It was widely hoped that this weekend, Mexican Independence Day weekend, generally the second biggest boxing weekend of the year, would host the highly anticipated third clash between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin. When it became clear that Canelo didn’t want to take that fight anytime soon, it was still assumed that Canelo would be fighting somebody…
But problems with Canelo and his long time promoters at Golden Boy, or more accurately, his television partners at DAZN, who last year handed him the biggest contract in the History of Sports to fight on their network resulted in the Mexican Cash Cow’s next fight being pushed back to later in the year. But that coveted Mexican Independence Day slot needed to be filled…
Enter Jaime Munguia
The twenty-two year old Mexican phenom will enter the biggest spotlight of his career so far when he defends his WBO junior middleweight championship for the fifth time against unknown Ghanaian Patrick Allotey at the Dignity Health Sports Park(previously known as the StubHub Center) in Carson, California. The fight will air this Saturday exclusively on DAZN, and while it does not come against a top opponent, it does represent a significant jump in spotlight for the young Mexican champion.
Less than eighteen months ago, Munguia emerged from obscurity in Mexico to destroy an undersized but much more experienced Sadam Ali and take away the WBO 154 pound title that Ali won when he retired future Hall of Famer Miguel Cotto six months previously. Coming in on about three weeks’ notice and fighting in the United States for only the second time, Munguia dropped Ali four times in route to a devastating fourth round knockout. All of the sudden, Munguia was being bandied about as a serious opponent for the likes of Canelo, Golovkin, and Daniel Jacobs, and the rumor and innuendo was that these guys wanted no part of him! Given that Munguia is huge for 154 pounds at nearly 6’1, and had knocked out twenty-five of his first twenty-nine opponents, including Ali, it was hard to blame them.
Munguia’s rise towards superstardom continued well enough from then, as a mere eight weeks later he defeated solid Brit Liam Smith over twelve rounds in his first title defense and then seven weeks after that, destroyed overmatched Canadian Brandon Cook in just three rounds on the undercard of Canelo-GGG 2.
But then Munguia started to hit some speed bumps. First, even though he dominated all twelve rounds in a title defense against Takeshi Inoue in Houston in January, he didn’t seem to know how to get rid of the ultra-tough Japanese fighter, whom Munguia hit with everything short of the kitchen sink, only for the under-experienced Japanese fighter to just keep coming. Then disaster almost struck when Munguia was at times soundly outboxed by unknown Irishman Dennis Hogan last April in Monterrey.
Some people thought Hogan clearly won, but the young Mexican escaped with a close, hard fought majority decision victory. The Hogan fight clearly exposed that Munguia is still a work in progress as a fighter and seemed to point to the idea that he learned all he could under trainer Roberto Alcazar, who was the trainer of Munguia’s promoter Oscar De La Hoya in the 90s.
For the Allotey fight, Munguia has made an interesting choice for a new trainer, choosing the five time, four division Erik Morales, who while a slam dunk Hall of Famer as a fighter doesn’t necessarily have a lot of experience as a trainer. Morales has trained a number of young fighters in Mexico since his retirement in 2012, with his most notable experience trainer former WBO welterweight champion Jessie Vargas for his 2015 title fight against Timothy Bradley, where Vargas knocked Bradley down in the final minute in the 12th but walked away with an unanimous decision loss.
What makes the choice of Morales as trainer unique is that both men come from Tijuana, the Mexican border time where Morales is the most celebrated fighter ever in that city. They both come from the roughest and poorest neighborhoods, and they understand each other in a way that fighter and trainer seldom could. It stands to reason that Morales be able to understand and get to Munguia in a way that few trainers could. The other unique thing is that like Munguia, Morales was a tall, long armed boxer who came forward and functioned well at a certain distance. Munguia would do well to fight more from the outside and use his long arms better, which he was not able to do against Hogan.
As for Allotey, who is coming off six straight wins, he employs a typical Ghanian style-hands high, elbows tight, and working behind a jab. He is not the kind of fighter he should offer much in the way of surprises but will always give a solid effort. This will only be his second fight in the United States, but in that fight, he was knocked out by solid Brazilian Patrick Teixeira in just two rounds. Many expect a similar outcome this Saturday against Munguia.
So for Munguia, it will be not as much if he wins, but how he wins. Will he be impressive? Can he get rid of Allotey early, and will he show improvement after two mediocre performances? Will he show the kind of style that he did against Ali and Smith? Most importantly, how we will handle the spotlight of Mexican Independence weekend, at the place known lovingly by boxing fans as “The War Grounds?”
For Mexican and Mexican-American fans, the expectations will be sky high.
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