If it weren't for the Nevada State Athletic Commission, we would have a significantly different view of Mexican Middleweight contender Jaime Munguia.
Back in 2018, when Canelo Alvarez was forced out of his return bout with Gennadiy Golovkin due to a failed drug test, the team of the Golovkin looked to insert Munguia as a late replacement opponent. However, the NSAC correctly sighted that Munguia was not a suitable replacement, due to the size differential and his lack of experience, and Golovkin and co. ultimately settled upon the over-matched Vanes Martirosyan.
Regardless, one can very easily speculate that, had the fight between Golovkin and Munguia taken place, one way or another, we would have a much different understanding of where Jaime resides in the sport of boxing.
Instead, we have something of a mixed bag with the Tijuana native. At just 25-years-old, there's still time for the power-puncher to make a name for himself. However, he seems to running in place to some regard, waiting for the perfect opportunity to really be tested, to really take his shot.
In May of 2018, the same month Golovkin faced Martirosyan, Munguia did propel himself into a slightly brighter sliver of the boxing spotlight. He did this with a one-sided win over Sadam Ali, in a bit of an upset, picking up a portion of the Jr. Middleweight title in the process.
Naturally, anytime a 22-year-old wins any significant gold, it must be looked at as a positive. The truth is, however, that opposition matters. Ali certainly has his qualities and was coming off the biggest win of his career, a unanimous decision victory over an aged Miguel Cotto, but he isn't quite what you would call a member of the upper echelon in the sport.
So, while one must credit him for winning the title in a fight in which he was the untested underdog, this wasn't exactly a passing-of-the-torch moment. He still seemed a gun aimed, but not yet fired.
And since, Munguia has effectively gone on a tour of the gatekeepers of the sport, facing fighters that couldn't quite crack the top level or that were most known for losing to better known fighters in the past. Fighters such as former titlist Liam Smith, Gary O'Sullivan and Takeshi Inoue, the brother of the Bantamweight world champion Naoya Inoue, are the type of names you glean from his resume.
Nothing absolutely terrible, but it's not a murderer's row of world-beaters.
At one point, the hope seemed to be to have Munguia potentially face Canelo Alvarez in an all Mexican encounter, but the weight ultimately revealed itself to be an insurmountable issue. Munguia, at the time, was still making 154 pretty well and Canelo was on his way to moving up to 168 pounds. When you couple that with the fact that Alvarez didn't find himself interesting in facing another Mexican, you realize the idea was completely put to rest.
So, again, Munguia found himself searching for that meaningful, all-too-telling encounter that could solidify him as a serious, high-level performer.
Depending on how he and his team navigate his career, there is plenty of time left for the former titlist, still just 25, and perhaps it's in his best interest that he has yet to be thrown in with some of boxing's biggest names. He could well be too green for such an experience.
One is reminded of the likes of Fernando Vargas, a fighter that seemed to have the world at his feet and a long and healthy career ahead of him. At 22 years of age, Vargas was a world champion and had managed to defeat a solid handful of notable fighters prior to his unification bout with Puerto Rican rival and boxing superstar Felix Trinidad.
Then, in December of 2000, after twelve rounds of grueling action, Vargas had lost his unbeaten streak and his world title. Most importantly, one could argue, he left too much of himself in the ring in part because he may have stepped up far too soon in his journey.
So, we don't need to rush the kid, but he should be moving forward. And, naturally, coming up on the end of the calendar year, there's no better time to map out what his 2022 might look like and how it could end up playing out.
Firstly, let me stress that he doesn't have a walk in the park opponent in Gabriel Rosado this weekend at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. Rosado, while perhaps beyond his best days, is a battle-tested brawler that is more than willing to go to war. In many ways, this could be a solid step in the right direction for Munguia, but it won't be a step-over opponent.
Still, an opportunity presents itself for Munguia.
Rosado, while he has lost plenty and has even been stopped in the past, has never fully had the fight knocked out of him during a contest. If Munguia was able to be the first man to accomplish such a feat, it would be a nice cap to the year for Jaime.
Nonetheless, let's presume he gets beyond Rosado and is hoping to have a meaningful 2022 campaign. What would that look like? What sort of fighters would he face?
For starters, I think he needs someone that is effectively a fresher version of Rosado, someone that can allow him to test himself against a fighter that has been in there with solid opposition. A fighter like Sergiy Derevyanchenko makes a lot of sense.
While he has picked up three losses in his last four encounters, he's a formidable foe and a high-ranking Middleweight that still has skills and could show us what Munguia looks like when mixing it with the top half of the top ten at 160 pounds. From Daniel Jacobs to Jermall Charlo, Derevyanchenko has faced most of the best fighters in the division.
What's more, Sergiy has never been stopped. This allows Munguia an opportunity to advance down a clear pathway to besting the performances of some of his contemporaries by defeating Derevyanchenko inside the distance.
This win would also cement his stratus as a legitimate Middleweight and one that could be on the verge of a title shot.
Which leads me to the fight I think Munguia should pursue in 2022 if he continues to be victorious: The Gennadiy Golovkin vs. Ryoto Murata winner.
In December, the pair will meet in Japan to partially unify the division in a very interesting encounter. Skill wise, one would have to favor Golovkin. However, he has been inactive and is getting older, making for a significantly more intriguing affair than some might expect.
While either is a solid fight for Munguia, for obvious and not-so-obvious reasons, the Golovkin fight should be the preferred pathway to the gold for Team Munguia.
For starters, the idea of an action fight between the come-forward style of Munguia and the Mexican by way of Kazakhstan in Golovkin is a very sellable fight. What's more, they have a bit of a history with their near fight in 2018. But, they also have shared opponents that, theoretically, that could make for some interesting storylines.
Theoretically speaking, if Munguia were to get beyond Rosado and then face the aforementioned Derevyanchenko early next year, Jaime and Golovkin would share three common opponents: Derevyanchenko, Rosado and contender Kamil Szeremeta.
Thus far, Munguia has put in what some could consider the better performance, taking only six rounds to stop Szeremeta in June of 2021 while Golovkin required seven in December of 2020. Munguia would make a real statement if, in a three fight stretch, he could stop Szeremeta faster, fully stop Rosado when Golovkin couldn't even drop the Philadelphian during their 2013 encounter, and possibly stop hypothetical foe Derevyanchenko. It would give fans reason to believe Munguia just might be the second fighter to defeat Golovkin.
Again, it adds to the marketability of the showdown.
Granted, we are having to make some assumptions here to say the least, so I am hesitant to illustrate a potential future for Munguia much further out than has already been expressed. However, his stock would rise immensely in this hypothetical world if he went on this sort of run.
And the beauty of this run is that it doesn't have to be make or break. If he loses to Golovkin at roughly 26 in mid-2022, is that really the end of the road for the talented Middleweight? Of course not. He can rebuild, retool and look to come back again in the next chapter of his career.
However, the longer he waits, the more time is not on his side. Regardless of whatever attempts at adding nuance to his game he and his team might take, he is a pressure fighter that can be hit. That doesn't sound like the make-up of a longer career. Munguia has to decide soon when is best to strike.
Yes, young fighters need time to develop. However, time isn't an allay, it's a currency. You need to spend it wisely or you're throwing it away. And the difference between a dollar and time is that you can't make back the time you've wasted.
Thank you all for reading, I do greatly appreciate it. If you're at all inspired to do so, please leave a comment. I enjoy them all. Also, I have predictions for Munguia vs. Rosado here
as well as predictions for Kid Galahad vs. Kiko Martinez and Terri Harper vs. Alycia Baumgardner here
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