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Lopez vs. Ponce De Leon: Juanma Looking For An Upset Win

Daniel Ponce De Leon Juan Manuel LopezBy Scott Gilfoid: WBO super bantamweight champion Daniel Ponce de Leon (34-1, 30 KOs) will be taking on the young 24 year-old Juan Manuel Lopez (21-0, 19 KOs) on Saturday night in what may end up being the best match-up of the fight, on the same card that WBC/WBO middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik defends his title against Gary Lockett.

Lopez, 24, an impressive fighter from Puerto Rico where he was an amateur star for the country, will be taking a big step up in terms of competition when he faces the 27 year-old Ponce de Leon on Saturday. The general consensus is that Lopez will give de Leon a good fight but will end up coming short on the final scorecards, and will lose by a unanimous decision. I’m not so certain of that, however, and see this fight as more of a pick ‘em bout, in which both fighters have an almost equal chance at winning.

Make no mistake about it, de Leon is the much harder puncher of the two, especially in the early rounds when he is at his most dangerous. Lopez would be almost crazy to try and slug it out with de Leon during this stage of the fight, despite Lopez having decent power of his own. De Leon has a good chin, and it’s improbable that the counter-punching Lopez will be able to put a dent in de Leon’s chin in the early going. One would hope that Lopez has enough presence of mind to avoid mixing it up with de Leon in the 1st half of the fight, for I don’t like his chances if he makes that mistake.

In the fights I’ve seen of Lopez, he likes to take the fight to his opponents, trading shots with them at close quarters. He likes to avoid shots, when possible, but he still tends to get hit more often that I’d like. Part of the problem has been Lopez’s lack of quality opponents, which has allowed him to get away with having a leaky defense at times. This is something that hopefully Lopez has fixed while training for de Leon, because he won’t last long if he thinks he can land counter shots on the inside without getting hit with something big and possibly ending up getting knocked out.

Down the stretch, Lopez may have a good chance of beating de Leon when Ponce fades like he sometimes does in his long fights. If this is the case, Lopez, with his much better stamina, has a very good chance of scoring a knockout late. He wastes little energy when fighting, generally fighting in a very relaxed manner to conserve strength. De Leon, for his part, is the exact opposite of Lopez, choosing instead to throw every shot with knockout intentions. De Leon ends of missing a lot of his shots, naturally, but even his missed shots often do damage when they connect to the shoulder, chest or arms.

He doesn’t lighten up on his shots in order to connect like some fighters do, which makes him very dangerous because he has the potential to take a fighter out at all time. Likewise, de Leon has enormous power in either hand, and doesn’t necessarily have to load up on his shots in order to knock out an opponent. He’s capable of scoring knockouts even when he’s not trying for a knockout. De Leon has problems against fighters with good boxing skills, like WBA super bantamweight champion Celestino Caballero, who defeated him by a 12-round unanimous decision in February 2005. However, part of that loss was because of the good jab of Caballero, who used it often to keep the shorter 5’5” on the outside where he was able to nail him with right hands.

In Lopez’s case, he has only a 2 inch height advantage over de Leon at 5’7”, and he also doesn’t use his jab nearly as much as the 5’11” Caballero does. Lopez instead focuses on pinpoint counter shots at close quarters to be his opponents. This may work for him against de Leon, who might have problems with the sharp shooting strategy of Lopez. Then again, de Leon may find Lopez and even easier target to hit than many of his other opponents because Lopez will be standing in front of him for the most part.

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