Jaime Munguia could not have asked for a better homecoming fight.

The former WBO junior middleweight titlist and current middleweight contender returned home for the first time in more than four years, treating the local fans to an explosive third-round stoppage of unbeaten D’Mitrius Ballard. Munguia scored a knockdown just seconds before an ensuing volley forced a stoppage at 1:47 of round three of their DAZN main event Saturday evening at Plaza Monumental in Tijuana, Mexico.

“I’m so happy to bring a big event like this to Tijuana,” Munguia told DAZN’s Chris Mannix after his latest win. “I’m happy with the result; I’m happy with my performance.”

The fight was the first anywhere in Mexico for Tijuana’s own Munguia since April 2019, which nearly resulted in the end of his title reign. Munguia was considered fortunate to have escaped with a majority decision over Dennis Hogan in their DAZN headliner from Monterrey, Mexico.

That fight was the last for Munguia with his old team, having since linked up with hometown legend and Hall of Fame former four-division champion Erik ‘El Terrible’ Morales. The union has greatly benefited Munguia, who is still just 25 years old and continuing to improve as he grows into a top middleweight contender.

Saturday’s showing followed distorted rumors of his struggling to make weight and what took place following the official pre-fight weigh-in. Munguia and Ballard both weighed 159½ pounds, though it was clear that Munguia’s final weight cut extended all the way to the moments prior to hitting the scale. By his own admission, he felt dizzy afterward although claims of his having passed out were just that—false claims.

“That’s not what happened,” insisted Munguia. “I just wanted to lay down and catch my breath. That’s all that happened.”

Both fighters looked to establish the jab in the opening round. Ballard used his stick to control the distance, while Munguia’s jab was more to set up his power shots. Ballard proved to be the more effective of the two in a relatively low output round, though Munguia was able to land a straight right and a left to the body during two separate exchanges.  

Munguia landed a left hook that caught the attention of Ballard early in round two. Every punch thrown by the local hero was magnified by the cheers of his adoring fans for his first fight in Tijuana since July 2017 predating his WBO junior middleweight title reign.

The follow-through produced an even more explosive celebration.

Munguia opened up his attack, working the body of Ballard (21-1-1, 13KOs) who grew increasingly uncomfortable in just his second career fight outside of the United States. The unbeaten American from Temple Hills, Maryland tried to create separation between the two but left his chin wide open in the air for a counter left hook by Munguia. Ballard was badly wobbled before falling to the canvas mere seconds later.

“My plan was to get him to the center of the ring,” explained Munguia. “Once I saw that I was able to hurt him, Erik Morales instructed me to open up my attack.”

Ballard beat the count but appeared done to the point of glancing in the direction of his corner with a glazed look of uncertainty. Munguia moved in for the finish, with a volume of unanswered punches along the ropes forcing referee Juan Jose Ramirez to stop the contest.

Munguia sails to 39-0 (31KOs) with the win, his fifth at middleweight after an active junior middleweight title reign. He has now stopped five of his last six opponents, including four knockouts at middleweight since making his divisional debut two years ago with an 11th round stoppage of Ireland’s Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan.

The latest win comes just three months after going twelve hard rounds with veteran trialhorse Gabriel Rosado last November at Honda Center in Anaheim, California. The promise that came with his fight versus Ballard was to improve upon that performance and deliver a highlight reel finish for the hometown faithful.

“This is the fight where I felt the strongest,” revealed Munguia. “I’m ready for anyone.”

The rising star can expect to be met with resistance on that claim. Munguia is the number-one contender for both the titleholder Jermall Charlo (32-0, 22KOs) or WBO claimant Demetrius Andrade (31-0, 19KOs)—the latter who also fights on DAZN and who has called out the Mexican contender.

Also lingering in the division are WBA “Super” titleholder Ryota Murata (16-2, 13KOs) and two-time and current IBF middleweight titlist Gennadiy Golovkin (41-1-1, 36KOs), who are awaiting a fight date for their previously postponed unification bout.

“We’re ready for those title shots,” vowed Munguia. “Like I said, we’re ready for anyone. I will take whichever one comes first.” 

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox