The fastest rising star in boxing, 21-year-old WBO Junior Middleweight Champion, Jaime Munguia (30-0, 25 KOs) of Mexico, was put to the test on Saturday night in an HBO main event held at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas as he made his first title defense against tough UK warrior, Liam 'Beefy' Smith (26-2-1, 14 KOs). Munguia won a unanimous decision win and retained his WBO world title that he attained just two months prior in a sensational upset TKO win against Sadam Ali.
Munguia's claim to fame came about when Smith was scheduled to fight Ali in May 2018 and was forced to pull out due to a skin condition that rendered him unable to continue training. Munguia, who was virtually unknown, took the fight against Ali with just two week's notice. His name had been circulating in the media just weeks prior as he was a possible opponent for Gennady Golovkin as a replacement for Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez. The Nevada State Athletic Commission refused to sanction the bout, citing Munguia's insufficient Middleweight experience.
The chance encounter became Munguia's biggest career opportunity. Of course, it could have easily slipped away if he hadn't wowed boxing fans with his over-powering win against Ali. After achieving what few young fighters have attained in just 21 years of age, Munguia quickly became a world champion and was just as quickly forced to defend his title against mandatory challenger and former WBO world champion, Smith. Although Munguia has had no previous exposure, he's taken his position seriously and has dedicated himself to training in order to prepare for what awaits him.
Munguia came into the fight against Smith with high expectations and a desire to wow the boxing fans once again. In pre-fight interviews, Munguia said he had been working hard to give fans what they want....a spectacular fight, and wants to keep them happy. Although a KO win was not realised, fans delighted in the hard-fought fight between Munguia and Smith. The crowd at the Hard Rock was lively, reacting to all the action Munguia and Smith delivered.
The hard-hitting and experienced Smith, who was looking to reclaim the WBO title he once possessed, gave Munguia a boxing lesson from the opening round. Smith looked strong and managed to push around the 6'1 power-puncher, almost bullying Munguia throughout the first three rounds. With Smith's championship-style skills in full affect, fans were reminded that Munguia is young and still learning. Smith exposed Munguia's slight defense and did not appear to be intimidated by the power-puncher's size and aggressive output.
The first three to four rounds were strong rounds for Smith, but Munguia still landed several combos and body shots. Smith answered with his own combos and landed often. Munguia's flawed defense allowed Smith to connect the straight right-hand repeatedly. Smith's slick moves in the ring appeared to frustrate Munguia and his defense made it difficult for Munguia to impose his will. Munguia was often left open and in an awkward position allowing Smith to quickly fire back with solid shots.
Munguia picked up the pace in the 4th round. Smith continued to be alert and moved defensively, often beating Munguia to the punch immediately after the ref broke them apart.
Round 5 was the turning point, Munguia landed more as he seemed to have timed Smith a bit. He gain the confidence he needed to land more significant shots and showed Smith what his power was all about. Smith retracted some of his output, but still landed shots that prevented Munguia from taking over.
With a promising 6th round, the crowd began chanting "Munguia! Munguia! Munguia!" The champion almost seemed to reply to his fans by immediately delivering a knockdown with a left hook to Smith's head, causing the crowd to roar in excitement. It was clear that this was the type of championship fight that a heavy-hitting warrior brings.
Munguia appeared to be careful throughout rounds 7 and 8, likely knowing that if he's too fierce in his punching, he could get caught with something big from the slick Smith. Although Smith was beginning to be over-powered by power shots, his own punches did not waver. He continued to catch Munguia with good shots and still managed to push him around. At the end of the 8th round, Smith tackled Munguia just as Munguia's arm hooked around Smith's neck, causing both fighters to go down in what looked like a "DDT" wrestling move.
In the final rounds of the bout, Smith's energy declined, which allowed Munguia to dominate even with a diminished defense. Munguia continued to put pressure on Smith, who couldn't get away. They continuously exchanged shots....Munguia firing to the body and Smith firing upstairs. Munguia could not put an end to the fight, often missing, but putting forth every effort to land something powerful enough to drop Smith; to no avail, the bout goes the distance with one-sided scorecards in favor of the champion.
The scorecards do not tell a complete story of what occurred in the ring (116-111, 119-110, 119-108). Although Munguia was clearly the winner of the bout, Smith's sensational effort and championship heart was just as notable. Smith was impressive even in defeat; his only drawback was not having enough power to hurt the champion. He gave Munguia the fight of his career, but it was not enough to make a dent in the scorecards.
At only 21 years of age and young in his championship reign, Munguia proved himself as a champion, winning a sensational fight against a strong warrior. Although fans expected a knockout win, they received just as much excitement in twelve rounds. Munguia gained more from winning a 12-round battle with a tough opponent than he could have with any other outcome.
In the post-fight interview with Max Kellerman, Munguia credits Smith with being a very strong opponent. When Kellerman asked Munguia how he thinks he did in the fight, Munguia replied "It went well, but the truth is I got a tough opponent, but what I liked the most was giving my fans a spectacular fight."
When asked why he couldn't knock out Smith, Munguia responded, "Truthfully, he's a very strong opponent, I landed many shots on him and he wouldn't go down. But like I said, I'm going to look for the knockout; if it doesn't come, I'm prepared to go the 12 rounds and I think I demonstrated that."
Munguia humbly accepted that he'll need to work on his flaws and will continue to work in the gym. "What happened, happened. In boxing, there are no excuses. It went to decision and it serves me well as experience." Munguia said.
Smith graciously accepted his defeat and took nothing away from Munguia's triumph. He credits Munguia as a good fighter when asked by Kellerman to compare him to Canelo. He said, "Compare them both? I don't want to do that because it ruins Jaime's performance tonight. It's his night tonight so I don't really want to downgrade him. I'll say Canelo is the better fighter but [Munguia] is a good fighter. I think he's probably answered a lot of questions for viewers watching."
It was certainly a spectacular fight! Both warriors gave their all in the ring and walked away with much respect from boxing fans who look forward to seeing more from each of them.
The purse for Munguia and Smith were $200,000 and $75,000 respectively.
Alberto Machado vs Raphael Mensah:
In the preceding Super Featherweight championship bout, Miguel Cotto Promotions fighter, 27-year-old Alberto "El Explosivo" Machado (20-0, 16 KOs) of Puerto Rico, makes his first WBA title defense against 25-year-old Raphael "Sweet Pea" Mensah (31-1, 23 KOs) of Ghana, winning a shut-out unanimous decision (all three judges' scorecards 120-107).
Machado dominated every round. Mensah was down in the first round and was wobbled in subsequent rounds. Mensah, who is the nephew of former champion Ike Quartey, displayed some skill but was no match for Machado who was the superior fighter. Machado retains his WBA Super Featherweight title.
Photo by HBO Boxing