By Jeff Aranow
Liam Smith (26-1-1, 14 KOs) is taking a dangerous fight tonight against WBO junior middleweight champion Jaime Munguia (29-0, 25 KOs) in a battle for relevancy on HBO Boxing After Dark at the Hard Rock Hotel in La Vegas, Nevada. This is a must win for the 29-year-old Smith, who has largely been forgotten since he lost his WBO title two Saul Canelo Alvarez two years ago in 2016.
Smith looked badly weight drained at the weigh-in on Friday. That was a bad sign for him, as he’s going to need to be 100 percent tonight for him to have a chance of pulling off an upset against Munguia. Smith has been having problems making weight at 154 for a long time now, so this isn’t all that surprising that he looked so emaciated at the weigh-in last Friday.
In Smith’s last two fights, he had problems with Liam Williams’ punching power. Smith turned things around when he got physical with Williams and roughed him up. Smith might try the same thing against Munguia. It’s doubtful that Smith will have the same kind of success in beating Munguia by roughing him up, but that’s likely the game plan that he’ll be using against the Mexican knockout artist. If Smith tries to brawl Munguia, he’ll be playing to his strengths. I don’t think Smith wants that kind of fight, especially if he’s weight drained. Liam Williams was cut up from head-butts in his fight with Smith. It would be a pity if Munguia winds up getting cut in a similar fashion by Smith if he goes into Billy goat mode.
Smith has worked his way back to title contention with a couple of wins over fellow Brit Liam Williams. Now it’s Smith’s chance to show that he deserves the mandatory title spot the World Boxing Organization gave him. A lot of fans don’t think Smith should be getting another quick title shot, as there are arguably more deserving contenders that should be getting a crack at Munguia’s WBO title like Julian ‘J-Rock’ Williams, Erislandy Lara, Maciej Sulecki and Austin Trout.
“I would like to thank the boxing commission because everything happens for a reason,” Munguia said. ”I would like to be a great champion, honestly I want to make history. I would love to unify my title against (Jermell) Charlo or (Jarrett) Hurd, but I prefer the fight with Hurd. It will be a much better fight because he comes forward and Charlo moves a lot,” Munguia said.
Munguia has received criticism by some boxing fans by him talking about wanting to fight other champions at 154 and 160 despite the fact that he still has Liam Smith in front of him. Some fans think Munguia is getting a little carried away with his win over welterweight Sadam Ali, and he’s not keeping his focus on the task in front of him in needing to beat Smith. If Munguia is the fighter that he believes he is, then he should be able to make quick work of Smith. Munguia has to make this look effortless for him to be seen as having a chance of beating the other champions at 154 like Hurd and Charlo.
Despite being the more experienced fighter, Smith is the underdog tonight against Munguia. Smith hates the idea that he’s been overlooked by the odds-makers, and he wants to show them tonight that they made a blunder in picking against him. Smith has been around in the pro ranks for 10 years, but his experience is limited to these two fighters: Liam Williams and Saul Canelo Alvarez.
This is a fight where Munguia can show the boxing world who he is and let them know that he rightfully deserves to be the WBO 154lb title that he won last May against Sadam ali. Munguia needs a win over the gatekeeper Liam Smith to show that he’s for real and not just a paper champion like a lot of fans currently see him. For hardcore boxing fans, they were already well aware of how talented Munguia is before he destroyed Sadam, as he was The Ring Magazine’s prospect of the year in 2017.
Munguia was seen as a fighter with a lot of talent, but he hadn’t been seen by a lot of casual boxing fans due to his fights taking place in Mexico and not in the U.S. Before Munguia beat Sadam Ali, his only other fight in the U.S was on the Kenichi Ogawa vs. Tevin Farmer undercard last year in defeating Paul Valenzuela Jr. by a 2nd round knockout on December 9 in Las Vegas, Nevada. That fight wasn’t shown on television. Nevertheless, Munguia received a lot of attention from the boxing fans at ringside and to the sports writers that saw him in action. The fight by Munguiao was impressive to say the least. No one had ever done that to the journeyman Valenzuela before, and it’s hard to imagine more established 154lb fighters would have done a better job than Munguia did.
Munguia looked sensational beating Sadam Ali by a 4th round knockout o win the WBO belt two months ago on the 12th of May in a fight that was shown on HBO. The young 21-year-old Munguia was brought in as a replacement for Liam Smith after he suffered an allergic reaction and needed to pull out of the match. Ali gave the green light to the 5’11” Munguia being his replacement on three weeks’ notice. Ali should have canceled the fight after Smith pulled out, as he wasn’t given nearly enough time to prepare for the huge size of the middleweight sized Munguia. Smith would have been a winnable fight for the 5’9” Ali, as he’s not a huge puncher. But in facing the heavy-handed Munguia with little preparation for what he was going to be dealing with on the night, Sadam wasn’t ready and he was quickly battered and stopped in the 4th round by the young Mexican puncher.
Liam Smith only has one defeat on his resume in the pro ranks in losing to the highly talented Saul Canelo Alvarez in September 2016 on HBO in Arlington, Texas. Smith lost to Canelo because of the speed advantage the Mexican star had over him. Tonight, Smith won’t have to deal with a lot of hand speed in facing Munguia, since he’s not blazing fast like Canelo. What Munquia does have that Canelo doesn’t have going for him is size and major power. Smith will need to adapt to the size and power of Munguia or the fight will be over with quickly.
Munguia likes the idea that Smith is going to be there for him to land his power shots on tonight. He doesn’t want to have to chase Smith around the ring like he was doing against Sadam.
Last May, Munguia was considered as a replacement opponent to replace Canelo for his May 5 fight against Gennady Golovkin. The Nevada State Athletic Commission failed to approve him due to his lack of experience at 160. Munguia has been fighting at 154, and the Commission didn’t like the idea of a young fighter like him stepping into the lion’s den to face an experienced fighter like Golovkin. It would have been bad for Munguia to step into the ring against GGG on 3 weeks’ notice. In hindsight, it’s a good thing that Munguia wasn’t improved because he would have been food for Golovkin and it likely wouldn’t have been pretty. The more experienced junior middleweight contender Vanes Martirosyan was brought in to face Golovkin, and he was promptly destroyed in two rounds. GGG was criticized by boxing fans for taking on Martirosyan instead of a middleweight contender afterwards. Due in part to the attention Munguia received in briefly being considered for a fight against Golovkin, he was given a title shot against WBO 154lb champion Sadam Ali a week later on May 12. Munguia took full advantage of the opportunity in crushing the smaller Sadam. Liam Smith would have likely stopped Sadam as well, because he looked too small for the weight class. Smith has power too, and he would have thrived against a welterweight like Sadam.
HBO will be televising the Munguia vs. Smith fight at 10:00 p.m. ET. This is the main event. As part of the doubleheader, WBA World super featherweight champion Alberto Machado (19-0, 16 KOs) defends against Rafael Mensah (31-0, 23 KOs). This is a fight that promises nonstop fireworks and a knockout finish. Both guys bring major power. Mensah hasn’t faced the same type of opposition that Machado has, so it’s unclear what he’s going to do when he gets inside the ring with him tonight.