Record: 29-0 (25 KO) ... Streak: W29 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 6’0” / N/A ... Age: 21
Thoughts: Not a lot was known about Jaime Munguia before about April, when his name popped up in conversations to step in on May 5 to face Gennady Golovkin. Nevada wouldn’t license that fight, even though media reports had Munguia as a legitimate prospect, and a big guy for a junior middleweight. He was willing, Nevada wasn’t.
But fate intervened. Liam Smith had to pull out of a May 12 bout with Sadam Ali for the WBO junior middleweight title, and Munguia was signed up.
How to put this delicately? Munguia kicked Ali’s ass. Ali was coming off of a career-best win over Miguel Cotto last year, but Cotto was never a true 154-pounder, and Ali is a natural welterweight, too. When Ali got in with Munguia, who is not just a natural junior middle but a pretty damn big one, he was simply overpowered and overwhelmed. Munguia thrashed him, a star-making sort of performance on a big HBO stage.
Now the 21-year-old Munguia is back for his first title defense just two months later, as it’s not like he took any punishment against Ali. Smith, unlike Sadam, is a true 154-pounder, but still smaller than Munguia. Maybe Liam can handle the attack better. Maybe he can’t.
But if the fight with Ali is anything to go by, Munguia will be attacking.
Record: 26-1-1 (14 KO) ... Streak: W3 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 9-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5’9½” / N/A ... Age: 29
Thoughts: Liam Smith is a competent fighter, a solid fighter, a pretty good fighter. There’s really nothing wrong with him short of the fact that he’s not an elite fighter.
But he is a former titleholder, for whatever that’s worth. Smith held this same WBO 154-pound starting in 2015, when he beat John Thompson in a vacant title bout in Manchester, a TKO-7. He followed that up with a lousy title reign, stopping Jimmy Kilrain Kelly and Predrag Radosevic, neither of whom were serious contenders.
Things looked a lot different in September 2016, when Smith went to Texas to fight Canelo Alvarez. Alvarez battered him and knocked him out in the ninth round. Smith has used Alvarez’s failed drug tests earlier this year to kind of brush that loss off, and hey, what do I know? Maybe he’s got a perfectly valid point.
Since losing to Alvarez, though, Smith has rebounded. He won a tune-up in Barcelona in March 2017, then took the W in a couple of gritty fights with Liam Williams in April and November of last year.
Smith was set to face Sadam Ali earlier this year, but had to pull out late. Because of that, Munguia got his shot at glory and executed. Now, Smith wants to get back on top. It won’t be easy.
Matchup Grade: B-. It’s a very promising young titleholder against a solid veteran, the sort of fight Munguia should have right now. If he’s for real, he should be able to show that against Smith. If he’s not, Smith is good enough to show us. I like this one for what it is — it doesn’t figure to be a particularly vivid memory by the end of 2018, but it’s a nice matchup. And there is some potential for good action. Smith doesn’t shy away from a scrap, and Munguia wants to impose his will.
- Alberto Machado vs Rafael Mensah: Machado, 27, is 19-0 (16 KO) and defending the WBA “world” super featherweight title that he won from Jezreel Corrales via comeback knockout last October. This is his first defense. The Puerto Rican southpaw is big for the division at 5’10” with a 72-inch reach, and generates real power from that frame. Mensah (31-0, 23 KO) is a Ghanaian southpaw nicknamed “Sweet Pea,” and this is his first fight outside of his home country. That’s always dicey, but Ghana has a great history of producing tough, quality fighters.