D’Mitrius Ballard is happy to be back in the ring, and happy to have a second chance at a potential career defining fight against Jaime Munguia.
The undefeated 28 year old middleweight was out of action for almost two years. He was scheduled to return to action against Munguia last April as a late replacement for an injured Maciej Sulecki. But Ballard suffered a training injury of his own, and had to withdraw from the fight just six days later.
Ballard finally returned to the ring in November with a decision victory over Paul Valenzuela Jr as part of the undercard for Munguia vs Gabe Rosado. Now, he’s looking forward to another opportunity against Munguia, this time on February 19th in Tijuana.
Ballard spoke with Bad Left Hook about the ups and downs of his journey to this fight, his path to success against Munguia, and his plan for how to adapt to a venue that’s almost 3,000 miles away from home.
Our conversation, lightly edited for length and clarity, follows.
BAD LEFT HOOK: You’re fighting Jaime Munguia next month, about nine months after you had to withdraw from a fight against him because of an injury. How did it feel when you found out you were getting this opportunity again? Were you relieved? Satisfied? Excited?
D’MITRIUS BALLARD: Definitely excited. Definitely felt blessed. Just happy, you know? I’ve been boxing for a very long time, 18 years now. And these are the moments that young boxers wish for. To fight for a world title, to fight elite competition in front of the whole world.
After you got injured and had to withdraw last April, the stories were mostly about Munguia losing two matchups. But, what was that process like for you? There were only six days between the announcement you’d be stepping in and the news that you had to withdraw. Can you tell us about what you went through gaining and losing that fight in less than a week?
When I first got the call that I was getting the fight, I was happy. Munguia and I are both Golden Boy fighters, and we’ve fought on cards together. I’m a boxing fan first, so I watch all the DAZN fights and world championship fights, so I see Jaime all the time.
When I received the call from Robert Diaz back in April that I’d get the chance to fight him, I was ecstatic. I was happy. These are moments that boxers dream of, these moments where you can put your stamp on the boxing game. But then four or five days later when sparring, I hurt my elbow. I tried to work through it, but I realized it was too big of an injury for me to try and push through or take a cortisone shot or something.
I respect Jaime’s game. I figured I need to be 100% before I take that fight. So having to withdraw was disappointing to me, but I talked it through with my wife and my family and we saw the big picture. When I get that shot, I want to be 100% healthy. Now it’s 2022, I’m here again getting that opportunity. So, I feel really blessed.
A few months later, we saw you on the undercard of Munguia-Rosado. Was that frustrating at all, seeing Munguia against a different guy? Or were you just happy to be healthy and active again?
I wasn’t disappointed. I was kind of happy both ways that it happened like that. Before that November fight, I’d been out of the ring for over 700 days. The longest layoff of my career.
I have three kids, one of them within that time frame. So the past two years, I’ve been in full dad mode. Dad bod, singing along with the songs, taking them to school, playing outside, just typically being a father for the past two years. So getting the call to fight in November, to get back in there and for it not to be Jaime? I figured it was a good thing. Just for me to get in the ring and get those cobwebs off, get the rust off a little bit.
And I fought Paul Valenzuela Jr who wasn’t a typical Mexican fighter, kind of awkward and rangy, but very game. It was good for me to get back in the ring, dust it off, and be feeling like a boxer again.
And Jaime was on the card, so it gave me a good chance to get another look at him, get a look at him up close. It was a great stacked card, so it was a win-win for me
I remember seeing you in a co-feature, but this is your first time headlining a televised show, right?
Is that something you used to envision for yourself as a kid or an amateur? Are you proud to hit that level as a professional?
Yeah, this is definitely something I remember myself visualizing as a teenager, as an amateur. Visualizing me fighting for a world title in Russia, or Germany, or somewhere overseas. I feel like it’s required in boxing sometimes that you have to go over to enemy territory and take their belt. Plenty of great champions have that from the 60s, 70s, the 80s, it’s something I remember seeing a lot as a fan of boxing.
So I’m excited, I’m happy. First time main event on DAZN, I know there’s going to be millions of people watching in Mexico. I’m excited!
Your last two fights were against guys who came at you with an awkward style. Now you’re facing a guy in Munguia that’s known as more of a straightforward heavy hitter. Are you training or preparing any differently for someone that has that more conventional style?
Of course, I’m always shaping my training camps for the opponents that I’m fighting. I know that Munguia is a straightforward guy. He’s a bull. He’s coming hard, throwing a high volume of punches, and they’re going to be coming hard. So, that’s what I’m training for, I’m training for the best Munguia.
This fight is in Tijuana, and it’s Munguia’s first fight in Mexico since a controversial decision against Dennis Hogan in 2019. Have you taken anything from that fight? Anything you’re using to prepare based on what Hogan did to find success against him, or the challenges you might have if the final decision goes to the judges?
Just to really try and dictate and be myself in the ring. Munguia is gonna try and impose his will and impose his game plan on me. I just need to stay true to myself, use all the tools in my toolbox, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be victorious.
What do you see in your arsenal that will neutralize the strengths we’ve seen from Munguia over the years?
Just bringing out a lot of tricks from the bag. I’m a decorated amateur, so I know how to use that amateur background and have fun with it. Hit and not get hit, move, and be very fundamental in the ring. Take advantage of the opportunities that Munguia will give me, and capitalize.
What’s your plan or schedule for acclimating and preparing in Tijuana? On the one hand, it’s only about 20 miles away from San Diego. But on the other hand, Greenland is closer to where you live and train than Tijuana. What impact does geography have on your last few days or weeks before fight night?
[Pause] That’s a good question. With the time zone, the time difference, it’s about getting rest. Meditating. Don’t let the moment overwhelm you. Be there, be myself. Be comfortable.
This is a moment I’ve been waiting for my whole life, and I’m an underdog in this fight. But my whole life, I’ve always felt like an underdog. Always felt like I’ve had something to prove. So I’m comfortable. I feel really comfortable, really good about the situation. And when I get there, it’s time to put on a show.
You mentioned having small kids. Anyone with little kids knows that lifting and carrying them around makes one arm feel like it’s getting a lot stronger than the other one. Now that you have a few years of training with three kids, which arm have you been bulking up by toting them around?
[Smiles] I’m right-handed. So I try to hold my kids mostly in my left hand. I feel like I’ve been getting stronger like that. But, my kids are spoiled. They like me holding them in my arms and lap a lot, so I do have to switch and rotate back and forth like that. They’ve got me moving around, goes against my training sometimes. [Laughs]
Any last words or final thoughts for readers of our site?
Thank you for tuning in and seeing D’Mitrius Ballard on February 19th in Tijuana, Mexico. I’m ready to make history. Ready to put a stamp on boxing and my name. Tune in!