Jaime Munguia knows exactly why, these days at least, everybody wants to see him fight. When asked to give a reason somebody should watch his fight against Liam “Beefy” Smith, July 21 on HBO, his answer is short, succinct -- and backed up by the reality of his fights.
“Jaime Munguia is the type of fighter who’s a knockout artist,” Munguia told Sherdog.com. “He hits hard, he likes to come forward and he likes to exchange. That’s the type of fighter, and the type of style that people like to watch.”
But the road to becoming the man everybody wants to see in the ring has been a tricky one for Munguia. When Saul “Canelo” Alvarez tested positive for the banned substance Clenbuterol, Munguia's name was brought up to replace Alvarez against Gennady Golovkin. This idea was quickly met with derision and dismissal from fans, as message boards including the one attached to this site dismissed the fight as a joke. Even boxing writers dismissed the idea, with Bad Left Hook’s Wil Esco writing that Munguia “was being lined up to be a crash test dummy in a gross mismatch that was probably more dangerous than the sport inherently is.”
Worse, the Nevada State Athletic Commission derailed plans for the fight, declaring they would not commission such a contest, and that Golovkin would need to find a more suitable opponent. So, rather than let “GGG” fight Munguia, who was at the time 28-0 with 24 knockouts, the Kazakh champ fought Vanes Martirosyan, who was promptly knocked out in the second round of an obscenely one-sided contest.
When Munguia stepped in on two weeks’ notice to face Sadam Ali in Ali’s home state he used the judgements leveled against him by both fans and the NSAC as motivation.
“Yeah, absolutely it gave me motivation,” the 21 year-old Mexican fighter said. “The motivation to show people that I belong in the ring with Gennady Golovkin, the motivation to show people that I was going to do a better job than Martirosyan, it was the motivation in my fight with Sadam Ali to show people that I belonged.”
Munguia more than showed he belonged. Despite Ali coming off of a win over future hall of famer Miguel Cotto that earned him the WBO super welterweight title, Munguia absolutely destroyed the champion, knocking him down twice in the first round, once in the second, and once in the fourth before the referee had finally seen enough to stop the fight. Quickly, the boxing world backtracked, with many wishing they had seen the new 154-pound champion in the ring with Golovkin instead of Martirosyan. Munguia claims he felt vindicated by the turn in public sentiment.
“Yeah, absolutely I did,” said Munguia. “But, I feel that things happen for a reason, and there was a reason that I didn’t get the ‘GGG’ fight. Now we’re champions of the world, so everything worked out in the end.”
Now, Munguia is the man everybody’s talking about going into his second HBO televised fight, which is a spot he feels much better about being in.
“I definitely feel better this time, now that I’m the ‘A’ side. When you’re the ‘B’ side in a fight people treat you differently, but whether I’m the A side or the B side I train the same. I go in there to knock my opponent out, I go in there to win the fight.”
In Munguia’s way to superstardom is Liverpool’s Smith, a fighter whose lone loss in 27 fights came at the hands of Alvarez. Munguia knows one surefire way to become a superstar would be to one-up his Golden Boy stablemate, Alvarez, who initially struggled with Smith before ultimately knocking him out in the ninth round. Munguia maintains that what he feels is not pressure, but a healthy sense of competition.
“I wouldn’t call it pressure but I do have to do better than Canelo in this fight,” Munguia said. “I have to go in there and give my best performance so that people stop criticizing me, so I can end the criticism. The main criticism I get is that Sadam Ali was too small for 154 pounds, but it’s not my fault that he was in the division. I was simply given the opportunity, and I took it.”
Munguia refers to the critics who pointed out that Ali was much smaller than Munguia, and not a natural 154-pound fighter. Once again Munguia is forced to silence those who doubt him, a task he believes will not be accomplished with a decision.
”I’m taller than [Smith], I have the longer reach, I feel that I punch harder than him,” Munguia said. “I feel like everything is in my favor, that I have all the advantages I just have to take advantage of them. It’s going to be a classic. It’s definitely going to end by knockout. It’s not going to go the distance”
But while Munguia’s words drip with confidence, there is one man he was not willing to declare his advantage over. When asked how his Golden Boy Boss, Oscar De La Hoya would have fared against him if the two had met at 154 pounds, Munguia laughs and shows he is as adept at dodging a controversial question as a punch.
“I’ll be honest, I don’t really know,” Munguia said. “Right now, he’s been inactive for a while so right now if you put me in there with him I could beat him, but I actually haven’t paid attention to a lot of his fights, so I don’t really know.”
While Munguia plans to stay at 154 and defend his belt, the 160-pound division has so many big names -- including Golovkin -- that it’s hard to see him not moving up if one comes calling. On Saturday, Jaime Munguia will fight to silence his critics once again, retain his belt and make fans salivate at the premise of a fight they once scoffed at.