By Lem Satterfield
Southpaw Mexican former WBO super bantamweight titlist Daniel Ponce De Leon's body already was heavily tattooed before Saturday night's super featherweight bout against 21-year-old Adrien Broner of Cincinnatti.
But after being largely outclassed by the younger man, the 32-year-old De Leon had the facial markings to match, with puffiness and abrasions above and below both eyes and blood dripping from above the left one even as Broner's facial features -- despite an accidental clash of heads in the 10th and final round -- remained largely unscathed.
Although his trainer, Michael Stafford, did not appear to be pleased with everything his young fighter did, Broner (20-0, 16 KOs), nevertheless, landed the harder, cleaner, crisper, sharper punches, displayed superior defense, and generally out-performed De Leon over the course of a unanimous decision win before a hostile crowd in an HBO televised clash from the Honda Center in Anaheim Calif.
Coming off of sensational stoppages in the third, and, seventh rounds in September and December, respectively, over Antonio Escalante and Sergio Manuel Medina, Ponce De Leon (41-3, 34 knockouts) was in search of his third straight knockout victory, and his seventh straight win since being dethroned as WBO super bantamweight king by first-round stoppage against Juan Manuel Lopez (29-0, 26 KOs) in June of 2008.
But the 5-foot-7 Broner also resisted the urge to brawl or to go after his 11th consecutive knockout, instead, boxing with a poise and composure that often allowed him to not only fight tall, but to repeatedly frustrate and nail the often retreating, 5-6 De Leon with hard left hooks, crunching right hands and potent uppercuts.
"You're talking about a young fighter like Andrien fighting a veteran former world champion like Ponce De Leon, who, by the way, was coming off of one of the most impressive victories of his career against Escalante, who he knocked out with a spectacular stoppage," said Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, which sponsored the fight.
"Adrien went into hostile terrirory, and you should have been there. There were 12,500 people chanting Ponce's name. As a young fighter, he had to basically composed, knowing how dangerous his opponent was, and fight his fight," said Schaefer. "I think that the crowd had a lot to do with the media's criticism of the way Andrien fought, because it was a totally pro De Leon crowd. So you have to take your hat off to a fighter like Adrien who had the skills and the discipline to stay his course and not get carried away by the crowd. I think that you have to give Adrien Broner credit for that."
Broner mostly held his guard high around his face and ears, even as De Leon often attacked to the body. But when Broner needed to fight in close, he did so, such as when he got the better of a toe-to-toe exchange near the end of the fourth round -- one during which Broner answered with a piercing right hand to counter De Leon's use of his right foot to step on Broner's left foot.
"We've seen how exciting Andrien Broner can be. We've seen it in his previous fights. We knew he could punch. We knew he could win by knockout. We knew he was a show-boater, but maybe sometimes, a bit too much, which is not necessarily everybody's cup of tea," said Schaefer. "But if Adrien Broner would have gone into this fight like he has in his other fights, with his hands down, dancing around, sticking out the neck -- you don't go and fight a Ponce De Leon like that."
In the fifth round, Broner did finally allow the clown in him to emerge, at one point spinning in a complete circle while a befuddled De Leon simply plodded forward unable to capitalize.
In the sixth, Broner had De Leon running into uppercuts and head-swiveling right hands, and in the seventh, there were at least five more consecutive right hands to De Leon's jaw by Broner.
At that point, BoxingScene.com had scored the fight, 69-64, for Broner with three rounds left, meaning that that the younger had sweept the first seven rounds and De Leon required a knockout to win.
"What we didn't know was how was Adrien Broner was going to fight when he goes in with a big puncher and a veteran," said Schaefer. "Is he going to be able to adopt a different game plan to walk away with the victory? Well, that is exactly what he showed that he could do."
De Leon was able to make it close by sweeping the last three rounds, due in large part to the relative inactivity of Broner, who, nevertheless, took the force of the older man's blows late in the fight.
Although De Leon was the busier man for much of the final round, Broner, nevertheless, shook his opponent with two, hard right hands within the last 22 seconds of the 10th.
Broner won 96-94 on the cards of David Denkin and Raul Caiz Jr., and, 99-91 on that of Tony Crebs.
"What Adrien showed us is another side, and that, for his age, that he is very mature," said Schaefer. "He respected Ponce. He respected Ponce's punching power. He fougth the kind of fight which he had to fight in order to get away with the victory."
Former super bantamweight titlist Celestino Caballero (34-2, 23 KOs), a November, upset loser to NABF super featherweight champion, Jason Litzau (28-2, 12 KOs), had handed De Leon his first career loss by 12-round, unanimous decision in February of 2005.
"I have to give credit to De Leon as well. He was there and he made it a fight. It was a great fight that Ponce De Leon helped to make with his will," said Schaefer. "I think that what Ponce De Leon needs to do is to move back down and he can be extremely effective in that weight class."
Now, it appears that Schaefer will look to match Broner against Litzau.
"I wouldn't mind to see if a fight that we had discussed before couldn't be made against maybe a Jason Litzau," said Schaefer. "I wouldn't mind putting something like that together. We will see."