After five fights in 2018 made him a world champion and established him as one of the top boxing prospects in the world younger than 25, Tijuana’s Jaime Munguia returns to the ring Saturday night.
Taking a main-event bout against Japan’s Takeshi Inoue at Houston’s Toyota Center on DAZN gives Munguia (31-0, 26 knockouts) the opportunity to pile up another long line of 2019 fights with an eye on his two-division champion Canelo Alvarez.
“If they give us five fights, we’ll fight five times again,” Munguia said.
By punctuating his World Boxing Organization light-middleweight title victory over Sadam Ali by defeating former champion Liam Smith and shining on Alvarez’s pay-per-view triumph over Gennady Golovkin last year, Munguia, 22, raised his profile to become an NBA arena headliner this time.
“It’s a tough bout against a strong fighter,” Munguia said. “We’ll have to practice on what we worked on in the gym and this fight will give me experience.”
Promoter Eric Gomez of Golden Boy Promotions said working on Munguia’s jab and defense have been among the top priorities in this camp, which is under the direction of Oscar De La Hoya's former trainer Robert Alcazar.
“Munguia’s growing, working on the aspects of the game he doesn’t have yet, and this could be a tough fight for him because Inoue is a big puncher,” Gomez said.
Inoue, 29, is 13-0-1 with seven KOs, and he’s fighting for the first time outside Asia.
The progression coincides with Munguia’s physical growth, and he said it’s imperative for him to meet the division’s best fighters as soon as possible as he prepares for a future move to Alvarez’s middleweight division.
The issue is champions Tony Harrison and Jarrett Hurd. Harrison is due for a rematch with former champion Jermell Charlo after upsetting him last month. In addition, Harrison and Hurd are in Premier Boxing Champions, a rival of Munguia’s U.S. promoter Golden Boy. Those companies don’t cross-promote often.
“We work with everybody and have no problem challenging anybody,” Gomez said.
At 160 pounds, however, a cornucopia of talent linked to DAZN awaits, from Alvarez, Gennady Golovkin, Daniel Jacobs, Demetrius Andrade and Billy Joe Saunders.
“He is a big kid with a lot of possibilities including all of those guys,” Gomez said.
The momentum toward a showdown with Alvarez should build up , renewing the intense rivalry between those from the border areas of Mexico versus those inland.
“At the right time … we have to build it up,” Gomez said of Alvarez-Munguia. “At the time, it will be a very big fight. We’re getting there.”