Liam Smith: Canelo hits harder than Jaime Munguia
By Dan Ambrose: Liam Smith (26-2-1, 14 KOs) wasn’t in the mood to pour praise over the head of WBO junior middleweight champion Jaime Munguia (30-0, 25 KOs) after losing to him by a 12 round unanimous decision last Saturday night in front of 2,470 boxing fans at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The fight was scored for Munguia by the scores 119-110, 119-108 and 116-111. Smith was hurt in the 6th and dropped. Smith resolved not to be knocked again and he was able to finish on his feet in an exciting match.
Munguia fought well against Smith in being extended the 12 round distance for the first time in his four-year career. Munguia looked strong through the full 12 rounds and showed no signs of being fatigued in going past the 10th round.
After the fight, Smith said that he doesn’t rate the 21-year-old Munguia’s punching power to be as good as Saul Canelo Alvarez, who beat him by a 9th round knockout on September 17, 2016. Smith was the WBO 154-pound champion at the time that Canelo dropped down from the 160-lb division to challenge him for his title after vacating his WBC middleweight title to avoid a clash against Gennady Golovkin. Canelo had little trouble in beating Smith in a one-sided bout at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
“I don’t want to disrespect him, but Canelo hits harder,” Smith said to Max Kellerman of HBO after being asked to rate Munguia’s punching power in comparison to Canelo Alvarez. “But he’s young and he’s probably going to get stronger. He’s a good fighter and he will probably only get better and better.”
Canelo was 25-years-old when he fought Smith in 2016. Munguia is still just 21-years-old. Since most fighters don’t fully develop their punching power until they’re in their mid-20s, it’s likely that Munguia will gain more strength as he gets older. However, by that time, he’ll likely not be able to make the 154-lb weight limit any longer. Munguia weighed in at 176 pounds last Saturday night after rehydrating 23 lbs. from the 153 lbs. that he weighed in at last Friday at the weigh-in for the Smith fight. This suggests that Munguia isn’t going to be able to stay at junior middleweight for too much longer. In contrast, middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin typically weighs 170 lbs. for his fights in the 160 lb. weight division. GGG’s highest weight of his career is 173 lbs.
For Munguia to be melting down to 154 to fight at junior middleweight is insane. He clearly needs to move up to junior middleweight sooner rather than later, because he’s likely weakening himself by taking off so much weight to get down to the 154-lb weight limit. Smith rehydrated to 172 lbs. last Saturday after weighing in at 153-lbs last Friday. In Smith’s case, he’s likely going to stick it out at junior middleweight until the bitter end, because he’s not going to be able to have any kind of future if he moves up to middleweight. Smith lacks the punching power to be anything more than a fringe contender in the 160-pound weight class.
Munguia vs. Smith turned out to be a real firefight between two game junior middeweights. Although both guys were flawed in some respects, the fight was one of the more entertaining bouts on HBO in 2018. Munguia came close to throwing 1000 punches. He landed 277 of 837 punches for a connect percentage of 33, according to CompuBox. Smith wasn’t far behind in landing 198 of 702 shots for a connect percentage of 28.
The 21-year-old Munguia wanted to do a better job of defeating Smith than Saul Alvarez did, but he wasn’t able to measure up to his performance unfortunately for him. Munguia acknowledged as much after the fight, admitting that he doesn’t have the kind of punching power that Canelo had going for him when he fought Smith two years ago. Munguia wants to get back in the gym and continue to improve his power and his game so that he can be a better fighter. Canelo had Smith on the canvas four times and he did it with an injured right hand.
By the 8th, Canelo was mostly just using his left hand for all of his power punching, but it proved to be more than enough to do the job against Smith. There’s no shame in Munguia needing to go 12 rounds against a former world champion like Smith, as he has a lot of experience against punchers like Canelo and Liam Williams. Perhaps if Munguia had fought Smith before he fought those two guys, he would have had a better chance of knocking him out. Smith, 29, was a battle-hardened veteran from those two fights, and there was no way that Munguia was going to be able to knock him out unless he did something really special. Munguia might have had a chance of stopping Smith if he was willing to empty out his gas tank in looking for the stoppage, but he wasn’t willing to fight in that manner.
“I think I did very well. It was a tough fight but, truthfully, I gave a show to my public,” Munguia said. “He’s a tough opponent, and I was always looking for the knockout, but he’s a tough opponent. But I’m always looking for it. Obviously, I went to get the knockout, and I always put my heart into it like a true Mexican.”
Despite not getting the knockout of Smith, Munguia made it an exciting fight with his aggressiveness, and his power punching. This was not a boxing match. Munguia was gunning for a knockout the entire fight, but he couldn’t put enough shots together to get Smith out of there.
This isn’t the fight that Munguia wanted. He wanted to face the bigger names in the 154lb weight class like Jermell Charlo and Jarrett Hurd. However, following Munguia’s 4th round knockout win over WBO champion Sadam Ali on May 12, he was ordered by the World Boxing Organization to defend against mandatory challenger Smith, who had missed out on his chance to fight Sadam Ali after suffering an allergic reaction.
“It’s his night tonight. He’s a good fighter. He answered a lot of questions,” Smith said.
Smith gave it his best shot in trying to recapture his WBO title that he lost to Canelo. Smith had held the WBO tile from 2015 to 2016 after successfully defending it three times. Smith landed hard uppercuts and hooks to the head of Munguia in the first quarter of the fight, and he looked like the better fighter of the two. Munguia was loading up and missing badly with his power shots, and not looking like he was ready to be inside the ring with a skilled operator like Smith. Had the fight continued in this direction, Smith would have won the fight. Smith landed a big left to the head of Munguia in round 3 that got his attention.
Munguia finally started to land his power shots in the 4th round, as he directed his punches to the midsection. Smith was less adept at blocking Munguia’s punches when he was targeting his midsection. The punches from Munguia seemed to wear Smith down, causing him to visibly weaken and tire out. Munguia’s body shots took the air out of Smith’s tires by the 5th and 6th. In round 6, Munguia knocked Smith down with a left hand to the head late in the round. It was a good thing for Smith that the knockdown came in the last seconds of the round because he would have been in trouble if it had happened earlier in the round.
Later in the fight, Munguia hurt Smith in round nine with a hard left hook to the midsection. Smith looked like he was in bad trouble from that shot. Munguia took full advantage of it by pelting the near helpless Smith with shots. Smith looked like he was close to getting stopped. However, Smith willed himself to come back, and he was able to connect with some nice shots. Munguia still got the better of Smith in the finals seconds. Both guys were going all out looking to hurt each other.