Canelo Next: Munguia Is No Benavidez but at Least He Isn’t Berlanga



Canelo Next: Munguia Is No Benavidez but at Least He Isn’t Berlanga

So apparently Canelo Alvarez has made “The Decision.” Sounds like he’ll continue to avoid his greatest challenge in David Benavidez and fight Mexican countryman Jaime Munguia, who beat out Jermall Charlo and Edgar Berlanga for the cherished May 4 date.

But we can’t be sure. This selection saga with Canelo now rivals college basketball’s “Selection Sunday” in drama.

But this is boxing, not college basketball, and the picking of an opponent shouldn’t qualify as a prop bet at the MGM Grand Sports Book.

Canelo’s strategy in choosing a foe has become a spectacle that has followed a familiar pattern over the years: toss out a few names incrementally, assess the reactions, tease the fans and media for weeks and months and – finally – make a fight that no one was demanding and is largely disappointing. We’ve been through this tired exercise many times. But this time the opponents were especially underwhelming.

None more so than Berlanga.

The puncher (22-0, 17 KO’s) from Brooklyn looked as good as he ever has against a decent opponent Saturday.

He stopped previously undefeated Padraig McCrory in the sixth round.

For a fighter not much beyond the “prospect” phase of his career, Berlanga looked good for the most part. It took him some time to break through but he finally did. It was a good win for him.

But it was, in no way, a performance that would suggest he is ready for elite competition.

In fact, it suggested the opposite.

As is often the case, it looked like he was thinking too much in there.

McCrory did present a slick, tricky style and credit to Berlanga for figuring that out. But the Irishman is an average talent at this point.

Berlanga initially garnered attention by registering 16 first-round knockouts to start his career. Which is indeed pretty crazy.

The opposition, though, was lacking. Guys making their pro debuts or close to it. Veterans with almost losing records. It was a victory for superb matchmaking and not much more.

Sure enough, when the competition got better, the knockouts stopped.

Berlanga notched five straight decision wins over journeyman-type opposition, which is also fine.

He is an inexperienced fighter learning his craft and the game. The first-round knockouts were aberrations masking the reality that Berlanga is still very green.

Which is why the idea that Berlanga was being considered as an opponent for one of the best fighters in boxing on one of the sport’s most celebrated dates was outrageous. It would’ve rivaled Jean Pierre Coopman or Patrick Charpentier or Morrade Hakkar as the worst title challengers in boxing history.

Even with the ever-increasing bad matchups that pop up on pay-per-view these days – this one would’ve set a new standard in absurdity.

It would be like the Chiefs advancing to the Super Bowl, but instead of playing the 49ers – they opted to play the Panthers. And you’re paying $75 for it anyway.

Thankfully, the opponent – we think, we hope – is Munguia, 43-0 (34 KOs). A couple months ago, the idea of Munguia was offensive in light of the desire to see the Benavidez fight. After hearing the alternatives (Charlo and Berlanga), Munguia suddenly isn’t so bad. Maybe that was the strategy all along.

Ironically, it was Munguia who was mentioned as a Canelo replacement for Gennadiy Golovkin in 2018 when the Nevada State Athletic Commission mysteriously stepped in and determined that the Mexican was too inexperienced for such an accomplished opponent.

It was the first (and only?) time in recent boxing memory that the commission has made such a strange call.

(With all of its compassion, it’s valid to wonder the NSAC’s position on the possible selection of the equally inexperienced Berlanga as Canelo’s opponent).

Six years later, Munguia is legit.

He’s not Benavidez, but he is easily the best option of the trio that was being considered.

In his last fight, Munguia (of Tijuana) stopped a fighter that Canelo couldn’t – the tough John Ryder. In June, he went to war with Sergiy Derevyanchenko and won a brutal decision.

Does he have the skills to pull off the upset? Probably not. But he is a big, young, strong and hungry puncher. It will definitely be a more entertaining fight than Canelo’s last one, a boring decision over the smaller, timid Jermell Charlo.

As for Canelo, he seems to be in the twilight of his career at age 33.

It seems to be a calculated move to avoid Benavidez, for whatever reason.

And if he doesn’t fight him now, with fan appetite for a Benavidez battle at its zenith, then he probably won’t do it later. Not since Floyd Mayweather waited out Manny Pacquiao has boxing seen a fighter avoid an obvious, marketable challenge for no reason.

Mayweather eventually fought Pacquiao – five years too late. Don’t expect Canelo to do the same. After 64 pro fights, he’s too rich, too comfortable and too secure in his legacy to entertain a major threat like Benavidez.

So we’ll have to be content with Munguia. Which is better than Berlanga.

@MatthewAguilar5 on Twitter