Tuesday, May 21

A war with no losers

Saul Alvarez vs. Jaime Munguia (May 4/ 2024 Las Vegas – Cinco de Mayo weekend).

While Saul ‘Canelo’ Álvarez’s latest victory over Jaime Munguia at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas didn’t deliver us a changing of the guard, respect was earned all around, closing out a week teeming with drama in the sport.

Canelo Álvarez is a pugilist we need to celebrate while he’s still plying the trade. This victory, a solid decision over twelve rounds against Munguia, was a showcase of his skill. Munguia started strong – possibly even taking the opening two rounds, but the momentum shifted when Álvarez put him on the canvas in the fourth with a short left that positioned him for the uppercut. From there, Canelo’s experience and calm determination took over. While his speed isn’t what it used to be, his precision and tactical brilliance have only sharpened with time. The man is ring IQ personified.

Munguia fought fiercely on the front foot, aiming to overwhelm Álvarez with a sheer volume of punches, but Álvarez deftly bobbed and weaved through most of the barrage. Even when eating leather – and Munguia certainly landed – the champion’s chin wouldn’t yield, and he countered with well-timed, powerful punches. At 33, Álvarez has weathered more wars than most fighters could imagine and rarely seems hurt. Maybe he covers well but rarely do you get a sense his feet are buzzing in his boots. And this must’ve hit Munguia in the pit of his stomach by round 5 – nothing he threw was going to hurt Canelo. Dmitry Bivol had the technical mastery and patience not to let this fluster him. But if you’re a fighter who wants to put others to sleep Canelo’s resilience is going to corrode you mentally.

With his 65th professional fight, Álvarez notched his 61st win (61-2-2, 39 KOs), and he’s likely to finish his career knocking on the door of 70. The man isn’t ready to give up either. He loves the sport and has commented that he wants his very young children to get the opportunity to see him in action. In an era when champions tend to coast on two fights a year, Álvarez has remained a fixture in the ring. While he hasn’t won every battle, it’s a career we’re unlikely to see replicated anytime soon.

Munguia, despite his loss, earned plenty of new fans. Unlike Charlo last September, Munguia demonstrated a fighter’s spirit that left the boxing world wanting more. His aggressive style makes for thrilling fights, even though it played into Álvarez’s hands over the weekend. Yet this loss may become a turning point for Munguia, who, under Freddie Roach’s guidance, should thrive in the super middleweight division, especially having now graduated from the University of Canelo.

There had been plenty of pre-fight drama with Golden Boy Promotions Oscar De La Hoya taking a leaf out of Vince Mahon’s book, berating Canelo at a press conference, and getting a suitably expletive-filled response (for Spanish-speaking audiences at least). But a gracious Canelo only had praise for De La Hoya’s fighter after the bout, proud to have shared a ring with the promising fellow Mexican. Canelo’s sportsmanship and generosity of spirit saw him win his battle with De La Hoya too.

In other news, Friday brought grim news for fight fans, with unified light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev sustaining a knee injury in training, postponing his fight with Dmitry Bivol. Despite his record (20-0, 20 KOs), Beterbiev is prone to injuries, and at 39, time is against him. Beterbiev’s punching power against the master technician was a mouthwatering proposition, but we’ll just have to wait.

Finally, Ryan Garcia’s positive test for Ostarine before and after his fight with Devin Haney has ignited controversy with talk that Haney’s people applying for a no-contest. Garcia maintains his innocence and insists on further testing, but only time will tell where this story goes. A fan of conspiracy theories, Garcia has already intimated his friendship with Donald Trump might be behind the accusation. Garcia risks opening the looney bin and dropping the quality of boxing discourse by inviting every online crank to fight his corner. Add his fighting overweight to this new scandal and what was an electric fight on the night is fast losing its luster.

But thank G-d for Álvarez, a wholesome victory as solid as the ginger one’s neck. And best of luck to Munguia who has a massive future in the sport. There were no real losers on the weekend. A legend of the game made his case once again while generously offering a promising talent the best lesson he’s ever going to get.