Jaime Munguia returns to the ring on Saturday night in Carson, California, defending his WBO junior middleweight title against Patrick Allotey, a man who might, if you’re being extremely generous, be considered a fringe contender on paper.
Munguia (33-0, 26 KO) is coming off of a very disputed win over Dennis Hogan in April, and while Hogan was on nobody’s top 10 list going into that fight, he wasn’t nearly as far off from it as Allotey (40-3, 30 KO) is currently. No matter how many times you compare Allotey to Ike Quartey or Azumah Nelson, the fact is he’s ranked No. 139 in the world at this weight by BoxRec, and he’s 1-3 fighting outside of Ghana in his career.
But the big thing for Munguia on Saturday is going to be trying to make sure that this perceived mismatch doesn’t end up a near-disaster, as the one with Hogan did. Working with new trainer Erik Morales, Munguia, 22, is aiming to show the Hogan bout was an off-night.
“I feel very honored and happy to be representing my country on this important date,” the Mexican fighter said of fighting on Mexican Independence weekend. “I feel ready and I’m prepared to deliver everyone a great show that is worthy of the date of Sept. 14.
“I had a great preparation, perhaps one of my best training camps, and I want to thank Erik Morales for everything he’s been showing me along with Fernando as well. I hope that this Saturday you see a Jaime Munguia that’s totally different. I’m ready, I’m going to give it my everything.”
The 43-year-old Morales was, of course, a great fighter in his time, not only skilled but an action star who was part of two great rivalries with Marco Antonio Barrera and Manny Pacquiao.
”It’s an honor to be training the new face of Mexican boxing,” he said. “And overall, very satisfying to be training a younger boxer who has a lot of desire, a lot of motivation, and has the goal set on being one of the faces of boxing. What we’ve done is to make sure we utilize what he has and exploit those abilities in the ring, and this Saturday, you will see that.”
The 28-year-old Allotey last fought in the US in April 2015, when he was knocked out in two rounds by Patrick Teixeira. Golden Boy was one of the promoters of that card (headlined by Matthysse-Provodnikov), so Golden Boy know about what Allotey is — you can probably chalk up promoter Oscar De La Hoya’s feverish comparisons to Azumah Nelson and Ike Quartey, and calling this a coin-flip matchup, to pure hype.
But Allotey is a fighter with everything to gain and nothing to lose, too, and that can make someone dangerous against a fighter with as many flaws as Munguia has shown in past outings.
“I feel good. I feel good for this Saturday because I prepared for this fight,” Allotey said on Thursday. “When I heard the rumors about this fight, I thought wow, this fight needs to happen, I need to be a world champion, too.
“Like Oscar said, in Ghana we have great fighters, and I’m very happy to become one of them. I know Munguia is a very good fighter and he has power like I do, and I know come Saturday, Munguia is coming to throw his big shots and he thinks he can knock Patrick Allotey out. But no, because I’m also a great fighter and also have power like he does. I’m coming to fight and win. So I think on Saturday it will be a very good fight. I think the best man will win.”
The co-feature, as we’ve said before, is perhaps the more intriguing matchup, pitting hot lightweight prospect Ryan Garcia (18-0, 15 KO) against Avery Sparrow (10-1, 3 KO), the type of fighter who seems he could have the ingredients to be a serious spoiler against the young man with all the social media followers.
Garcia, who just turned 21 about a month ago, does have obvious skills. But Sparrow, 25, has only lost via DQ, is coming off of a good win over veteran Hank Lundy, and has the sort of style that could cause problems.
Sparrow says he’s a natural featherweight, but he’s had a hard time finding fights at his best weights, so he’s staying at 135 for now.
”I naturally weigh 126 pounds, I can get here easy. Unfortunately, we can’t get no fights there, we can’t get no fights at 130,” he said. “My last fight was at 135 pounds, I dropped (Lundy) two times, I controlled the whole fight. I felt good, I felt strong, and that was coming off a year layoff. This time, I had a great camp, I’m feeling solid, I got a lot of people backing me, supporting me. This opportunity I’m going to take full advantage of.”
Sparrow, a Philly native, doesn’t discount Garcia’s talent or potential, but he feels Garcia is making a mistake fighting him on Saturday.
”Ryan Garcia is a great fighter but he’s yet to be proven. When I fought in 2017, which is some years ago, I defeated Jose Lopez, who was Ryan’s last opponent. He’s getting guys that I already beat. He hasn’t really been put in tough,” Sparrow said.
Sparrow believes Garcia hasn’t developed his game enough yet.
“To me, I really don’t see this as a tough fight. He comes in, he only has one plan, to knock everybody out. When he goes the distance, he has a tough time, he has no inside game,” he said. “It’s a lot of things that Ryan has to prove. There’s not a lot of things that I have to prove. The first 15, 16 fights when you’ve signed with an elite promotional company are favored for you to win.
“So this opportunity is for Ryan Garcia to show he is who he really says he is. If he beats me, then you can be sure Ryan Garcia is on to do big things. But after I beat him, he still has time to grow, he still has time to be a world champion, but I think he bit off more than he can chew. Come this weekend, the world will see that Ryan Garcia is over with. Ryan Garcia has a lot to prove, and he’s going to have to prove it because I’m coming to fight. You better tune in because it’s going to be an exciting fight and Ryan Garcia is done.”
Garcia, for his part, doesn’t sound worried about the matchup, either, and isn’t buying Sparrow’s “veteran” talk.
”He claims that he has a lot of experience. He has 11 fights — I don’t know how much experience you can have with that,” Garcia said. “I was in the amateurs maybe even longer than him. I have just as much experience, and I’ve been working in the gym to get better and better every single day.”
Garcia also is fully aware that he has a lot of skeptics who doubt his actual in-ring ability, and focus more on the fact that he’s very popular on social media.
“I know there’s a lot of pressure on me, a lot of hype, and I know the things people say about me,” he said. “The only thing I look to do is to become the best fighter I can be. This Saturday, stay tuned, it’s going to be a good one, I’m looking to prove myself and earn that respect in the ring. A lot of people like to focus on my Instagram, you don’t hear me talk about it, everybody else just talks about it. It just connects me to my fans, and why wouldn’t I want to connect to the people who support me?”