Monday, May 20, 2024
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Canelo Alvarez vs. Jaime Munguia: Three paths to victory for the underdog in the all-Mexican showdown

It is no surprise that Jaime Munguia is a significant underdog heading into Saturday’s clash with undisputed super middleweight champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. The veteran has spent year after year establishing himself as one of the greatest boxers of the modern era while Munguia has compiled an undefeated 43-0 record against a less impressive list of fighters.

Munguia was not seen as the biggest threat to Alvarez at 168 pounds, nor was he seen as the second biggest threat, but he’s still the man who got the call. Now, it’s on Munguia to make the best of the opportunity he was given when Alvarez chose him for his annual Cinco De Mayo weekend event.

The best thing about the fight game is that everything can turn on a single punch. But does Munguia have more than a puncher’s chance against Alvarez? Let’s take a look at some of the keys for Munguia to pull off a massive upset on Saturday night in Las Vegas.

Take advantage of an aging Canelo

Alvarez put on a vintage performance his most recent outing, dominating Jermell Charlo over 12 rounds to again successfully defend his status as undisputed champion. There were big concerns for Alvarez heading into that fight and they are worth pointing out again, even if he seemed to put many of those worries to rest with his performance against Charlo.

Starting around his May 2021 fight with Billy Joe Saunders, Alvarez looked to have slowed a bit. Saunders, Caleb Plant, Dmitry Bivol, Gennady Golovkin and John Ryder all had more success landing clean punches on Alvarez than expected. Alvarez’s head movement wasn’t as good as it had been and he wasn’t as effective in picking off incoming shots with his gloves.

There’s also some question about Alvarez’s power. Alvarez has gone four consecutive fights without scoring a stoppage, something that has not happened since Alvarez was a teenager in 2008. He couldn’t stop Ryder, who was seen as an easy opponent. He couldn’t stop an older, faded version of Golovkin. He couldn’t stop Charlo, who was coming up two weight classes for the fight.

Alvarez may only be 33 years old, but 64 professional fights puts a lot of miles on a body. If Alvarez’s skills are fading, Munguia must take every bit of an advantage he can get and exploit it.

Pressure, pressure, pressure

Munguia is a good fighter when he’s working off the front foot and putting pressure on his opponent. Some of the struggles he had in his 2023 Fight of the Year contender with Sergiy Derevyanchenko came from Derevyanchenko taking over as the pressure fighter and pushing Munguia around the ring.

Munguia can’t afford to let Alvarez be the man forcing the action. If Munguia is stuck on the back foot, he doesn’t have the pure boxing skills to pick Alvarez apart like what Bivol was able to do when he faced Canelo.

Pressure not only plays into Munguia’s strengths, but also into Alvarez’s more recent weaknesses. If Munguia keeps a high punch output and forces the issue offensively, he can try to cut through Alvarez’s defense. Alvarez has also faded badly in the later rounds in some recent fights. If Munguia can constantly force Alvarez to work, he might be able to drain the champion’s gas tank and take over the fight in the second half.

It’s important Munguia doesn’t take time to get going, as he often does, because allowing Alvarez to get to work and build an early lead on the scorecards will make an already difficult task that much harder.

Manage the distance

While being the pressure fighter is key for Munguia, it’s important that he do so while managing the distance. Munguia is the taller fighter and has the longer reach. Allowing Alvarez to work inside would allow Alvarez to dig to the body, which is one of Alvarez’s best offensive skills when he’s on top of his game.

Munguia needs to keep Alvarez on the end of his punches and on the back foot. The more Alvarez can get into punching range, the most damage he can do.

This is easier said than done. Alvarez is rarely the taller man in a fight and that hasn’t stopped him from being an elite among elites. Still, Munguia has the reach and he has the youth to score the upset if Alvarez doesn’t show up at his best.

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