Jaime Munguia got a good test from a determined Tureano Johnson tonight in California, but Munguia exploded the veteran’s lip with an uppercut in the sixth round, ending the fight and picking up a solid win.
Munguia (36-0, 29 KO) was put under pressure from the get-go by the 36-year-old Johnson (21-3-1, 15 KO), who absolutely came to win this fight and fully believed he could do just that. You have to give great credit to Johnson for fighting as hard as he did and coming right at a younger man known for being rugged and tough himself, but you also have to give credit to Munguia; he withstood that early pressure and started landing really good shots in return, particularly the right uppercut that eventually ended the fight.
Munguia, 24, seemed almost incapable of missing with that uppercut on the inside, but Johnson was still fighting pretty well when the bout was rightfully halted after the sixth round. The cut was truly gruesome, and there was just no choice but to stop the fight. It was a legal punch and a good win for the Mexican, who won a title at 154 and wants to get there at 160 next year.
“He surprised me with his pressure. But I adjusted and landed inside. The uppercuts were very important,” Munguia said after the fight. “I want another fight in January, and then potentially a world title fight.”
Asked if there was anyone in particular he wanted to fight, Munguia said, “I want any of the 160-pound champs. Any of them would be great for me.”
Rashidi Ellis UD-12 Alexis Rocha
This was a risky matchup for both guys, and a good matchup made by Golden Boy getting these two to agree and come together. Ellis is the one who keeps his “0,” as the 27-year-old from Lynn, Mass., won on scores of 115-113, 116-112, and 116-112. BLH had it slightly wider in his favor, 117-111.
Ellis (23-0, 14 KO) looked to have too much hand speed for Rocha (16-1, 10 KO) early in the fight, but the 23-year-old from California did have his moments and pockets of success in this bout, too. He was sometimes able to get his pressure working enough to get Ellis to the corner, but generally Ellis was able to get back out without too much bad happening.
At his age, Ellis really wants to get into a higher-tier fight, but it’s going to be tough given he’s in the welterweight division and Golden Boy just don’t have much at 147, and neither does anyone other than PBC. This was for a minor-minor WBC belt (as in, not even a full version of a minor WBC belt, this was for the “International Silver” title), so he’s on his way to a ranking there. The WBC welterweight title is currently held by Errol Spence Jr, who like most of the top guys at 147 is with PBC, and PBC have very little reason to go outside of their roster for fights at 147.
So it might be tough for Ellis to get the sort of fights he wants, but if he can get a solid ranking with the WBO, hey, Terence Crawford probably will still be desperate for opponents next year, and Top Rank and Golden Boy do easy business together these days when the fights are there. I don’t anyone’s clamoring for Crawford-Ellis, but they haven’t exactly clamored for Crawford-Benavidez, Crawford-Khan, Crawford-Kavaliauskas, or the upcoming Crawford-Brook, either.
As for Rocha, he had a tough fight last time out with Brad Solomon, and he dropped the decision here. He’s a young fighter still looking to put it together, but he’s a solid fighter already. If he can learn from these fights, keep getting better, there’s certainly no reason to write him off. He could easily have taken a lesser opponent than Ellis and picked up a win tonight, but he dared to take an actual risk. That should be commended, not crapped on, and if he uses the experience and it can make him better, it’s nothing that should define his career.
Elwin Soto UD-12 Carlos Buitrago
Judges had this one 115-113, 117-111, and 119-109 for Soto. The first card is OK. The second card is pushing it. The third card is professional boxing.
Soto (18-1, 12 KO) had a perfectly good argument for the win, as he was the aggressor for most of the fight, did some solid work, came in as “the champion” if that’s something you think should matter, and a lot of rounds both guys had their moments. But it’s hard not to feel for Buitrago (32-6-1, 18 KO), who came up short in a world title fight for the sixth time (0-5-1 now), if you count interim titles, and the fourth even if you don’t. At 28, he’s not old, but he’s had a lot of shots already, and this could easily have been the last one he’s getting.
For what it’s worth, BLH had the fight even, 114-114, as did both Sergio Mora and Chris Mannix on DAZN. Soto has now made two successful defenses of the WBO 108-pound title, and both have been very close calls in reality, even if the scores don’t totally reflect that. And Soto wasn’t delusional about the fight, either, saying afterward that Buitrago definitely tested him.
“I’m very happy to walk away with the victory,” Soto said. “I tried pressure as much as I could to score a win. These are the kind of tough fights you are in when a world title is at stake. His style was difficult for me, but I felt I did enough to win. Now it’s time for me to rest and see what my team has in store for me.”
Marlen Esparza UD-8 Sulem Urbina
This was a WBC flyweight eliminator, and Esparza (8-1, 1 KO) took scores of 78-74, 80-72, 80-72. It was a much closer, more competitive fight than the shutout scores make it seem, as Urbina (12-1, 2 KO) fought a good fight in the first half, but Esparza did take over down the stretch. BLH had it even at 76-76, but with the feeling Esparza probably deserved the win if anyone did, as a couple of the rounds nicked to Urbina on our card easily could have gone to Marlen.
Esparza, 31, was coming off of her first pro loss last year to Seniesa Estrada, and grew into this fight. In the second half, it was mostly Esparza in a nice rhythm, shutting former amateur rival Urbina down pretty well, and landing the better shots, and more accurately.
“I knew coming into this fight it would be a worthy fight, and I was very excited to showcase what I can do,” Esparza said after the fight. “I know there’s been a lot of changes in my camp since the last fight, all the reason for me to show the world what I can do. I’m ready to fight for the WBC title next.”
Ibeth Zamora Silva (30-6, 12 KO) currently holds the WBC flyweight title, having won it in May 2018. She hasn’t fought since a Nov. 2018 defense, but was set to return in a get-busy, non-title fight tonight in Mexico, too.