Under Microscope, Jaime Munguia Overcomes Liam Smith to Win Decision
Jaime Munguia made the first defense of his world title in a ring at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas — but it might as well have been under a microscope given how much scrutiny and examination he was receiving from viewers and commentators.
Plenty was on the line for Munguia on Saturday night, plenty more than there usually would be. Usually, a 21-year-old — even a 21-year-old with 29 pro fights after a five-year career — would be able to develop with much less of a spotlight and far fewer expectations.
But two months ago, Munguia had burst onto the scene, stepping in on very late notice to face Sadam Ali, obliterating Ali in just four rounds and winning a junior middleweight world title in the process. Now, two month later, he was back on HBO in the main event, defending his belt against Liam Smith, the man whom Ali was originally supposed to face in May before Smith contracted a skin infection and Munguia took his place — and took advantage.
Smith had lost only once before, to Canelo Alvarez by ninth-round knockout in 2016. Smith, a former titleholder himself, would’ve already been considered a measuring-stick opponent, a veteran who could show us what Munguia had and what Munguia still had to work on. Fair or otherwise, how Munguia performed would also be measured against the way Canelo succeeded two years ago.
And so eyebrows raised higher in the first round, when Smith had little trouble hitting Munguia, particularly with right hand counters over Munguia’s jab. He also seemed unimpressed with Munguia’s power. The second and third rounds were more competitive. Smith still landed some good right hands and combinations, while Munguia got in to Smith’s body, a wise strategy given how Canelo had stopped Smith two years ago.
Indeed, Munguia was able to hurt Smith with a body shot in the fifth, and he reacted with visual confidence, coming forth and letting loose a barrage. Smith withstood it, though he visited the canvas in the sixth, sent down after a Munguia left hook upstairs.
The body shots began to take their toll. According to CompuBox, 71 of Munguia’s 277 landed punches were to the body, and you could see less snap in Smith’s arms when he threw. He still tried, and he still had good moments, yet it was Munguia who was winning rounds down the stretch on the judges’ scorecards.
One judge had it a too-wide 119-108, giving Munguia 11 rounds and seeing just one in favor of Smith, with an additional point taken way for the knockdown. The other two judges had a more realistic 117-110 (nine rounds to three) and 116-111 (eight rounds to four).
Munguia moves to 30-0 with 25 knockouts. No matter how he won, there would’ve been skeptics. If he’d struggled, some would’ve concluded he was overrated. If he beat Smith easily, some would’ve felt Smith was never that good and was left worse after getting beaten up by Canelo.
It’s not fair to Munguia to try to draw comparisons to Canelo, who won his world title at junior middleweight just shy of his 21st birthday. Alvarez is one of the best boxers in the world today.
It is understandable, though, to look at Munguia and ponder how he would fare against the top 154-pound fighters of today — guys like Jermell Charlo and Jarrett Hurd. He’s not at all ready for them.
It’s still early, after all. Yes, Munguia holds a world title. The title he won was against an undersized junior middleweight — Ali was really a natural welterweight, and Ali had won that belt against an injured, aged Miguel Cotto. Yet Munguia should otherwise be considered at the level of a rising prospect or newly arrived contender. He has work to do.
That work he puts in, and the performances he puts forth, will show whether he belongs at the top, or if he’ll just be a fighter who is fun to watch until he reaches his limit.
Smith, meanwhile, is now 26-2-1 with 14 KOs. He was the mandatory contender to the title Ali held and Munguia now holds. He’ll have to work his way back up for another shot, but it looks as if he has reached his own limit, good enough to compete with some good fighters, but not good enough to beat them.
Alberto Machado Dishes Out 12 Rounds of Punishment to Raphael Mensah
Alberto Machado shut out Raphael Mensah in a fight that went on much longer than it needed to.
The final scores were 120-107 across the board, 12 rounds to none. The fight itself was just about as one-sided.
Machado, who was making the first defense of a junior lightweight world title he won nine months ago, found success from the outset against Mensah, landing one-two combinations from his southpaw stance, and then dropping Mensah with a big right hook landed at the tail end of an exchange.
Machado was stronger. He was longer as well, and Mensah wasn’t able to do much to counteract Machado’s advantages in height and reach. He often moved back or circled away, though not far enough away to make Machado miss and set up counters, and therefore Mensah tended to be caught first. On those rare occasions when Mensah got in range to land, what he landed had little effect.
While Mensah started off game, soon he was left with next to nothing but heart. The fight became quite uncomfortable to watch, as Machado landed 36 punches in the fourth round to Mensah’s 10, and then a brutal fifth round that saw Machado land 27 shots, all of them power punches, while Mensah connected just three times.
Somehow Mensah’s corner allowed the fight to go on. The referee allowed the fight to go on. And so Mensah fought on. While the punches Machado landed down the stretch weren’t as eye-popping as before, he was clearly winning the rounds. Mensah wasn’t getting rocked every round, but he also had no hope of winning, and the punishment was accumulating with every minute, every round that passed.
After the fight, Machado showed ringside media that he had a “nasty gash over his left middle finger knuckle,” according to Mike Coppinger of RingTV.com. That injury would explain why Mensah was able to go the distance.
Machado is now 20-0 with 16 KOs. He’d come off the canvas last October to stop titleholder Jezreel Corrales. There was no such adversity this time out.
After the bout, Machado expressed interest in facing Francisco Vargas, a former 130-pound titleholder who lost his belt to Miguel Berchelt in early 2017. Fights against either Vargas or Berchelt would be fun wars.
Mensah suffered his first defeat and is now 31-1 with 23 KOs. He’s had a hard-luck career, allegedly going unpaid for nearly all of his pro career in Ghana, only to come to the U.S. and lose in his first big opportunity. He’s also suffered personal tragedy; his daughter recently died of malaria.
Hopefully he’ll be back in the ring soon after recovering from this beating — even if Mensah can’t compete at the highest level, perhaps he can earn some money to take care of his family.