Bad Left Hook Fight Preview: Daniel Ponce de Leon v. Antonio Escalante

Daniel Ponce de Leon faces Antonio Escalante this Saturday on HBO PPV. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

This Saturday night, HBO PPV presents a ... boy, how do you put this without going into the usual mindlessness?

It's not a card I'd advise you spend $50 on if you're not a boxing junkie. I guess that's the nicest way I can put it. As a full card, there is some interest. Shane Mosley main events against Sergio Mora, a tricky fight, and it'll be interesting for fans of Mosley to see where Sugar Shane's head is at after a dominant loss just over four months ago to Floyd Mayweather. Victor Ortiz faces Vivian Harris in a battle of guys nicknamed "Vicious" who probably haven't earned that nickname in the last couple of years. Mexican prospect Saul Alvarez hopes to continue his rise toward superstardom against shot former welterweight miracle champ Carlos Baldomir.

And then there's this fight, between 126-pound contenders Daniel Ponce de Leon and Antonio Escalante, which is where we'll start in analysis of the bouts on the show. This is quantity over great quality, but I have often found in those instances that I wind up more entertained after the fact than I do for any of the MegaPPVs. Expectations play a role, and expectations aren't particularly high for this show.

I'm going to try out a new "format" so to speak for the fight previews this week, and this is the first.

Featherweights - 12 Rounds
Daniel Ponce de Leon v. Antonio Escalante

Ponce de Leon (39-2, 32 KO) last fought on the Mayweather-Mosley undercard, winning a 10-round decision over journeyman Cornelius Lock. It wasn't the most impressive performance ever from the 30-year-old Mexican puncher in terms of excitement, but for overall ability shown, it was one of his better outings. He didn't seem to have his old destructive power, because he was boxing a lot more than he used to. It seems that his TKO-1 loss to Juan Manuel Lopez at 122 pounds in 2008 has changed his approach pretty significantly. He used to be a flat-footed brawler, not explosive so much as methodical and strong. Past Lopez, his only other loss came in 2005 to Celestino Caballero, who had half a foot of height on him and made him look almost helpless at times en route to winning a convincing 12-round decision.

Since the loss to Lopez, Ponce de Leon is 5-0, with two knockouts. Those stoppages came against Damian David Marchiano (KO-4) and Orlando Cruz (KO-3). He went a full 10 with Lock, and 12 with Marlon Aguilar and Roinet Caballero, all decent pros but not to be confused with stars or legitimate contenders.

He does still have that old power, though not quite as pronounced at 126 as it was at 122. Between Caballero and Lopez, he went on a fine run that included wins over Sod Kokietgym (twice), Al Seeger, Gerson Guerrero, Reynaldo Lopez, Rey Bautista and Gerry Penalosa, though that fight was far closer than the insanely wide scorecards that went in Ponce's direction.

Escalante (24-2, 15 KO) was not the first choice for this fight. That was Mickey Roman, who is fighting on Wednesday in Mexico against Tyrone Harris, and the man that Escalante beat in a Fight of the Year contender in February. But Roman didn't sign the contract in a timely enough fashion or whatever, so instead, we get a better, more meaningful fight.

Escalante is 25, born in Ciudad Juarez and now living in El Paso, where he has become a local star. His fight with Roman was a big one for the community -- the two grew up near one another in Ciudad Juarez and said they fought as children. If they made that up to sell tickets, it didn't show with the passion and grit they both displayed in the ring that night. Escalante is a former 122-pound prospect who was opening some eyes, but has moved to 126. Like Ponce de Leon, he has a win over Cornelius Lock, which came in July 2009 on wide 10-round scores.

As for his two losses, the first came in his fifth pro fight, a UD-4 loss to Jairo Sanchez, a fighter who did not last long in the sport. The second was an upset loss to veteran Maurico Pastrana (TKO-8) in 2007. Escalante's most notable wins have come against Jose Andres Hernandez, Mike Oliver, Gary Stark Jr., Lock and Roman, with his last fight on August 6 against super journeyman Edel Ruiz, resulting in a third round stoppage on a body shot.

The two will be fighting a WBO eliminator, with the result being a spot in line to face Juan Manuel Lopez, who takes on Rafael Marquez on November 6.

Grading the Fighters

(With a big tip of the cap to Mr. Cliff Rold and others who have done similar themes in fight previews over the years. Mr. Rold's fine work can be read at BoxingScene.com.)

PONCE DE LEON   ESCALANTE
B+ Punching Power B
C- Hand Speed C
C Defense C-
B Punch Resistance
B+
B+ Heart B+

In terms of game-changing, one-punch power, I'm not sure either has it, though I do wonder what might happen if Ponce is forced to really fight again. Would he revert to his more natural instincts and start winging those looping power punches that used to do so much damage when he would connect? Despite being stopped earlier in their careers, I don't think either has a particularly suspect chin or anything like that -- they can both take a punch, and despite winning fairly handily against Roman, Escalante took plenty of shots in that fight. Neither are much in the speed or defense departments. Ponce lumbers a bit more, and Escalante has a habit of leaving himself open for return fire when he goes into an offensive charge, which is hardly unique to him, but it's what got him stopped against Pastrana, and we saw plenty of it against Roman in February.

Star Power

Relevance:

Both are contenders, though not among the very cream of the 126-pound crop. As an eliminator that might set up a potential good fight against the Lopez-Marquez winner, this is solid stuff. Of course, Lopez being promoted by Top Rank might inhibit a fight between he and the winner, since both are working with Golden Boy, and the big firms are once again seemingly in a Cold War.

Good Fight Potential:

With Ponce and Escalante being bangers, we could see some solid action. The potential is there for a real disappointment, though, as Ponce de Leon hasn't been really tested since the Lopez destruction, and we might find out how strong his stomach is for action if Escalante presses him.

Overall Pre-Fight Score:

This won't always average out to match the exact average of the first two scores, but 3.5/5 is exactly how I see this fight. (Fights that are extra stinky from a sanctioning body perspective will take a hit, for instance.) It's good, but not great, and should serve as a fine PPV opener if all things go well. It could also be the best fight on the card by a country mile if they get into a war, and has deep sleeper Fight of the Year candidate potential if Ponce is forced to open up and they get into some good exchanges. At the very least, even getting 70% of what this fight COULD be should make it a Fight of the Month candidate.

Prediction

I don't see this one going the distance, or maybe it's just that I hope it doesn't. Ponce de Leon is hanging on to relevance by a few threads at this point, especially in a highly competitive division where being just outside the best fighters is probably his ceiling. Escalante is good, and he's exciting, but is he special? He'll need to be the best he's been to date to get a win here if Ponce if focused and in shape. If this fight turns into even a semi-stinker, that will likely be because Ponce de Leon is finding it easy to box the younger man. If it goes to war, anything can happen. I'm hoping for the latter, and if that pans out, I think I like Ponce de Leon's power to show up again and thwart Escalante's rise in the division. Ponce de Leon TKO-10

We're going to have a lot more fight previews this week, so stick around. There will probably be another one (or maybe two) tonight, and more throughout the next few days as we head into a super busy week in terms of the amount of overall fights out there.

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