In 1980 a future two-weight world champion was born into a Tarahumara family, a man who overcame such adversity that only he from his four other brothers would make it in the harsh climates/conditions that his tribe lived in.
To give you a little insight of his heritage, five centuries ago the Tarahumara people retreated above the canyons of northern Mexico Sierra Madre Occidental, the birthplace of the hard-hitting Daniel Ponce de Leon.
Referring to themselves as rarámuri which translates to “foot-runner” or “he who walks well,” they are renowned for their immense stamina where if rumours are to be believed often they would leave American ultramarathoners frustrated that they were beaten by these extraordinary people whilst to add insult to injury they would do so whilst wearing huarache sandals and stopping now and then for a smoke.
These were the people whose history is etched into Daniel Ponce de Leon’s DNA where he too was blessed with such attributes which we have seen throughout his thirteen-year career, pull him through more than a few tough encounters.
A comprehensive amateur background to fall back on. Daniel excelled in the ranks, becoming a Mexican National Champion and claiming a Bronze medal at the 1999 Pan America Games before going on to represent Mexico at the highest of levels at the 2000 summer Olympic games (losing in the first round to Vladimir Sidorenko)
2001 – PROFESSIONAL DEBUT…
A lot of expectation circled around Daniel upon his time of making his professional debut, an expectation which was fulfilled in the stoppage of Servando Solis on the 31st March 2001.
Another twenty stoppages followed which added to the knockout puncher which Daniel is synonymously likened to today. It was three years later in which someone actually took him the distance where he decisioned Carlos Contreras handing Daniel the opportunity to secure his first professional title.
2004 – WBO NABO SUPER BANTAMWEIGHT TITLE…
Standing in his way albeit for three rounds was Emmanuel Lucero wherein a contest for the vacant WBO NABO super bantamweight title, Ponce de Leon destroyed with the ease we had come to expect at the County Coliseum in El Paso, Texas.
It wasn’t until 2005 that Ponce de Leon would feel the sting of defeat which came at the hands of the awkward Panamanian Celestino Caballero. A frustrating but slight bump in the road to his first world title. Two months following that loss Daniel stepped back through the ropes to stop Ricardo Barajas, just a month on he also stopped Philip Payne to put him in pole position for a shot at the vacant WBO super bantamweight crown, a date with destiny awaited.
2005 – PONCE DE LEON BECOMES WORLD CHAMPION…
Controlling the action at the Desert Diamond Casino in Tucson, Arizona, Daniel was not to be denied, even having to get off the canvas in the second round to hand Sod Kokietgym the first loss of his career to date.
He had done it, realising a lifelong dream Daniel overcame obstacles which would have broken a less determined person, like the Rarámuri he had raced to the finish line, unfazed, undeterred by anything he passed along the way.
Now with a bullseye on his back he was in a position of envy for every fighter within the division who wanted a shot at his newly captured crown, but each of the likes of Gerson Guerrero, Sod Kotietgym (this time lasted just one round), Al Seeger, Gerry Penalosa, Rey Bautista, Reynold Lopez and Eduardo Escobedo were defeated in a defence which lasted seven contests and nearly a three-year campaign.
2008 – LOSE TO JUANMA
Daniel’s second career loss came at the hands of another ferocious puncher in Puerto Rico’s Juan Manuel Lopez, the scene was set and the knockout was inevitable but Daniel would be left title less as Juanma stopped him in the first round.
The loss was obviously a damning one, luckily perseverance was always a string to Daniel’s bow he wasn’t one to let the occasions threaten his career going forward, instead, he set about putting things right winning his next seven contests before being handed the glory contest of Adrian Broner, the self-proclaimed “Can Man”
2011 – CONTROVERSIAL DECISION AGAINST BRONER….
Daniel was thought to be the ideal opponent for boxing’s star attraction by matchmakers which on reflection nearly came back to haunt them as many thought the result of Broner winning a decision to be an injustice to Daniel who pushed the contest for the duration. HBO’s unofficial scorecard which was handled by Harold Letterman had the contest 96-94 to Ponce De Leon which was backed up by the fight stats on the night which also favoured the Mexican.
Daniel handled the loss with the professionalism that we had come to expect, he could have easily gone down the route of fighting a journeyman to get an easier contest under his belt but that wasn’t Daniel’s style, instead he looked to test himself once more which he did a fight later against Yuriorkis Gamboa which again left him with another blemish on his record as the Cuban scored a technical decision over him.
His career now was pointing towards the exit signs but having been counted out on more than one occasion in the past Daniel came back with vigour, winning two contests to set up an all Mexican affair with the champion of the time Jhonny Gonzalez.
2012 – SECOND TITLE AGAINST GONZALEZ…
The contest for the WBC featherweight crown presented Daniel with a chance to secure his second title in as many weight classes but was also one which portrayed him as the underdog going in, talk of Jhonny moving on to bigger fights appeared in the press conferences leading up to the fight.
All this fanned the flames inside of Ponce De Leon who took apart the champion with power and endurance, two attributes that his heritage had bred into him. Daniel was sensational on the night as he dropped Gonzalez in the sixth before an accidental head-butt left the decision going to the scorecards following a cut sustained to Gonzalez, the result was one in which was never in any doubt as once more Daniel was crowned champion now a two-weight world champion with scores of 79-72, 79-72 and 77-74.
2014 – RETIREMENT….
The rest of his career was not of such a memorable nature with losses coming to the likes of Abner mares and a rematch loss to Juan Manuel Lopez, Daniel’s time in the sport had come to a close which was reaffirmed in his last career loss against Miguel Roman.
A THANK YOU…
Daniel Ponce de Leon will always remain a fan favourite who was always ready and willing to fight the best around at the time and more often than not come away from with the victory.
Stacking the odds against this man just gave him more reason to knock them down which he did literally, going down as one of the sports great punchers.