Many years ago, when Jermain Taylor was on the ascent, well before his battles with B-Hop and then his downward cousin-shooting spiral, Larry Merchant was calling one of his fights.
All the famed, or maybe infamous, issues Taylor would carry through his career were readily apparent. Keeping his hands low, bad foot work, and ease of getting hit. So were all of his assets. His punching power, quick hands, and upper body athleticism.
In assessing Taylor, Merchant said, “He has a lotta chinks in his armor, but look at all that armor!”
As I was watching Jaime Munguia scrap with the game Brit Liam Smith..
..Saturday night, Larry’s quote came to mind. Munguia does so many things wrong it’s hard to even know where to start. He’s easy to hit. He’s sloppy as hell. His stamina ebbs and flows – in large part due to all the energy he wastes swinging for the rafters. In most ways technical, he’s almost a farce.
But man, all that armor.
He hits with fists like bricks. He goes to the body with savage verve. He is relentless and determined even when he looks like a hot mess in the ring. And unlike Taylor, he appears to be able to take a shot.
In short, he is a lotta fun. Watching a Munguia fight is like being on a roller coaster ride with a first date. Frayed nerves mix with wild thrills. It’s almost too much. You feel giddy and terrified at the same time, because it could all come apart at once.
And look, when Munguia waxed Sadam Ali with a TKO in the 4th two months ago to win the WBO Super Middleweight Title, we might have gotten a little over-excited. Let’s face it, Ali is a fine fighter, but his calling card was a unanimous decision over a faded, one foot out the door, Miguel Cotto. Just four fights prior, Ali had been TKO’d by Jessie Vargas. A world class fighter for sure, but one with only 10 KOs in 30 career bouts.
Liverpool native, Smith, was supposed to be a second coming out party. However, Smith started fast and exposed many of Munguia’s flaws. And when Munguia’s power asserted itself to pull him ahead in the fight, Smith’s toughness and Munguia’s lack of technique allowed the high quality, prematurely graying journeyman to go the distance. The fight was the rarest of things. A fabulous watch while also being a little disappointing. At least if you were in the Munguia camp and were hoping for a repeat of his dominance over Ali.
Munguia is a fascinating new thing though. The young Mexican fighter is all action. Willing to get hit to hit. He will never be boring.
But will he be great? It’s hard to say. While only 21, he has collected a lot of bad habits through 30 fights. During the Smith fight, Messrs. Lampley, Kellerman, and Jones Jr. briefly wondered aloud whether Munguia was ready for GGG or Canelo, before rightly dismissing the notion. It’s hard to imagine a scenario at this point where that would work out favorably for Munguia. The lack of ring discipline is just so obvious.
Munguia has no plan B and no fear. Two things that would likely set him up for a rough night against Golovkin or Alvarez. At the same time, can you imagine what the first three-four rounds might be like? You can be forgiven for having palpitations at the mere thought.
When I return to my question two paragraphs prior – can Munguia be great? – I have my doubts. What I do know is I can’t wait to see him again.
Because for al those chinks, there’s a helluva lot of armor.