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Jaime Munguia making middleweight debut, dreaming of Canelo showdown in 2020

Munguia-011019-Tom Hogan-Hoganphotos-GB-ftr (Tom Hogan-Hoganphotos/Golden Boy)

Talks of Jaime Munguia moving up to middleweight to challenge Saul “Canelo” Alvarez swirled last summer. At one point, Munguia's promoter even told ESPN Deportes that he had received an offer for a Canelo fight.

However, those talks turned out to be nothing more than just that, with Alvarez eventually fighting Sergey Kovalev in November, when Alvarez delivered a dramatic 11th-round KO to become the WBO light heavyweight champion.

This year, Munguia believes he has a genuine chance of making the fight against Alvarez happen. First, though, he must let his fists formally announce his arrival at middleweight. The undefeated former junior middleweight champion will make his debut at 160 pounds Saturday night, when he faces Gary O’Sullivan at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, live on DAZN.

An emphatic win and Munguia hopes to face Alvarez during either of the biggest weekends in boxing: Cinco de Mayo or Mexican Independence Day. The fact that they’re both Golden Boy fighters who box on DAZN make the pairing all the more doable.

Either date against the face of boxing would serve as a dream bout and opportunity of a lifetime for the undefeated 23-year-old from Tijuana, Mexico.

“I have no problems fighting in May or September against him,” Munguia told DAZN News via a translator. “If they want to give me one fight in May and then fight him in September, I have no problem with either situation.”

During the past 10 years, Canelo has fought only two Mexican boxers during Cinco de Mayo or Mexican Independence Day weekend: Cesar Chavez Jr. in May 2017 and Alfonso Gomez in September 2011.

Munguia (34-0, 27 KOs) believes an all-Mexican affair during either weekend against a young, hungry fighter like himself would make for a must-see clash.

“It would be a great fight,” Munguia continued. “People would like it. A majority of people have been asking for that fight, so I think that they’re waiting for it to happen, and I think it would be very important.”

Of course, to keep that hope alive for 2020 — or at all for that matter — Munguia can’t afford to go the distance with a grizzled vet like O’Sullivan (30-3, 21 KOs).

The 35-year-old “Celtic Warrior” is 2-0 in his last two fights, but his three losses have come against David Lemieux (a first-round KO), Chris Eubank Jr. and Billy Joe Saunders, signaling that the Irish fighter has never been able to level up to his marquee competition.

Munguia, 12 years O’Sullivan’s junior, will need to keep that narrative going to grow from a blip to balloon on Alvarez’s radar.

After dismantling Sadam Ali with a fourth-round TKO in May 2018 to become the WBO junior middleweight champion, Munguia rattled off five straight title defenses.

Despite his youth, Munguia believes he has matured as a fighter because of those experiences.

“I’ve learned in all the fights,” he said of his string of title defenses. “I’m learning little by little and each fight is a great experience, but the fights that I learned the most are the fights I went 12 rounds.

“You learn in each round,” he continued. “You learn to do things differently, to think more, see things differently.”

Those bouts that went the distance include his unanimous decisions over Liam Smith and Takeshi Inoue in July 2018 and January 2019, respectively, and a majority decision nod against Dennis Hogan last April. The latter carried a cloud of controversy, as some boxing pundits felt like Hogan did enough to win the fight.

Controversy can’t be part of the end result this weekend if Munguia’s dream of an Alvarez bout is going to gain momentum. Given O’Sullivan’s penchant for slugging it out, Munguia must wipe him out at his own game.

“We’ll see what happens in the fight,” Munguia said. “I always try to look for the knockout, but sometimes you can’t. But I’ll make sure I’m ready for the 12 rounds.”

While clashing with Alvarez is his main target, Munguia would welcome a clash with any of the division’s other titleholders. As long as Munguia has the opportunity to fulfill his New Year’s resolution of becoming a middleweight champion, he’s game.

“They’re all great fighters and each one is different in their own way,” he said, surveying the landscape at 160 pounds. “I have respect for all of them and admiration, but whichever one I fight, I’m going to make it a great fight.”

After five title defenses as junior middleweight champion, Munguia says the time was right to move up. His six-foot frame is thanking him for it.

“I was struggling too much to make 154 pounds,” he admitted. “I was exercising a lot to make that weight.

“I can eat more now.”

That could spell his already thudding punching power becoming that much more potent at 160 pounds.

And if he displays that Saturday night, perhaps Munguia will put Alvarez and the division on notice.

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