Mon, Aug 13, 2007 - Page 18 News List

Ponce De Leon retains WBO title


Daniel Ponce De Leon knocked out unbeaten Rey Bautista in a stunning first round on Saturday, retaining his WBO junior featherweight title and recording Mexico's only victory in a six-fight World Cup of Boxing against the Philippines.

In the other main event, Filipino veteran Gerry Penalosa upset Jhonny Gonzalez with a seventh-round knockout on a perfect liver punch to claim the WBO bantamweight title.

The so-called World Cup pitted six Mexican fighters against six Filipino boxers in front of a lively crowd at Arco Arena.

The nationalist overtones took a blow when the Philippines won the first four bouts of the night before HBO's telecast even began, but Ponce De Leon (32-1, 29 KOs) provided a brilliant finish for Mexico.

Ponce De Leon came out in his usual fearless style, throwing haymakers and combinations at a retreating Bautista (23-1), a highly regarded 21-year-old Filipino getting his first title shot.

In the final minute of the round, Ponce De Leon landed a right jab-left hook combination that sent Bautista tumbling over his toes and crashing woozily into the ropes. Referee Jon Schorle allowed the fight to continue and Ponce De Leon finished it off with 30 seconds left on a neck-snapping left to Bautista's unprotected head.

"This is not for me. This is for Mexico," Ponce De Leon said with a flag-waving crowd behind him. "I had great preparation and a great training camp. I felt when I connected, I knew this was it. This is just the beginning for me."

Ponce De Leon said he wants one more bout this year, hoping for a 122-pound (55.3kg) unification fight with anyone who will face him. He hasn't lost in eight fights since February 2005, when current WBA 122-pound champ Celestino Caballero won a unanimous decision.

Penalosa (52-6-2, 35 KOs), a well-traveled 35-year-old who lost a unanimous decision to Ponce De Leon in March, finished Gonzalez with one body punch in a fight that was moving steadily toward Gonzalez, the 25-year-old champion.

Late in the seventh, Penalosa ducked under Gonzalez's left-right combination and landed a powerful left hand squarely in Gonzalez's side. Gonzalez took two steps back in disbelief before crumpling to his knees and the champ couldn't get his arms off the ropes before referee Pat Russell's count.

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