With Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin set to square off for a second time this Saturday in boxing’s biggest event of 2018, let’s take a quick look at what you’ll see on the pay-per-view undercard.
Jaime Munguia vs Brandon Cook
Munguia (30-0, 25 KO) is a rising star in the 154-pound division, holder of the WBO junior middleweight title, a 21-year-old who first got into the major news cycle earlier this year when he was ready to replace Canelo against Golovkin on May 5.
That fell through, because the commission wouldn’t sanction Munguia. He probably would’ve gotten clobbered by Golovkin, but the fight we did get (Golovkin-Martirosyan in California) didn’t turn out any differently than that, so, y’know, whatever.
When he didn’t get a shot at GGG, he signed on as a late replacement for Liam Smith, making a deal to face Sadam Ali for the WBO belt on May 12 on HBO. Ali had just beaten modern legend Miguel Cotto in December 2017, but the bigger, younger, fresher, stronger Munguia proved a wholly different task. Munguia went from prospect to champion inside of four rounds, dropping Ali four times before the fight was stopped.
Ali then faced the aforementioned Smith on July 21, and turned in an entertaining performance in a 12-round win. Smith proved that Munguia has levels to go before he’s a polished product, but of course Munguia is all of 21 years old, so that’s not a big surprise. He’s got the potential to be a real action star for several years to come, and that’s the big appeal of Munguia at this point.
Cook (20-1, 13 KO) is a 32-year-old Canadian fighter, a fringe contender at best, who was slated to face Kell Brook in the United Kingdom on July 28, before Brook pulled out of the fight. Pretty much everyone expected Brook to dismantle Cook, who was dominated and stopped in nine last year by Kanat Islam, and the same expectation is there for Munguia. Cook is a regional fighter, and it will be an upset if he’s even competitive in this contest.
Roman Gonzalez vs Moises Fuentes
We just saw the super flyweight division featured again on HBO this past Saturday night, and “Chocolatito” Gonzalez will be back in action on Saturday, too. Once thought to be the best fighter in the world pound-for-pound, he’s a former titleholder at 105, 108, 112, and 115.
But he’s 31 years old now, which is getting up there for the little guys of the sport, and he’s coming off of two straight losses to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, who turned out to be a really rough style matchup for the Nicaraguan star. Srisaket won their first fight by controversial majority decision, but left no room for debate in the rematch, knocking Gonzalez out in the fourth round.
Gonzalez has always been pushing it at 115, which is his clear absolute maximum weight as a serious player in the sport, and now the question is whether or not he has anything left. The first loss to Srisaket was one thing, the second was a potentially career-altering, damaging affair.
Fuentes (25-5-1, 14 KO) is a half-credible, half-safe sort of comeback opponent. He’s not an incompetent — in fact, he’s a former titleholder at 105 and a three-time title challenger at 108. The bad news is that in those three challenges, he’s 0-2-1. He drew with Donnie Nietes back in 2013, was knocked out by Nietes in a 2014 rematch, and was stopped in five by Kosei Tanaka in 2016.
Plus, he’s lost three of his last four, including a legitimate decision upset against journeyman Ulises Lara in 2017. He got revenge for that in a rematch three months later, but then was knocked out in 2:32 by Daigo Higa in a WBC flyweight title fight in February of this year.
In other words, Gonzalez is probably going to have to be truly shot for Fuentes to beat him. But we can’t rule that out, either.
David Lemieux vs Spike O’Sullivan
Of all the undercard fights, this one has had the most hype. Credit O’Sullivan (28-2, 20 KO) for that, as he’s a strong trash talker and knows how to keep himself in the headlines, and Lemieux (39-4, 33 KO) has traded with him a little bit, making for some fun exchanges on social media and the like.
One thing O’Sullivan did was call Lemieux a “one-trick pony.” This is true, to be fair. Lemieux, 29, is a power puncher and there’s not a lot else to his game. In recent years, we’ve seen him picked apart by Golovkin and pretty much embarrassed by Billy Joe Saunders, who simply boxed Lemieux’s ears off.
Sadly for O’Sullivan, the one trick Lemieux really perfected over the years is knocking the hell out of guys like O’Sullivan. We’ve seen him do it to other fighters on this level: Fernando Guerrero, Gabriel Rosado, Glen Tapia, Curtis Stevens.
Spike, 34, is a tough, workmanlike fighter. He got some buzz by knocking out former prospect Antoine Douglas on HBO in December 2017, and has used that effectively to keep himself in the mix, attached to fights with Daniel Jacobs and Canelo, and now landing Lemieux.
But in his real steps up in the past, he was, like Lemieux, shut down by Billy Joe Saunders, and smoked by Chris Eubank Jr.
The best news for fight fans is that this one figures to have action. Lemieux can still bang, and O’Sullivan comes to fight. It’s going to be a question of whether or not Spike can avoid the monster shots enough to last.