By Nat Gottlieb
Power, a good chin, but subpar defense will only get you so far. So far, Jaime Munguia is getting away with it.
Munguia (30-0, 25 KO’s), a ferocious power puncher and world champion, will try to ride his strengths to a second junior middleweight title defense against Canadian boxer Brandon Cook (20-1, 13 KO’s). The bout headlines the three-fight undercard of the Canelo-Golovkin PPV rematch on HBO (8 PM ET/ 5 PM PT).
In the co-feature, two aggressive middleweights desperate to stay in contention for a title fight will be slinging the punches in what promises to be an entertaining, action-packed bout. Two-time world title challenger David Lemieux (39-4, 33 KO’s) will have his hands full with a tough and improving Irish brawler, Gary O’Sullivan (28-2, 20 KO’s), who’s on a six-fight winning streak, with five of those victories coming by way of knockout.
The 21-year-old Munguia, who fights with reckless abandon and admits he’s still a “green” boxer, will be doing what he does best: trading punches and hoping his “style” of fighting can keep him unbeaten. Keeping that perfect record gives Munguia the best chance at eventually taking a crack at either Canelo or Golovkin.
The 32-year-old Cook, who competes in high-level duathlons, is aware of exactly what he will be facing. “I know people are going to be booing me,” he says. “It’s Mexican Independence Day. I just want to go out there and show people why I made it to where I am.”
To do so Cook will have to weather the tornado of punches that the young Mexican will be using to try and swallow up yet another knockout victim. Cook’s best chance to win is to stay on his feet long enough to utilize his above-average hand speed to rack up points and pull off the upset.
“The thing is with this guy, he has really good offense and he’s strong with both hands,” Cook said recently. “His defense isn’t the greatest, but he can take a shot. He just tries to knock you out, tries to overpower you. He doesn’t back down from anybody. All he knows how to do is come forward and fight.”
And in so doing, Munguia lets his boxing flaws hang out. The Mexican’s punches come from wide angles, which leaves him vulnerable to counters, and his “defense” consists of a chin that so far has not been bested, nor tested, by another power puncher.
Fortunately for Munguia, Cook isn’t likely to hit him any harder than his last victim, Liam Smith, who except for going down in the sixth round, managed to go the distance, breaking the Mexican’s string of six straight knockouts in four rounds or less. While Cook has a decent knockout rate of 62 percent, he’ll never be mistaken for a power puncher.
“I’ve got to be patient and listen to my corner,” Cook says. “I’ve got to catch him when he’s throwing, because he throws wide, looping shots, tries to rip your head off. I fight kind of like he fights, and I would say someone is getting knocked out.”
The odds are likely, given his recent history against a heavy-fisted fighter, that it’ll be Cook who gets flattened.
Last year Cook went up against an unbeaten and rapidly-rising junior middleweight contender in Kanat Islam of Kazakhstan. Islam, who has scored knockouts in 20 of his 25 fights, put Cook down in three separate rounds before scoring a TKO in the ninth. In each instance, Islam took advantage of a flaw in the Canadian’s style. Cook tends to open up when he starts to throw a big punch and drops his guard. Islam scored his knock downs by simply beating Cook to the punch.
Munguia doesn’t have nearly the hand speed of Islam. Instead of beating an opponent to the punch, the Mexican will eat a punch and then fire off a few heat-seeking missiles. If Cook avoids the knockout and piles up some points on a more efficient connection rate, the Canadian might make things interesting.
In addition to what’s at stake for Lemieux and O’Sullivan — keeping their title fight hopes alive —there’s bad blood between them. The pair of middleweights have been taking pot shots at each other on their Twitter accounts.
Lemieux, whose four losses have all been to either reigning champions or serious contenders, has made no secret of how little regard he has for the Irishman’s skills and the less-than-stellar competition he has been facing.
In response to a disparaging tweet by O’Sullivan, Lemieux fired back, “Keep talking clown @spikeosullivan we’ll see how smart you’re going to look when I’m gonna knock your goofy popeye looking ass cold…@spikeosullivan gonna be an easy fight.”
To which O’Sullivan responded: “Lemule you almost got something correct, thing is its actually gonna be a very!! Easy fight you’re getting battered and flattened again!!”
The 29-year-old Lemieux has gotten title shots largely due to his impressive power. But the Canadian is running out of chances and will likely need to knock out O’Sullivan or win a dominant unanimous decision to stay in the mix with the best middleweights.
The same will apply for O’Sullivan. The Irishman has been knocking on the door to bigger fights, and in Lemieux, he’ll be getting a chance to show he deserves one. One thing’s for certain, both boxers will be coming forward and will likely go toe-to-toe for as long as the bout lasts.
In the first of the three televised fights on the undercard, former pound-for-pound and four-division champion Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (46-2, 38 KO’s) will be looking to come back after suffering the first two defeats of his career, both at the hands of Thailand’s Srisaket Sor Runvisai. It will be a full year since Gonzalez lost the second of those two fights, and he needs to prove that he belongs with the best of the super flyweights after dominating the lower divisions.
The Nicaraguan will be facing Moises Fuentes (25-5, 14 KO’s), a graduate of those lower weight classes, who at 5’6 ½” and with a 68-inch reach appears to be better suited to fight at super flyweight.
Fuentes has lost three of his last four fights, but two were against reigning world champions at 108 and 112. His other loss was a majority decision to journeyman Ulises Lara at flyweight in July of 2017. Curiously, three months later in a rematch with Lara at the super bantamweight level, Fuentes knocked out Lara in the first round, perhaps suggesting he fights better at a higher weight.
During his one-year layoff, Gonzalez has made changes in his team. He’s been working with new head trainer Gustavo Herrera, who has been part of Gonzalez’s team for years, and new strength and conditioning coach Alfredo Corrales. What won’t change are the doubts that the 5’3” Gonzalez can carry his power into the loaded super flyweight division. Likely nothing short of an impressive knockout of Fuentes will begin to erase those doubts.