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Angelo Leo, TMT body puncher from Albuquerque, plans to make most of ShoBox debut

Angelo Leo - Photo from Mayweather Promotions
Fighters Network

Angelo Leo has been perfecting his craft for the past 16 years, and now will finally get a chance to show his abilities before a national audience this Friday, April 5, when he makes his ShoBox debut against Neil Tabanao. The ten-round bout, Leo’s first after seven years as a pro, headlines the card, which takes place at Sam’s Town Live in Las Vegas, beginning at 10 p.m. ET.

“It feels like a dream come true to fight on national television. I’ve been working so hard for this moment. Finally, I get to show everybody who I am and what better way to do it than as the main event on TV,” said the 24-year-old Leo (16-0, 8 knockouts) in a statement released by Showtime. (Leo did not respond to Facebook messages requesting an interview for this story).

Leo, a junior featherweight, hails from Albuquerque, New Mexico, a city famous for turning out such boxers as Johnny Tapia, Danny Romero and Bob Foster, but it was reading about the exploits of Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard and his now-promoter Floyd Mayweather Jr. in boxing magazines that made him interested in the sport at age eight, according to the Mayweather Promotions website.

He endured a rocky childhood, with his mother dealing with alcohol and drug abuse issues before the young Leo was turned over to the custody of his father Miguel Leo, who is also his trainer. According to his profile, Leo had a 65-10 amateur record, with a variety of state titles to his credit. His ring education also included training at the Mayweather Gym and sparring with world champions like Leo Santa Cruz, Jessie Magdaleno, Nonito Donaire, and Tomoki Kameda.

Despite limited exposure, he’s been in the ring with a few quality guys, displaying his counterpunching ability by dropping Alberto Torres (who entered with an 11-1-3 record) with a counter right hand last month in a unanimous decision win on the Gervonta Davis-Hugo Ruiz undercard, and highlighting his body punching, the most consistent part of his game, with a 97-second KO of another Filipino fighter, Glenn Porras, at the same venue he fights this week.

Tabanao (17-4, 11 KOs) could best be categorized as a journeyman, though as Filipinos with passports waiting for a call are concerned, he ranks towards the higher end. The 25-year-old comes from the amateur stronghold Panabo City in Davao del Norte province and had been a member of his country’s national team prior to turning pro in 2012. He’s been durable, having never lost by stoppage, and having only been down once on a double knockdown in his fourth fight against Charlie Pucdol in 2013.

Tabanao’s biggest win was in 2016, when he traveled to Australia to spoil the unbeaten of record of Ibrahim Balla in three rounds, flattening him with a lead left uppercut. He lost three in a row afterwards, all on decisions overseas, including a twelve-round unanimous verdict to Isaac Dogboe, but he’s won four straight since.

“Tabanao is definitely not a pushover,” said Leo, who made note of Tabanao’s punching power. “I’ve seen a video of him, he likes to counter off the high guard. He’s fought a former world champion, Isaac Dogboe, and went the distance with him. So, he is a tough competitor for sure, but I think with my boxing and ring IQ, I can get the victory.”

Victory would mean another step forward at the ten round level for Leo, then he hopes a world title eliminator puts him on track for another step-up in class. “I think in the next two or three fights I’ll get a world title shot,” Leo adds.

Tabanao has goals of his own, however. “I want to be recognized in the world of boxing. Leo is a step towards that goal. He doesn’t know what he’s in for,” said Leo, who trained with Sonny Dollente at Mabuhay Boxing Camp at Dujali, Davao del Norte, Philippines.

The co-feature will be another Money Team vs. Philippines matchup when Xavier Martinez (13-0, 9 KOs) of Sacramento, California faces John Vincent Moralde (21-2, 11 KOs) of Davao City, Philippines in a ten-round junior lightweight fight. Also slated for action is a fighter who is both Filipino and representing TMT in Cameron Krael (15-13-3, 4 KOs), the welterweight from Hawaii who faces Angel Hernandez (15-12-2, 9 KOs) in a ten-rounder.

ShoBox is where the prospects get separated from the suspects. Tabanao is just the sort of guy who can reveal which category Leo belongs in.

Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and part of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism Class of 2020. He can be reached at [email protected].