Angelo Leo aims for a fresh start in a new division against Nicolas Polanco
New beginnings, which include a new weight class, await Angelo Leo.
After winning a world title belt at junior featherweight, Leo begins a journey of conquering another title belt, this time at 126 pounds.
First, Leo must defeat Nicolas Polanco tonight at the Whitesands (ProBox TV) Events Center in Plant City, Florida. The 10-round bout will precede the main event bout between welterweights Janelson Figueroa and Alberto Palmetta.
Both fights will stream live on the ProBox TV app and YouTube channel (8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT).
At Tuesday’s weigh-in, both fighters stopped the scales at 125.4 pounds.
Leo (21-1, 10 knockouts), who is originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico and now lives and trains in Las Vegas, Nevada, has not fought since June 2019, defeating Aaron Alameda of Mexico by unanimous decision.
The 29-year-old was promoted by Mayweather Promotions, but Leo decided to wait out his contract, which expired in December of 2022. Since then, he signed a promotional deal with ProBox TV, which promised him to keep him active, something he has wanted.
“I was frustrated, but I knew there was a light at the end of the tunnel,” Leo told The Ring Sunday night. “I did need to take a break, but I’ve still remained active in the gym. I was sparring Shakur Stevenson and Nonito Donaire, so I’m not going to have any ring rust going into this fight on Wednesday.”
Leo will face Polanco (20-4-1 1 NC, 11 KOs), a fringe contender from the Dominican Republic. Polanco fought to a no-contest in his last bout on June 10 after an accidental clash of heads caused Polanco to become disoriented that prevented him from continuing fighting.
Tonight will be Leo’s debut at 126 pounds. A regional title belt and a top 15 ranking by the WBA will be on the line. Leo hopes to make a statement at the expense of Polanco and land a significant fight against the top featherweights in the division in 2024.
“I want to put the featherweight division on notice,” said Leo, who is still trained by his father and trains out of Fight Capital Gym. “I’m coming for that world title and want to fight the best in the division. There’s a lot of great fighters in that division. I could make for exciting fights against them, especially against (IBF world titleholder) ‘Venado’ Lopez and (WBA world titleholder) Leigh Wood.”
Throughout the years, Leo has developed his skill-set and acclimated to whom he faces. Leo has demonstrated he can box or brawl when he fought at 122 pounds.
Now that he is fighting at featherweight, and the talent he could face next year, Leo has made subtle changes to his style that can bring out the best in him.
“I could adapt to any style,” said Leo. “I’ve shown when I need to box, I can outbox my opponent. When I need to apply pressure, I can do that as well. I can bring the action to a fight when I need to.
“People label me a pressure fighter and that’s fine. Within the last year though, I’ve worked on setting up my punches. I’ve ended up hurting some of my sparring partners. I’ve worked on counter-punching. I know I can still box and can land the cleaner punches. I’ve also worked on timing, as well.
Leo won the vacant WBO world junior featherweight title in August 2020, defeating Tramaine Williams by unanimous decision. Leo would then make his first title defense against Stephen Fulton, whom he would lose to by unanimous decision almost six months later.
Less than five months later, Leo would defeat Alameda, but has not fought since.
Leo took lessons from the loss to Fulton that have made him a better fighter. Now that he has a new promoter and is fighting on a new platform, Leo is confident he can return to the elite of a division and challenge for a world title.
“I learned a lot in the loss to Fulton. I need to be more mature in how I go about a training camp.I need to take advantage of listening to those who know more about the sport. In the Fulton fight, I was not involved in any of the planning. Now, I’ve added a nutritionist and a strength and conditioning coach.
“I’ve learned a lot about myself. I feel I’m a more-complete fighter and I can move forward on a new journey to the top of the featherweight division.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached at [email protected]