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Daniel Ponce de Leon: “I fight for the fans”

(Photo © German Villasenor)
(Photo © German Villasenor)


When Daniel Ponce de Leon lost for the second consecutive time in 2011, he decided he needed a change. He then brought in renowned manager Frank Espinoza Snr. Now with new direction, the former WBO super bantamweight champion will start fresh when he returns tonight. The 31-year-old southpaw debuted back in 2001 after representing Mexico in the 2000 Olympics and quickly blazed his way through the professional ranks, beating his first 24 opponents with only one hearing the final bell before losing a decision to current WBA featherweight champion Celestino Caballero. Ponce de Leon bounced back strongly, winning two fights before capturing the WBO super bantamweight crown, retaining it six times, before losing it via startling first round KO to rising star Juan Manuel Lopez. It was that loss that made Ponce de Leon realize he couldn’t bludgeon every opponent into defeat and he’d ultimately have to learn a few new tricks and subtleties of the game. While he’s managed to do that to some extent, “The Tarahumara Destroyer” still possesses a fan-friendly style that has seen him vaporise 34 (several of which are highlight reel material) of his 45 opponents, leaving him with a very respectable 41-4 (34) record to date. Though he’s lost his last two contests, they have taken place above the featherweight limit. He’s eager to once again return to 126 pounds and make another title run. Espinoza says of his newest charge, “We are excited about the return of Daniel Ponce de Leon. We feel he’s going to make a big statement this year and it will start with Omar Estrella. Estrella is no slouch but Ponce has never been this motivated. Look out for Ponce de Leon in 2012!” Currently he’s ranked #9 by both the IBF and WBO and #5 by The Ring magazine.


Anson Wainwright - Last September, you lost an eight-round technical decision to Yuriorkis Gamboa when the fight was stopped due to a cut on your forehead. Looking back, what are your thoughts on that fight? Some people have said you were looking for a way out of that fight. What is your response to that? Also, what did you think of Gamboa; how good is he?
 
Daniel Ponce de Leon - That is not true but Gamboa is a very slick fighter and fights very smart. I have a lot of respect for him. 
 
AW - Since the Gamboa fight, you have changed things in your team. Can you tell us about those changes? 
 
DPdL - Yes, I have recently signed with manager Frank Espinoza. Frank is a well-respected manager and works well with my promoters, Golden Boy Promotions. I feel I can now only focus only on boxing and training. I know I’m in good hands with Mr. Espinoza. 
 
AW – When can we expect to see you back in the ring?
 
DPdL - I will be fighting in Mexico on January 21st against Omar Estrella. The plan is to stay busy then work my way back into another title shot. I want to be a world champion again in 2012.
 
AW - You moved up to super featherweight and fought Adrien Broner. Many people believe that was a fight that you won, only Broner got the decision. What are your thoughts?
 
DPdL - I feel I outboxed him and won the fight. I can’t tell you how many people have come up to me and told me they thought I was robbed in that fight. I honestly do not consider that a loss because I fight for the fans- and they know who won that fight!
 
AW - What are your thoughts on the featherweight division as you have fought many of the top guys? What do you think of the current champions, the WBC’s Jhonny Gonzalez, the WBA’s “super champion” Chris John and “regular champion” Celestino Caballero, the IBF’s Billy Dib and the WBO’s Orlando Salido?
 
DPdL - They are all good champions. I would love to fight Jhonny Gonzalez, Salido or any of them down the line but I have to work my way back into another shot- and I intend to do just that!
 
AW - You were born in the mountains of Ciudad Cuauhtémoc, Mexico. Could you tell us a little about your early days growing up there?  
 
DPdL - Yes, I grew up in rough environments till I was about 12. We had no electricity and lived in a very natural environment. I belong to the Tarahumara tribe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarahumara). We had to deal with many things but it has also helped me in many ways throughout my boxing career. It’s made very tough. 
 
AW - You were part of the 2000 Mexican Olympic team. What it was like to go to the Olympics and represent your country? What tournaments did you win as an amateur? What pros did you fight and what was your record as an amateur?
 
DPdL - It was an honour to fight for my country and a memorable experience. I fought Omar Andres Narvaez, Marco Leyva, Wladimir Sidorenko and Ulises Solis’ brother [Jorge]. I also was Mexican National Amateur champion and a bronze medalist at the 1999 Pan American Games.
 
AW - At the start of your career, you were known to be a big puncher. After you lost to “JuanMa” Lopez, you seemed to work on your boxing more and have refined your style a little bit. Could you tell us about the changes you have implemented in training, what things you have worked on and how you feel you have improved?
 
DPdL - Yes, I wanted to better myself as a fighter. I knew I had to improve my boxing skills. Although I love knockouts, you have to be smart in boxing and superior boxing skills will only help improve me as a more rounded fighter.  
 
AW - You’re a former WBO super bantamweight champion, reigning from 2005-2008. What would you like to achieve in the rest of your boxing career?
 
DPdL - I want to become a world champion again in 2012 and I know I will do it. I also want to continue to fight the best in my division. 
 
AW - Away from boxing, what do you like to do with your spare time? Can you tell us about some of the activities you are involved in outside of boxing?   
 
DPdL - I like to spend time with my family. I’ve also started to work as a commentator for a local television network. It’s something that I enjoy doing. 
 
AW - Who do you consider to be the best opponent you have fought so far? What do you consider your best win and best knockout win?
 
DPdL - My best knockout would have to be against Sod Looknongyangtoy [Kokietgym] (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPC-8zB4eI4) . I enjoyed that one!
 
AW – Finally, do you have a message for the featherweight division?
 
DPdL - I’m ready to fight the best and want to be a world champion soon! 
 
Questions and comments can be sent to Anson at elraincoat@live.co.uk.


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