MANILA, MARCH 19, 2007
(STAR) By Joaquin Henson The Philippine Star 03/19/2007

The ghost of Masamori Tokuyama came back to haunt Gerry Peñalosa as WBO superbantamweight champion Daniel Ponce de Leon of Mexico reprised the Japanese’s stay-away tactics to carve out a lopsided unanimous 12-round decision over the Filipino challenger at the Mandalay Bay Arena in Las Vegas last Saturday night (yesterday morning, Manila).

Tokuyama beat Peñalosa twice on points in retaining his WBC superflyweight crown and used a clever strategy to negate the San Carlos City southpaw’s counterpunching style.

Although naturally bigger than Peñalosa, de Leon exploited his five-inch advantage in reach and refused to engage. As a result, Peñalosa’s offense couldn’t get untracked and his punches often fell short of their target. In the end, statistics showed de Leon threw 1,399 blows to Peñalosa’s 481.

Fightnews.com said de Leon outworked the "classy" Peñalosa.

It wasn’t difficult to pick the winner but Peñalosa gave a good account of himself as a 10-1 underdog moving up two weight classes for a chance at a second world crown. He fought like a warrior, trying to force de Leon into a slugfest, but the Mexican just wouldn’t oblige.

Peñalosa’s former manager Tony Aldeguer knew it all along when he said de Leon would resort to Olympic tactics and avoid testing the challenger.

"De Leon fought from a distance and that’s why Gerry couldn’t counter and when he did, his punches were short," said Aldeguer from his Cebu home where he watched the fight telecast. "De Leon is just too big."

But Peñalosa had nothing to be ashamed of as he won the admiration of the fans who expected de Leon to walk over his opponent. He showed the heart of a champion.

Style, more than size, made the difference. Tokuyama exposed the chink in Peñalosa’s armor by boxing from long range and not going forward, leaving the Filipino unable to adjust. Twice, he frustrated Peñalosa. And de Leon did it again.

The three judges turned in lopsided scorecards. Dave Moretti had it 120-108 while Chuck Giampa and Nelson Vazquez, 119-109, all for de Leon. Giampa was the same judge who saw it 114-112 for Fernando Montiel in the WBO superflyweight titlist’s win over Z Gorres by split decision in Cebu last month.

Before the fight, de Leon boasted that because he was bigger and stronger, he would go for a knockout. But as the bout progressed, it became clear de Leon didn’t want to take chances against Peñalosa who is a clinical technician and a master counterpuncher.

Filipino fans lauded Peñalosa’s effort and encouraged him to continue fighting, perhaps concentrating in the superflyweight or bantamweight divisions. His effort showed that at 34, Peñalosa still has what it takes to win a championship – his problem is how to adjust because his style is not suited for opponents who fight from a distance.

De Leon, whose three-year-old son is named Geronimo – Peñalosa’s first name, said he’s looking forward to fighting newly crowned WBC superbantamweight champion Raul Marquez but there is a clamor for Bohol rising star Rey (Boom Boom) Bautista to face the former Mexican Olympian with native American Indian roots.

"Bautista will beat de Leon for sure if they meet and avenge Peñalosa’s loss," said a Filipino boxing fan eager for redemption.

Another Peñalosa former manager Rudy Salud said he was relieved that the Filipino wasn’t hurt but was saddened by the loss. He said Peñalosa’s only chance was to hurt de Leon early to put him in his place.

In the undercard, Davao’s Diosdado Gabi poleaxed Colombia’s Antonio Maria Cochero, a late substitute for Mexico’s Oscar Andrade, with a brutal right and the fight was stopped at 2:59 of the second round.

Gabi, 27, raised his record to 29-3-1, with 21 KOs. Cochero, 29, fell to 17-5-1, with 13 KOs, although an independent internet source claimed his record dropped to 7-4, with 5 KOs.

Despite a huge disadvantage in height, the 5-2 Gabi had no difficulty reaching Cachero. It was his third straight abbreviated win, coming at the heels of back-to-back first round KOs over Mauricio Pastrana and Felipe Rivas. Gabi has lost only once in his last 17 outings.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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