In 2018 at the dawn of my boxing journalism shenanigans, I wrote an article titled, "2018: The Year of Munguia."
It's 2024, and though Jaime Munguia has ascended in weight class, the caliber of his opposition hasn't seen a similar rise. Despite his last bout against the resilient Ukrainian super middleweight contender Sergey Derevyachenko being a candidate for fight of the year, the stagnation in Munguia's career has left fans feeling underwhelmed. Questions linger about his potential to clinch a title in a third division, especially given the middleweight division's perceived mediocre state.
This Saturday on DAZN, Munguia has an opportunity to silence the doubters and position himself for a lucrative bout with Canelo Alvarez. He aims to achieve what Canelo couldn't in his last Cinco de Mayo fight in Guadalajara, Mexico — stop John Ryder. While the rule of thumb in boxing tends to be that the Mexican is going to batter the fighters from the other side of the pond, fan confidence in Munguia dipped to the extent that many foresee a 50/50 fight.
Ryder, before surviving a 12-round encounter with an allegedly injured Canelo last May, has had a career marked by controversial decisions. In 2018, he first vied for the super middleweight championship against the then-unified champion Callum Smith. Despite being the smaller fighter, Ryder managed to command the center of the ring, pushing Smith to the ropes and delivering effective blows from the inside. His resurgence in the spotlight came in 2022 when he headlined against Daniel Jacobs. Although he emerged victorious on the scorecards via a split decision, the win was mired in controversy, with many, including commentators and fans, feeling that it was Jacobs who landed the more impactful punches and deserved the nod.
While Munguia and Ryder have no common opponents to compare, I believe Munguia edges out in terms of the level of competition faced. Both have proven their resilience in the ring, but unlike Ryder, Munguia has never been stopped. He's also faced embarrassment and a controversial majority decision win against Irish contender Dennis Hogan in Monterrey, Mexico, but he's never been stopped.
On paper, Munguia, with his height, strength, experience, and a more significant number of bouts, should be the clear favorite against the older Ryder. However, the stagnation in his development raises questions. When I wrote that article in 2018, the boxing world believed that at the pace he was going, Munguia would be perfect to eventually meet Canelo for a competitive match at 168. Yet since, he’s only lowered fan interest in a bout against the Mexican ginger with never-ending tune-ups against opponents we usually have to BoxRec.
Fast forward to 2024, and Munguia's journey since claiming the title against Sadam Ali in 2018 has been a mixed bag. He never unified titles at junior middleweight, didn't fight a champion at middleweight yet believes he's a rightful candidate for Canelo, regardless of just entering his division. Hindered by promotional politics and a revolving door of trainers as he attempts to adopt a more defensive fighting style, Munguia has fallen short of securing his status as a fan-favorite Mexican champion.
Even if Munguia manages to defeat Ryder, which he's expected to, a hard-fought victory might please the crowd but will hardly elevate his standing as a contender deserving a bout with Canelo. Munguia needs to not only secure a victory but dominate the fight, showcasing clear improvements. The time for the "still green" excuse has passed; it no longer holds water in his 43rd fight.
Ryder, the “gave it a go, mate” that he is, will make it tough for Munguia, but will eventually fall victim to his own style, possibly taking a knee before a stoppage in the later rounds.
Or they go life and death, Munguia wins a close decision and continues on his tour of c-level competition until Canelo throws him a bone.