JuanMa has fought the best in his weight classes. Besides Ponce, he's been in with world champions Mikey Garcia, Orlando Salido two times, Rafael Marquez, Steven Luevano and Gerry Penalosa. For years he was one of boxing's legitimate rising stars and a hero in Puerto Rico. But he's in a different position now: he's trying to regain his former status after three knockout losses in his last six outings.
Two of the KO defeats came at the hands of Salido, the other in his last start on a fourth-round TKO to defending WBO 126-pound titleholder Garcia on June 15, 2013. This will be the first skirmish at 130 pounds for JuanMa in his nine-year-career. Only three of his fights have gone the distance.
"This is the biggest fight of my career,'' the aggressive-minded, crowd-pleasing JuanMa said. "We both need to win this fight. This is the last lap of my career. If I lose, that could be the end of my career, even though I don't want my career to end in defeat. I win this fight, I can go on to bigger and better things.
"We are working hard. I feel great. I have a new trainer (Freddie Trinidad, second cousin of Felix). We are training intelligently. Ponce is a dangerous, strong fighter. I think he's a better fighter now, so we are training for the best Ponce de Leon. I know this fight is not going to be the same as the first. We can't look back to that fight. I am concentrating on winning this fight round by round.''