Juan Manuel Lopez has reached a point where he must feel invincible. Three consecutive first round KO's over fighters who were meant to test him. When I say test him, I mean on paper. Because in actual fact Sergio Medina's record flattered to deceive and Cesar Figeuroa was there for the taking with 5 KO defeats to his name already. That leaves Daniel Ponce De Leon, previously undefeated, never dropped and a fearsome puncher himself. In this fight, a straight-up shoot-out, Ponce De Leon emerged confidently, swinging freely, as always, with no respect for the power of Lopez. He soon paid the price as Lopez found the opening for his devastating right hook quickly and Ponce's legs were jellified thereafter. He was soon a sitting duck. Lopez's more measured, less anxious approach paid off.
One man who mocks Juan Maunel Lopez's resume thus far is the wily Philipeano veteran Gerry Penalosa. He is in a different league to anyone 'Juanma' has fought. He has sublime ring craft, is frightening durable and possesses the type of precise, systematic punching that we attribute to Juan Manuel Marquez. He is versataille and adapts in the ring once he finds a game plan to execute. Usually this involves, like Marquez, luring his opponent to make the first move and finding the telling counter-punch. Unlike many of 'Juanma's victims, Penalosa will find a way to negate the brutal power of the Peurto Rican southpaw. He completely disarmed Ponce De Leon in their world title fight, where the Mexican somehow won a unanimous decision by a disgusting margin, when he had been counter-punched, backed-up and made to miss for most of the fight.
So what fight did the judges see? Well, they saw Ponce De Leon throw many, many punches while Penalosa was more sparing with his. But while Ponce's punches were blocked, Penalosa found the telling shots, mainly the right hook over Ponce's lazy left and occasionally a left-hook over the top. These would snap back Ponce's head and temporarily stop him in his tracks. Effective aggression. Ponce threw some good body shots throughout, but none of them affected the tough-as-nails Penalosa, who never stopped pursuing the Mexican. Penalosa actually had De Leon running for the last few rounds, changing his strategy so he wasn't open to the right hook which had been landing flush all night. What cannot be taken away from Penalosa is that he found a strategy that worked, the punch that landed and out-boxed the champion for most the fight.
Can the Ponce De Leon fight be used as a blue print for Saturdays mouth-watering clash between Penalosa and Lopez? In some respects, yes. It may be the closest blue print we will find as to how this fight will pan out. Ponce and Lopez are both southpaws who have relied on their heavy hands. Ponce De Leon showed good work rate in his fight with Penalosa, something which ultimately impressed the judges. We haven't seen 'Juanma' even close to fighting anyone who has made him work. 'Juanma' has risen to the top with his exhilerating one-punch power, which may be far superior to Ponce's. When he lands to the head and body, his opponents seem to wilt before him, crumbling pathetically. Will Penalosa, who has never been stopped in 54 fights, suddenly go to pieces under Juanma's seemingly super-human power? This fight will go a long way to proving how unstoppable Juanma actually is, because if there's anyone who can soak up punishment and protect himself effectively, it's Penalosa. Juanma will more than likely be taken the distance in a gruelling fight and how he will respond to this will determine his future.
Juanma is not a combination puncher and he will need to be, to subdue Penalosa. Ponce De Leon managed for a few rounds to keep Penalosa quiet as he threw non-stop combinations. These were wild and left him open to Penalosa's precision counter-punches, but at least he was able to fend off the Philapeano. Penalosa will protect his head and willingly soak up punishment to the body and perhaps we will see how brutal Juanma is when he lays in to Penalosa's exposed ribs.
I have a strong feeling that Penalosa will take 'juanma' to school. He will respect the power of Juanma and this means that he will not be opening up until the later rounds, should it go that far. He will look to find a weakness in the Peurto Rican and if there is a chink, he will exploit it. We really don't know if Juanma can take a punch, or an accumulation of precise punches - that Penalosa will deliver. If he can, this fight could well go to the hands of the judges and their impressions will decide the fate of the super-bantamweight title. But wlll Juanma find a plan b if his power does not subdue the courageous, and seemingly unflappable Penalosa?