SAN DIEGO, Calif., May 12, 2018 – In a division already loaded with talent, a major new player announced his presence tonight in New York. Remember when and where you first heard the name Jaime Munguia.
The 21-year-old Munguia of Tijuana, Mexico, took the fight on two weeks’ notice after the original opponent, Liam Smith, withdrew due to illness. It didn’t matter to Munguia. He was more than ready. Munguia dispatched Sadam Ali with ease on his home turf to become the news WGO junior middleweight champion. The 21-year-old is undefeated at 29-0 with 25 knockouts.
Ali (26-2, 14 KOs), who took the title for himself after a surprising decision win over Miguel Cotto in December, had no answer for Munguia’s attack, aggression, timing, and power. He suffered his first knockdown courtesy a right hand by Munguia just one minute into the fight. Ali got up and Munguia came right back after him, digging away to the head and the body. He didn’t let up until the round ended.
Ali made it to the corner, but the fight could have been stopped right there. Trainer Andre Rozier told Ali “you’re letting him load up on you, you’re letting him do that.” Referee Gary Rosato checked on Ali, who wanted to continue. When a champion is heading for defeat, the officials will give him every courtesy to try and recover.
It simply wasn’t to be for Ali. He gave his best, but there wasn’t anything left for him to offer. Munguia has the fearlessness of young, and his size advantage seemed one or even two divisions past Ali. Munguia knocked Ali down again with another right and a left hook to the ear at the end of the second round.
Should Rozier and Rosato have allowed Ali out again for the third round? Ali didn’t know it was the third round. Meanwhile, Munguia was hopping up and down on his toes between rounds, waiting to come out and finish the job.
It’s easy to judge their decision in hindsight, but Ali did go back out for round three. Ali did rally at the end of the third round, and this is why a champion is given the opportunity to rally himself by sheer will. But Munguia put him down again, although the referee didn’t call it a knockdown. This time, Rosato wanted to stop the fight, but trainer Rozier argued “he’s still in there,” and the ringside physician apparently agreed.
Rosato was right. When a fighter has too much heart for his own good, his team needs to protect him. Ali should never have gone out for round four. Munguia teed off with hooks to the head and body, and the beating was unnecessary. When Munguia put Ali on the canvas with a lead left hook to the head one minute into the round, Rosato immediately called a halt to the fight, even though Ali got up immediately. It was the right call. Rosato may be second guessing himself for not overriding the physician and trainer. But this is not his fault.
“It’s huge, it’s something I always thought about, it’s a dream come true,” said Munguia of the victory. “Every fighter dreams about this day. Now I’m a new champion, and all this means is I need to put in further effort.”
Munguia had a few words for the members of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, who made this fight possible when the Commission rejected him as a fill-in opponent last weekend against unified middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin. The Commission felt Munguia was too small and inexperienced to face the champion.
“I want to thank everyone on the Nevada commission for giving me the victory here, basically for giving me the opportunity, the path here, and now I am the champ,” smiled Munguia. “I’m at the just at the highest level, I’ll fight whoever comes, I’ll fight anyone.”
Munguia landed 59 of 144 total punches (41 percent), to 30 of 135 total for Ali (22 percent). Munguia landed 47 percent of his power punches (59 of 116), Ali landing just 30 percent (26 of 88).
Ali made no excuses for himself, despite being a small junior middleweight facing a bigger, younger man on short notice himself. Why did he do it rather than postponing and waiting for the original opponent Liam Smith? “’Cause I want to fight, I was getting ready for Liam Smith, also I have Ramadan coming up. So I don’t have time to wait,” explained Ali. “I’m world champ, I like challenges.”
Ali said when Munguia caught him early, “it messed me up. I don’t have any excuses to make, he was the better man.”
Ali said he isn’t sure whether he will continue at junior middleweight, or drop back down to welterweight. He apologized to fans and his family, and said he’d he back.
Golovkin dodged a bullet. Munguia is a force to be reckoned with. This victory legitimized his record against unknown opposition in Mexico. He has multiple options now at junior middleweight as well as middleweight. Remember, he is just 21 years old, having turned pro at 16 years old in Mexico.
Rey Vargas weathers the storm from “Crazy A” Hovhannisyan by decision
On the undercard, WBC World Super Bantamweight Champion Rey Vargas (32-0, 22 KOs) of Mexico held his title against an aggressive challenge from Azat “Crazy A” (14-3, 11 KOs) Hovhannisyan of Armenia by unanimous decision after 12 rounds.
Hovhannisyan began applying pressure from the opening bell, and for the much shorter man it was exactly what he needed to do. He operates on the edge of recklessness; Hovhannisyan earned his nickname with performances like this one. Vargas had to adjust and weather the storm until he could get a sense of the Armenian’s rhythm.
Vargas adjusted enough to slow down the attack by Hovhannisyan, but Vargas was still taking shots. Perhaps Vargas decided he’d just have to take one to land one. Vargas did begin landing effective body punches to try and wear his opponent down, building on any fatigue caused by Hovannisyan’s aggressive opening effort. It was a smart strategy. Hovannisyan was far from finished, though, catching Vargas with hard body shots in the sixth and eight rounds. The eighth was “Crazy A’s” best round of the fight since the first.
After the eighth, both men suffered cuts due to an accidental clash of heads, but Vargas got by far the worst of it. In the ninth, perhaps concerned about the cut causing the fight to go to the cards, Vargas scored a series of excellent body shots against the Armenian, who refused to submit. Neither of these two had any intention of quitting as long as either was still standing.
Vargas suffered another serious cut at the start of the final round. His vision was surely impaired, and Hovannisyan tried to exploit his advantage, but the champion simply willed himself to finish on his feet without any more damage.
The big difference in the fight was the body attack by Vargas, which was more effective at slowing Hovannisyan down. Conversely, although Hovhannisyan landed more total punches (218 to Vargas’ 192), the Armenian threw only eight body shot.
It was a fine scrap, and fans will welcome seeing both men in the ring again.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is an award-winning boxing journalist covering the Sweet Science for Communities and for boxing fans worldwide. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News.
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