One of the most interesting stories in boxing involves a twenty-five-year-old middleweight contender out of Tijuana, MX. His name is former junior middleweight champion Jaime Munguia (39-0), who sports a gaudy, undefeated record but has been the subject of enormous criticism. He faces Jimmy Kelly (26-2) next Saturday on DAZN, but again, Munguia will be staring across the ring at an opponent that isn't the level of competition he should be facing at this point of his career.
It's hard to understand the situation, but one thing is for sure, Munguia's rise wasn't that of a traditional one. Back in 2018, when Saul “Canelo” Alvarez was found to have ingested “tainted meat” and the Gennadiy Golovkin fight was called off, it was Munguia that was offered as an opponent. A virtual unknown to most and someone competing at junior middleweight, former Nevada State Athletic Commissioner Bob Bennett announced that he was disapproved for the fight. That moment launched the career of Munguia and he was now on everyone's radar.
After capturing a title at junior middleweight and his body growing by the second, Munguia and his team decided to move up to 160. Speaking of his team, Munguia is co-promoted by Zanfer Boxing out of Mexico and Golden Boy Promotions. A nugget that you should remember later on in this article when the topic of opponents comes up. Munguia's popularity continued to grow while he was defeating one fighter after the other. He quickly made it to the top of the division within the WBO, and many started to believe the time was coming to see Munguia against a champion or a big name. But his last three fights were against Kamil Szeremeta, Gabriel Rosado & D'Mitrius Ballard. Not exactly a “murder's row,” but still giving him the benefit of the doubt, fans accepted it in hopes that they would finally see their guy in a marquee matchup.
That thought and the excitement behind it went into overdrive when Mike Coppinger tweeted out that Jaime Munguia was close to agreeing to fight Jermall Charlo for the WBC middleweight title. That tweet caught fire, and the fans were hyped to know that the moment had finally arrived. But leave it up to boxing to mess up a good fight, and because of the politics between Golden Boy Promotions, DAZN, Premier Boxing Champions, and Showtime, the fight fell apart. Once it was announced that the fight fell apart, the name Danny Jacobs came up, and that fight couldn't get made because both teams couldn't come to an agreement. There were rumors of a Shane Mosley Jr. fight, but that didn't happen either.
About two weeks ago, after all of this drama, a press release was sent out that Munguia would be fighting Jimmy Kelly on June 11. You would have thought a virtual middle finger was sent out to the fans of the sport as the hate mail was coming at a rapid rate. A scheduled meeting with the press was canceled, and Munguia was once again under a ton of scrutiny. An opportunity came for me to speak to Munguia, so I was ready to ask him all of the hard questions because he needed to hear them. Not only him but Zanfer Boxing, Golden Boy, and DAZN.
After much delay, why Jimmy Kelly? Munguia told NYF, “It was a long process. First, we went after (Jermall) Charlo, then (Danny) Jacobs, (Shane) Mosley Jr., and then finally Jimmy Kelly. We were in a hurry because there was a month left to make the fight. For one reason or another, a fight wasn't made with the names mentioned. We didn't want to lose the date (June 11), and since we were already training, I didn't want it to go to waste and delay getting back in the ring for another month or two.” I could understand wanting to stay busy and not missing a fight date that was already on the DAZN calendar, so I was eager to hear more about the situation.
The press release announcing Munguia vs. Kelly mentioned the fight being at super middleweight. This was part of the frustration from the fans, so I asked him about it, and he quickly jumped in to answer. “The fight with Jimmy Kelly is at 165 pounds, and that was done purposely as the fight was signed not too long ago. Although it's listed as a super middleweight fight, we aren't ready to compete at the weight class just yet,” said the middleweight contender.
The situation started to get a little tense as he was almost waiting for me to ask, and then I finally said to him, “When are we going to see you in a big fight?” There was a bit of a deep breath by Munguia, and he expressed somewhat a level of frustration with his situation and looked me right in the eye and said, “The intent is to get a big name by the end of the year or fight for a title at middleweight.”
Moving towards the conversation back to the task on hand which is next weekend, Munguia decided to have his training camp in Big Bear, CA. Munguia told NYF, “Being in Big Bear has helped me a lot in this training camp. It's quiet and a perfect atmosphere to concentrate. The elevation helps, and being here comes with less distractions. We are very happy to have made the change of training camps to Big Bear.” Munguia has studied his opponent and knows Kelly likes to move around a lot while “keeping distance and having a good right hand.” Munguia mentioned having to “be careful” and taking things “little by little” next Saturday night.
Finally, when an opportunity was given to Munguia to speak to his fans and give them a reason to continue to follow him and his career. Munguia told NYF, “The truth is, in every fight, I want to give it my best for the fans who are there to watch me fight. On June 11, I promise to give you all a great fight. It's not lost on us as we too want to get the big names and fights, so look for that to happen towards the end of the year. Please stay patient, and by the end of the year, we will deliver those big fights.”