Last weekend, Antonio Escalante retired from boxing for the second time in his career. The 29-year old El Pasoan had just suffered his fourth knockout loss in his last five fights. Rising prospect Eric Hunter floored Escalante three times in the first round, the final blow coming with just 15-seconds left before the bell.

The performance was a sad end to a boxing career that was once considered so promising that Escalante was practically a lock for a world title shot. Before we talk about the punch that changed Escalante's career, it is important to remember that the former Coronado grad was on the fast track to boxing stardom. On February 26th 2010, Escalante (23-2) squared off at the Don Haskins Center against popular Juarez challenger Miguel "Mickey" Roman (28-6) in front of a packed house at the Don Haskins Center. The fight quickly turned into a 10-round slugfest, which Escalante won on all 3 judges scorecards. Despite wins over young prospects like Mike Oliver, Gary Stark Jr., and Cornelius Lock, the brawl with Roman is easily considered one of the highlights of Tony's boxing career.

Five and a half months later, he stopped Edel Ruiz with a body shot in the third round and wanted a title shot. His promoter at the time, Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions promised Escalante a world title shot in the near future. However, just two weeks after his win over Ruiz, Tony was offered a chance to fight veteran Daniel Ponce de Leon in a WBO Featherweight Title Eliminator. Instead of turning down the chance to fight on short notice against the dangerous Ponce de Leon, Escalante took the fight and had little time to prepare for his more experienced challenger. The bout from Staples Center in Los Angeles aired on HBO Pay-Per-View and Ponce de Leon came out firing shot after shot at the El Pasoan. Escalante stood toe to toe with him for the first few rounds, but was knocked out by a right hook to the face 2:40 into the third round. Very grainy video footage exists from this fight on YouTube, but the knockout punch is still visible.

Golden Boy Promotions.
Golden Boy Promotions.

That punch changed the career course of both fighters. Ponce de Leon won the WBC featherweight title two years later but Escalante never recovered from the knockout loss. Six months after the loss at Staples Center, Escalante returned to the ring in what was supposed to be a tuneup fight against little known Alejandro Perez. Instead, the boxing world was stunned by another knockout loss, this time a first round punch by Perez that was considered a knockout of the year candidate.

Escalante came back to the ring and won four straight fights against lesser opponents, but veteran Rocky Juarez ended his winning streak in October 2012. He was never the same again and made more headlines last year with his four DUI arrests in less than 12 months. I will always remember Escalante's fearlessness in the ring, his aggressive style, and his ability to take a punch. But it was his lack of defense that hurt him against world class fighters. Still, his smile, enthusiasm, and popularity with his home fans has always made him one of our city's most lovable athletes. Boxing will always be a big part of his life, along with his wife Maria and his three daughters. I just hope that Escalante will be able to deliver one final knockout punch and handle his problems out of the ring.

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