Combat sports: After a long hiatus, things are happening for Leo

Jan. 29—Albuquerque native Angelo Leo is a perpetual-motion machine in a boxing ring, combining superb cardio with all-out aggressiveness and technique acquired over the course of a 9 1/2 1/2-year pro career.

Now, finally, the career itself is back in motion.

On Wednesday, Leo (22-1, 109 knockouts) is scheduled to face the Philippines' Mike Plania (29-3, 17 KOs) in the main event of a card in Plant City, Florida.

A victory over Plania, Leo said in a phone interview, would bring him within reach of another world title. Leo held the WBO super bantamweight belt from October 2020 to January 2021.

Wednesday's 10-round featherweight bout will be Leo's second of his contract with ProBox Promotions, a relatively new organization that staged 20 fight cards in 2023 — 17 of those in its own arena, Whitesands Events Center, in Plant City.

Leo, 29, made his ProBox debut in Plant City on Nov. 1 with a victory by ninth-round TKO over Nicolas Polanco, ending an 864-day boxing hiatus that followed his departure from Mayweather Promotions.

ProBox, headed by promoter Garry Jonas, came to Leo's attention when recommended by a trainer in Las Vegas, Nevada, where Leo lives and trains.

In contract negotiations, Leo said, "They said they would steer us in the direction of a world title while keeping us busy, and that's what we like."

In the Polanco fight, Leo was his usual perpetual-motion self. Expect nothing less, he said, on Wednesday.

His conditioning routine, is basically old school.

"We do a lot of sparring, a lot of roadwork," he said. "But I've also added a little bit more explosiveness — plyometrics, sprints, things of that nature."

Plania's record suggests he could be the third-best opponent Leo has faced after Stephen Fulton (21-1, 8 KOs), who snatched away Leo's WBO title belt with a victory by unanimous decision in January 2022, and Aaron Alameda (28-2, 16 KOs), whom Leo defeated by majority decision in June 2021 — the Albuquerque native's final bout before his long hiatus.

"He's not to be taken lightly, that's for sure, because he's got some pop in his punch," Leo said. "... He's got a lot of experience under his belt.

"If you're not on your toes, you could get caught with something. But we're ready for whatever he brings."

Plania's three career defeats have come against fighters — Juan Carlos Payano, Ra'eese Aleem, Elijah Pierce — who had a combined record of 55-3 entering those bouts.

Plania has been stopped only once, by Pierce via third-round knockout last August. Plania comes into Wednesday's bout off a victory by first-round KO over Daniel Nicolas in the Philippines on Dec. 18.

Leo said he's confident that ProBox, while a relatively new promotional enterprise, can get him where he wants to go.

"That's one of the reasons we signed with them, because of their connections," he said. "They're not just partnered with one entity.

"They work with all entities, whether it's Top Rank, the PBC (Premier Boxing Championship), DAZN. ... They're very flexible in that aspect."

Of his once again active career, Leo said, "We have some catching up to do, but we're getting it all resolved now."