Jaime Munguia entered his most recent fight under the impression that his next one would come in a final eliminator.

A string of events prevented that from happening, with the unbeaten former WBO junior middleweight titlist instead settling for activity rather than waiting on perhaps the more significant opportunity.

Next up for Tijuana’s Munguia (38-0, 30KOs) is a true homecoming versus unbeaten American middleweight D’Mitrius Ballard (21-0-1, 13KOs). The bout will place February 19 on DAZN from Plaza Monumental de Tijuana, marking Munguia’s first fight in his hometown since July 2017.

The event comes in lieu of a WBC middleweight title eliminator. Such hopes were dashed by the recent loss suffered by former title challenger Sergiy Derevyanchenko, who dropped a ten-round decision to Dominican Republic’s Carlos Adames (21-1, 16KOs) last December 5 in Los Angeles.

Advanced talks were in place for an eliminator with Derevyanchenko, though the outcome prompted Munguia and his team—Golden Boy Promotions and Zanfer Boxing—to keep him active. Plans to roll out the DAZN 2022 first quarter schedule left Golden Boy with two dates to fill, with designs on Munguia headlining its first show of the year.

“Carlos Adames fought in December. We already had the February 19 date,” Munguia explained of why he’s facing Ballard instead of Adames. “Carlos wasn’t ready to fight that soon so we moved forward and rescheduled the fight with Ballard.”

Munguia managed two fights in 2021, hoping for more but was forced to sit out until last June due to failed efforts to proceed with a scheduled April fight date. The top-rated middleweight contender was initially due to face Poland’s Maciej Sulecki, who withdrew due to a reported elbow injury. Golden Boy secured the services of Ballard, who strangely suffered a similar injury—though verified—close enough to the fight date to force the show to be postponed.

The event was pushed back to June 19, with Sulecki back on board only to once again pull out of the fight. The former title challenger was replaced by countryman Kamil Szeremeta, who Munguia effortlessly stopped after six one-sided rounds. The win was followed by a more challenging twelve-round, unanimous decision victory over Gabriel Rosado last November 13 at Honda Center in Anaheim, with his sights set on the Derevyanchenko-Adames fight.

Munguia will now first focus on Ballard before focusing on any future fight.

A win will leave him as the top-rated middleweight contender with the WBC and WBO, whose titles are held by Jermall Charlo (34-0, 22KOs) and Demetrius Andrade (31-0, 19KOs), respectively. He is also the number-two ranked contender for the WBA belt held by Ryota Murata (16-2, 13KOs), who awaits a rescheduled date for a planned unification bout with IBF titlist Gennadiy Golovkin (41-1-1, 36KOs).

“Once we get through February 19—God-willing, healthy and with a victory—I am willing to face anyone in the middleweight division,” insists Munguia.

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