garcia.
Both of them are very good fighters but the reason that I think of Lopez being that way is the way that he looked against Garcia. He just did not look fundamentally sound and he did not look like he belonged in the ring anymore.
Lopez says that it's really trying to get down to featherweight and that the next time, he will be better at 130. I just don't know how much difference that will make.
I think that Ponce de Leon is a lot better than he was back when they first fought and unless he comes in and tries to wail away at Lopez, I see Ponce de Leon winning a late stoppage in, say, the eighth round or a decision.
Daniel Ponce de Leon KO 7 Juan Manuel Lopez: Although at 33, Daniel Ponce de Leon is nearly three years older than Juan "JuanMa" Manuel Lopez, he appears to have more in the tank in terms of the skills that defined their respective primes.
Lopez has become much more hittable and he has gone down frequently in recent fights. That's a bad sign against a guy with as many knockouts as Ponce de Leon has. Lopez will be heartened by the home crowd support but it won't lift him high enough to get the victory.
Record: 3-1 [Last pick: Alvarez W 12 Angulo]
Juan Manuel Lopez UD 10 Daniel Ponce de Leon: A lot has changed since the first time Juan Manuel Lopez and Daniel Ponce de Leon met back in 2008. Obviously, Lopez fell harder and faster as his star came crashing dramatically down to earth with two knockout losses to Orlando Salido and complete annihilation at the hands of Mikey Garcia.
However, he still is the better fighter than Ponce de Leon, just not by a wide margin. Although the talent gap isn't as wide as it once was, Lopez should be able to muster up remnants of the old "JuanMa" in this Puerto Rico vs. Mexico rivalry. That doesn't mean we can cut and paste another first round TKO for Lopez here.
Instead, "JuanMa" will have to fight his way through what I believe will be a tooth-and-nail affair. Ponce de Leon will give him all the trouble he can handle throughout the fight but a knockdown by Lopez later in the fight will be the difference maker in a narrow unanimous decision victory.
Record: 6-1 [Last pick: Alvarez UD 12 Angulo]
Daniel Ponce de Leon TKO 8 Juan Manuel Lopez: Daniel Ponce de Leon isn't what he once was and certainly not as good or fresh as Mikey Garcia.
But based on how shot Juan Manuel Lopez looked against Garcia, in addition to his two TKO losses to Orlando Salido, it's hard not to pick the heavy-handed Ponce de Leon to stop him.
"JuanMa" will go out on his shield - like always - but he won't have enough to prevent Ponce de Leon from avenging his first round TKO loss nearly six years ago.
Record: 5-2 [Last pick: Alvarez UD 12 Angulo]
Daniel Ponce de Leon UD 10 Juan Manuel Lopez: Daniel Ponce de Leon seems to be a guy about whom you wonder just how he does and has done so well. Ponce de Leon isn't as fast as some and it doesn't seem as if his defense is that great.
But Ponce de Leon's timing is tricky, so he is often able to beat guys to shots you wouldn't necessarily think that he would. Juan Manuel Lopez, meanwhile, is sliding badly. The pick here is Ponce de Leon by unanimous decision.
Record: 2-2 [Last pick: Alvarez UD 12 Angulo]
Daniel Ponce de Leon W 10 Juan Manuel Lopez: This seems to be a fight for nostalgia's sake. Both of these former champions are clearly on the backsides of their careers. That doesn't mean their rematch can't be compelling or entertaining; it might be both. That was certainly the case when Thomas Hearns met Sugar Ray Leonard in Chapter Two, eight years after their epic first fight.
Difference, of course in this one, is that the first "JuanMa"-Ponce de Leon fight was a blowout, a first-round knockout by Lopez. The question now to be answered though is "Who has slipped further?" "JuanMa" didn't win a single minute of his loss to Mikey Garcia last year and even more troubling, he was in great shape for that fight.
On the other hand, Ponce de Leon acquitted himself pretty well in a loss to Abner Mares. Even though I normally subscribe to the feeling that a guy who wins by knockout in a first fight also wins the rematch, I'm going against that outlook. Therefore, I look for a different result this time with Ponce able to outlast "JuanMa" by 12-round decision.
Record: 5-2 [Last pick: Alvarez TKO 8 Angulo]
Daniel Ponce de Leon KO 6 Juan Manuel Lopez: In his last handful of fights, Juan Manuel Lopez has demonstrated the characteristics of a fighter that is completely shot.
Lopez's punch resistance is non-existent; his reflexes are such that he looks like he is underwater when he lets punches go.
Daniel Ponce de Leon should knock out Lopez around the fifth or sixth round as this isn't close to the same Lopez who starched Ponce de Leon within a round all those years ago.
Daniel Ponce de Leon TKO 9 Juan Manuel Lopez: Juan Manuel Lopez knocked out Daniel Ponce de Leon in the first round in 2008. Lopez came into the fight undefeated while Ponce de Leon had lost only once.
A lot has changed in four years. Lopez has been stopped three times since defeating Ponce de Leon. Last May, Ponce de Leon was knocked out in nine rounds by Abner Mares. He did rebound with a victory in his last bout.
Ponce De Leon, 33, is three years older than Lopez but he appears to be the younger fighter. Lopez has sustained some pretty wicked beatings. I see Ponce de Leon stopping Lopez in round nine.
Record: 5-2 [Last pick: Alvarez TKO 10 Angulo]
Daniel Ponce de Leon W 10 Juan Manuel Lopez: If Juan Manuel Lopez is as shot as he looked against Mikey Garcia, then Daniel Ponce de Leon should be able to turn the tables and avenge his loss.
I was ringside for when JuanMa blew out Ponce de Leon the first time, and I don't think it was due to Lopez being such a big puncher as much as it was due to Ponce de Leon getting caught before he could get warmed up.
Just like that, the fight was over. Both men have gone in separate directions since, however, and I'd assume that at this point, Ponce de Leon has a little more left in the tank. Ponce de Leon by decision.
Record: 5-1 [Last pick: Alvarez TKO 7 Angulo]
Daniel Ponce de Leon KO Juan Manuel Lopez: My, how these ships have passed since Juan Manuel Lopez blitzed Daniel Ponce de Leon in one round. Ponce de Leon is better now than then. Lopez is not.
Record: 4-3 [Last pick: Alvarez KO Angulo]
Daniel Ponce de Leon KO 10 Juan Manuel Lopez: I think Daniel Ponce de Leon, a good boxer and tough guy, has much more left in the tank than Juan Manuel Lopez. If he avoids huge shots, he wins. [Ponce] de Leon by KO 10.
Record: 4-2 [Last pick: Chavez KO 9 Vera]
Daniel Ponce de Leon W 10 Juan Manuel Lopez: I'm going with Daniel Ponce de Leon to come through with a very hard-fought victory over Juan Manuel Marquez, most likely by decision.
Record: 4-0 [Last pick: Alvarez W 12 Angulo]
Daniel Ponce de Leon W 10 Juan Manuel Lopez: I think that Daniel Ponce de Leon takes him apar and that he's probably going to end up getting the knockout against him.
I think that Lopez was always one of those guys you thought had a tremendous amount of skills and then somewhere down the line, it just never worked out for him.
That knockout against Ponce de Leon was a long time ago, certainly before Lopez started getting whacked out by everybody including Orlando Salido, who knocked him out a couple of times.
Daniel Ponce de Leon TKO 9 Juan Manuel Lopez: This fight is intriguing because it's a rematch between fighters who are well past their respective primes. At this point, the result of their 2008 fight, which Juan Manuel Lopez won by first round knockout, is insignificant.
In fact, it's probably easier to pick a winner based on who the "less shot" fighter is. Lopez hasn't been the same since the 12th round of his 2009 battle with Rogers Mtagwa during in which he was out on his feet and barely survived.
Daniel Ponce de Leon has less wear and tear as well as the better chin while Lopez seems like a shell of himself, having been stopped three times. I'll go with Ponce de Leon by late stoppage but I wouldn't be surprised if Lopez was the winner by knockout.
Record: 2-0 [Last pick: Alvarez UD 12 Angulo]
Juan Manuel Lopez KO Daniel Ponce de Leon: I think that I'm going to go with Juan Manuel Lopez. I think that he's going to come back and knock out Daniel Ponce de Leon.
I think that Lopez has the power to be able to do it. I don't know if his defense is good enough to handle Ponce de Leon but I think Lopez will do it though in a shoot-out.
Record: 1-0 [Last pick: Alvarez UD 12 Angulo]
Daniel Ponce de Leon KO 4 Juan Manuel Lopez: Juan Manuel Lopez was being groomed as the next superstar and was on his way to joining the Puerto Rican roster of great fighters.
In his first meeting with Daniel Ponce de Leon, Lopez demonstrated his power and youth, annihilating Ponce de Leon inside of the first round.
But Lopez has shown a decline and is now 3-3 in his last six bouts with all three losses coming by knockout.
Although Ponce de Leon has had an up-and-down career, he looks to be the fresher of the two. Lopez, with his sloppy footwork, poor balance and weak chin, will suffer his fourth loss by knockout inside four rounds.
Record: 2-3 [Last pick: Angulo TKO 10 Alvarez]
Charles Villa, guest/fan, Portland, Ore.
Daniel Ponce de Leon KO 9 Juan Manuel Lopez: It's hard to believe that almost six years have passed since Juan "JuanMa" Manuel Lopez first met Daniel Ponce de Leon in the ring, resulting in a first round destruction of Ponce de Leon. Since then, Lopez has declined sharply, getting stopped by Orlando Salido twice and Mikey Garcia.
Lopez hasn't looked like the confident, destructive force that ripped through the 122-pound division in a long time. Ponce de Leon, while having three losses of his own to Adrien Broner, Yuriorkis Gamboa and Abner Mares since their first meeting, looks to have become a more patient and intelligent fighter than he was back in 2008.
While Lopez has justified his stoppage losses with trouble making weight, it's hard to believe that we're going to see a brand new "JuanMa" at 130 pounds. Even though Ponce de Leon got stopped by Mares in May 2013, he doesn't seem to have taken the same kind of damage Lopez has. Look for Ponce de Leon to even the score and stop Lopez within nine rounds.
Record: 1-2 [Last pick: Angulo UD 12 Alvarez]
Daniel Ponce de Leon KO 7 Juan Manuel Lopez: Interesting fight. These two met six years ago at 122 pounds. Daniel Ponce de Leon entered the ring in Atlantic City as champion only for then-rising star Juan Manuel Lopez to easily despatch him inside the opening round. On that night, Lopez's straighter punchers landed before Ponce de Leon's wider shots.
Lopez seemed headed for great things but never really reached these heights again. Both fighters went on to win world titles at 126 pounds and now meet up at junior lightweight. I feel that Ponce de Leon is better preserved than "JuanMa," who has never looked the same after being stopped twice by Orlando Salido.
"JuanMa" is well-rested after being stopped by Mikey Garcia nine months ago while Ponce de Leon won a wide decision last November. I expect Lopez to box well early but Ponce de Leon to press him before getting success in the mid-rounds and then gaining the ultimate revenge a few rounds later with a stoppage victory.
Record: 5-1 [Last pick: Alvarez TKO Angulo]
By an overwhelming, 18-2, the insiders have Daniel Ponce de Leon gaining revenge against Juan Manuel Lopez.