Sadam Ali was on top of the world after his last fight, a surprising unanimous decision over future Hall of Fame inductee Miguel Cotto that’d also earned him a junior middleweight title.
But there’s a big difference between being on top of the world and being on top of your division.
Ali learned that the hard way on Saturday night, receiving a cold dose of reality via the heavy hands of Jaime Munguia, who ended Ali’s brief Cinderella story in quick fashion.
Munguia knocked Ali down twice in the first round, once again in the second, and dropped him for the fourth and final time in the fourth round. Ali’s title reign began five months ago. It concluded with his first defense, which ended in just 10 minutes.
Ali wasn’t even originally supposed to face Munguia. He was actually initially scheduled to face Liam Smith, a former titleholder who’d lost to Canelo Alvarez back in 2015. Smith had to drop out of the fight due to an illness, though, and so Munguia stepped in just a couple weeks before the bout was to take place.
Munguia would’ve been a dangerous opponent even if Ali had much more time to prepare for him. He is tall, powerful, talented and far more of a natural 154-pounder than Ali, who had spent most of his career in the 147-pound division. The size difference was apparent in the ring. Munguia was able to walk through Ali’s shots. Clearly the same couldn’t be said of Ali’s ability to handle Munguia’s punches.
Ali was likely nevertheless confident that he’d win. Yet he also took the fight because doing so was necessary. Despite his win over Cotto last December, he’s not a big name. Despite this headlining appearance on HBO, he needed to try to take advantage of this opportunity.
Instead, Ali proved to be an opportunity for Munguia.
For a 21-year-old, Munguia is composed and wise in the ring. He had a good amateur career, has cut his teeth in sparring with some good fighters, and had developed even further with 28 fights over the past four years. He used all of that experience to set up the first knockdown just 55 seconds into the opening round. Munguia threw out a jab and then followed with a right hand to the body. Ali had ducked down to avoid what he thought was going to be a right hand upstairs. Instead, he brought his head back up into the path of the third shot — a good left hook.
Ali fell to his back. He quickly got up to one knee, where he remained until the count hit seven, taking his to compose himself. It didn’t do him much good. Munguia put Ali down again about a minute later, hurting him primarily with a pair of right hands.
The next knockdown came at the end of the second round. Ali hit the canvas in the third as well, though the referee ruled it a slip. The referee asked the ringside physician to check on Ali between rounds and make the call as to whether the fight should continue. Ali’s trainer essentially begged the doctor to allow the bout to go on.
Everyone involved — referee, doctor and trainer — should’ve seen the writing on the wall. There was nothing Ali could do to get back in the fight. There was no point in waiting to see what would happen.
Munguia soon made the decision for them. He floored Ali a minute into the fourth. This time, the referee immediately waved the fight off.
It was a heck of an arrival for Munguia, who is now 29-0 with 25 knockouts. And it was the result of two sets of events beyond his control.
Last month, Munguia was on the verge of stepping in the ring with middleweight Gennady Golovkin, there to replace Canelo Alvarez, who’d was out of their rematch due to a positive test for a banned substance. The Nevada Athletic Commission reportedly wasn’t going to allow Munguia to face Golovkin, who went on to demolish Vanes Martirosyan instead.
That meant Munguia was free to face Ali in a much easier fight than facing GGG would’ve been. Now he has a world title. Now he’s the one who’ll be back in the spotlight on television in the near future.
But again, there’s a big difference between being on top of the world and being on top of your division. It remains to be seen how Munguia will fare against the cream of the 154-pound weight class, especially with Jermell Charlo and Jarrett Hurd holding the three other world titles.
Don’t expect Munguia’s team to be in any rush to make those fights. He’s still young. They’ll still want to give him time to develop further. And with his frame, it shouldn’t be surprising to see him in the talented 160-pound division somewhere in the not-too-distant future.
Ali, meanwhile, is now 26-2 with 14 KOs. His other loss came via technical knockout to Jessie Vargas in a title fight down at welterweight back in 2016. Ali should consider returning to 147.
Mikaela Mayer Wins on Linares-Lomachenko Undercard
Mikaela Mayer is becoming a familiar face when Vasyl Lomachenko fights.
The prospect had her fifth fight of her young pro career on Saturday, and for the third time she performed underneath a Lomachenko main event. This time, she shut out Baby Nansen, winning a six-round unanimous decision that all three judges score 60-54.
Mayer, who represented the United States in the 2016 Olympics, is now 5-0 with 3 KOs. She turned pro last August and has been busy in these past nine months. Don’t expect that to change, not as her team continues to develop her before putting her into a brighter spotlight and against tougher opposition.
Nansen, who was fighting outside of her native New Zealand for the first time, lost for the first time in about two years. She is now 6-3-1 with no knockouts.