Sunday, May 5, 2024

Alvarez-Munguia Thoughts

Recent times in the sport of Boxing have been to some it up in a word, “Strange.” Strange in the sense that what has gone on prior to a scheduled bout outside the ring, has turned out to mean as much or more than the fights themselves when they finally take place inside the ring. By now, we are all familiar with the erratic behavior of one Ryan Garcia that occurred before and after his victory over Devin Haney on April 20th, which has taken yet another turn when it was revealed that the fighter, who had scored an impressive twelve round majority decision over Haney in Brooklyn, NY at the Barclays Center, tested positive for banned substances before and after the fight in tests conducted by the Voluntary Anti-Dopping Agency (VADA), which regularly oversees such procedures in combat sports. While the circumstances of Garcia will continue to play out for better or worse, which this observer stands by his previous comments before and after his bout with Haney, the Boxing world focused on what I personally believe to be one of the better fights that had been made thus far on the 2024 schedule when Undisputed Super-Middleweight world champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez made his sixth title defense against the dangerous undefeated top contender and former WBO Jr. Middleweight world champion Jaime Munguia on May 4th at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV.

As much as I would like to tell the reader, both those who are knowledgable of the sport and follow both the fights themselves as well as the coverage yours truly has provided for nearly three decades, that the story of this encounter was simply one between two of the top stars in the sport meeting for the Undisputed Super-Middleweight championship of the world as the latest attraction for the sport during Cinco de Mayo weekend, unfortunately there is more to the story, that took place in the days prior to the fight. In the interest of honesty with the reader, in light of recent events in the sport like the one mentioned above that had taken place previously, I would prefer to discuss what happened in the ring on May 4th before discussing what happened beforehand, which cast a shadow over what at least on paper had the makings of a Fight of the Year candidate.

Of course, it is not often that the sport is treated to an encounter between two of the top stars of the sport. One, who has been arguably the sport’s top economic draw for several years, the other arguably a rising star that may ultimately occupy that position one day. Two fighters with significant fan followings and both who more often than not, give a Boxing fan their money’s worth whenever they compete.  

What stood out to this observer, though at the same time was not surprising was Munguia started this fight aggressively and appeared to try to execute a fight plan with an emphasis of working of his jab and trying to attack Alvarez with volume punching, throwing combinations and keeping Alvarez on the defensive. For a time, the challenger’s tactics appeared to be working, there was even one exchange during the early rounds where Munguia appeared to pop the head of the champion back with a crisp, but fast triple jab. 

After three rounds, I felt that Munguia’s approach was enough to win two of those rounds. I did question however,  whether the high pace in which Munguia was fighting would ultimately turn against him as the fight progressed. One of the trademarks of Saul Alvarez as his career has gone on is his ability to adjust his fight plan as a fight goes on. While Munguia established himself early, Alvarez, a precision counter puncher among the best in the sport, bided his time and waited for his opportunity to strike. 

Such an opportunity would emerge in round four when in the midst of an exchange, the champion would connect with a perfectly timed right uppercut to the head that dropped Munguia. Despite being knocked down for the first time in his career by a shot he did not see, Munguia showed his mettle by getting up, showing an ability to recover, and doing so while under heavy offensive fire from Alvarez.

It was the moment in the fight however, which signaled a turning point in the bout. For it was from that knockdown in the fourth round onward that Alvarez seized control of the fight.  He did this by established, despite Munguia's attempts to maintain a high pace and keep punches coming at Alvarez to the body and head, when Alvarez threw his punches whether it was a short combination where he took the lead, single punches, or counter punches, his punches were harder, did more damage, and dictated the end and flow of the fight. 

Round after round the pattern remained the same. Munguia often trying to bring the fight to Alvarez, the champion doing his best to deflect the challenger's punches either with his gloves, or head movement, and making the most out of the openings Munguia left him to throw and land crisp combinations, power punches, and counter punches. Although Munguia have it everything he had and never stopped trying to land the proverbial “Fight Turning" blow till the final bell, the outcome was academic as Alvarez would retain his undisputed championship via a convincing twelve round unanimous decision.

The sixth successful title defense for Alvarez was simply as dominant as he has been in his entire career, short of him getting a knockout victory. Although he was indeed forced to go the distance for the fifth consecutive time and this forced to box sixty rounds in the process over that stretch, the Undisputed Super-Middleweight champion of the world showed in this fight against a truly dangerous opponent that came to fight that he is far from done, despite some recent criticism that perhaps after sixty-four professional fights prior to this bout, that perhaps his inability to score knockouts in recent times may be a sign that there may be signs of decline in the thirty-three year old four-division world champion. For now, Alvarez has put a stop to those whispers. It would be nice if that were all that needed to be said. 

Unfortunately, the shadow that loomed over what should have been voted simply as two stars of the sport, both in their prime facing each other, must now be discussed. A sub-plot that emerged in the days before the fight centered around Oscar De La Hoya, the former world champion, Hall of Famer, who promotes Munguia and was the a longtime promoter of Alvarez, took his opportunity to fire back in response to Alvarez who had a highly publicized and ugly split with him in 2020. While Alvarez has made accusations in the years since his split from De La Hoya and his company Golden Boy Promotions, at a press conference days before the fight De La Hoya finally responded to his former client saying in essence that he feels Alvarez has forgotten who helped him reach the level he currently is at in the sport and saying his name should be spoken with respect. De La Hoya also addressed his struggles with alcoholism, something that Alvarez has to put it kindly, criticized him for publicly since their split . Alvarez in response got up from his position at a table on stage and proceeded to attempt to get to De La Hoya before being stopped by security that were in attendance.

While some will dismiss this as simply “Prefight Hype" and utter nonsense, much like the recent conduct of Ryan Garcia, also promoted by De La Hoya, and a former stablemate of Alvarez under trainer Eddy Reynoso, I have a simple question for the reader. Where is the responsibility and accountability to the sport.

The responsibility of those in the sport like Alvarez, Garcia, and De La Hoya to represent Boxing with conduct becoming of professionals, responsibility to not only represent the sport well and hopefully help in assisting to grow Boxing for future generations, and the accountability from those who oversee, sanction, and regulate the sport to ensure that not only Boxing as a sport is respected, but to hopefully ensure that failures to adhere to professional standards/conduct are met with disciplinary action.

In short, all three have failed to uphold such a standard recently. Although some may find humor in such conduct, it ultimately hurts a sport that already has too many flaws and things that can and should be criticized including, but not limited to an over use, abuse, and reliance on a dying model of pay-per-view. While the latter has been something yours truly has criticized frequently and will continue to do so as long as it continues to not benefit the sport or the fans who support it, if those who regulate, sanction, and oversee the seemingly have little interest in actually regulating and ensuring the sport is held in high regard, an approach that one often would not see in other organized sports, why bother regulating at all? Perhaps Boxing should now be viewed in the same vein as Professional Wrestling.

Although I as one who also spent several years covering that industry as well as Boxing and other combat sports am being sarcastic with the aforementioned statement, the bottom line is without adequate oversight to not only ensure rules and regulations are followed before, during, and after fights, and those in the sport conduct themselves as professionals as they are supposed to be, it mind as well be held in the same regard as an entertainment realm, which sadly, despite it's status as a form of live-action performance art and the physical risks performers take being well known, is still viewed by some as a joke.

Boxing deserves better. 

“And That's The Boxing Truth." 

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