A lot has been asked of Jaime Munguia in a short period of time. The 24-year old became a professional boxer eight years ago, still a teenager, and within five years was already a world champion. Before he could legally purchase a beverage in the United States, he was one of the cornerstones of the then premier network in boxing, his own promotion, and one of the faces of Mexican boxing.
With Canelo Alvarez entangled in legal proceedings and unable to schedule a bout, the pressure is again on Munguia as he main events Golden Boy’s second card on DAZN during the pandemic era on Friday against Tureano Johnson.
“I have the responsibility to represent Mexico. It gives me a lot of desire to carry the torch and to continue to carry the flag for Mexico,” Munguia told Boxing Scene.
To Munguia’s credit, he has handled both the successes and the struggles of his young career with a maturity beyond his age. His body has also matured beyond expectations: Mungia has outpaced the weight class he was long expected to be in. For almost two years, the six foot millennial suffered immensely to get down to 154 pounds. True to his word and to the respective contracts, he always made the weight, but it was anything but pleasant.
Finally, this past January, he was freed from the junior middleweight division and unleashed on the middleweight ranks, debuting impressively with an 11th round TKO victory over Spike O’Sullivan.
“In my fights with Dennis Hogan and Takeshi Inoue, the truth is that it was extremely difficult to get down to 154 pounds. It took a lot of work. I had to be in the sauna, dehydrated for two full days and not eating. It was a lot of sacrifice for my body. I had been at that division for two to three years, and I kept growing, so it was time for a change,” he said.
Munguia is in the unusual position of being a growing, developing fighter who is also already a former world title holder (having vacated his belt to move up). As a result, there are simultaneous calls to take the toughest available challenges and slow down and improve in certain areas, depending on who you listen to.
In order to reconcile this, Munguia began training with Erik Morales late last year. As a fighter, Morales was able to marry bravado-fueled aggression with masterful technique throughout his Hall of Fame career. In Munguia, he saw a fighter who loved to fight, but one who was perhaps struggling to negotiate between capital B boxing and aggression, as seen in his controversial majority decision win over Hogan in April of 2019.
Morales brought Munguia up to Temoaya, a mountain town of less than 80,000 people, to train at altitude and learn how he could be both a boxer and a fighter at once.
“I don't think he necessarily wanted me to be more aggressive, what he wanted me to do was stand up better, more correctly, have more control, throw my combinations, because he already knew that I could hit hard,” said Munguia. “The truth is, you could say this downtime has benefitted us, because we were able to work on the thing that normally, well, we only have a short time to work on them because we have an upcoming fight. We've been able to work on some things with a little more calmness, a little bit more time, and just getting better.”
The degree to which he has improved will certainly be measured against Johnson, a bulldozer of a fighter who is even more blatantly assailing than Munguia is. In his last bout, Johnson thoroughly pummeled another Golden Boy hopeful in Jason Quigley over nine rounds.
A victory over Johnson, particularly a resounding one, would be a sign that Munguia’s issues against Hogan and Inoue have been resolved, whether they were weight or technique-based.
It would also put Munguia in a position to seriously lobby for a fight he’s been requesting for over two years. In 2018, Munguia was rejected by the Nevada State Athletic Commission as an opponent for Gennadiy Golovkin when a scheduled bout with Canelo fell through due to the now-infamous “tainted meat” scenario and subsequent six-month suspension. Golovkin instead steamrolled Vanes Martirosyan, and Munguia stepped in elsewhere, capturing the WBO’s version of the 154-pound title by defeating Sadam Ali.
“Maybe they were right,” said Munguia of the NSAC’s ruling in 2018. “I hadn't fought for world titles yet, I don't think I had even fought for twelve rounds. Things happen for a reason, and thank God my career went the way it did. Now, I'm ready to fight him. The more time that passes, the more time I have, the more prepared I'll be.”
Munguia has made it abundantly clear that his goal is to one day fight, and surpass Canelo as Mexico’s top fighter and attraction, even going so far as to pen a column for ESPN saying as much. Fighting him at the moment isn’t a possibility for a variety of reasons, but while Canelo remains in limbo, Munguia has the opportunity to be somewhat of a proxy for him. Not only can he step in symbolically as a big Mexican attraction on DAZN and internationally, but in a more concrete manner, he could stand in against GGG given that the hopeful trilogy bout with Canelo is a temporary impossibility.
“I want people to see a better Jaime Munguia, one who's faster, one who's stronger, and make it clear that we're at a top level and we can give a great fight to any of the fighters out there,” said Munguia.