Sunday, May 5, 2024

Opinions and Observations: Canelo-Munguia

Jaime Munguia was the first fighter who really brought it to Saul "Canelo" Alvarez since Gennadiy Golovkin's prime. Over the last half-decade, Canelo's opponents have most often played a glorified game of peak-a-boo where they remained on the outside, hoping to peck and paw, not willing to go into Canelo's kitchen. Munguia had no such caution. From the opening bell, Munguia was determined to go after Canelo, to bring volume with him and to let his power shots flow. He was there to mix it up. 

It had been so long since we had seen Canelo with such an opponent that Munguia instantly asked questions of him. Can Canelo handle the volume? Is his chin still sturdy against a guy throwing big power shots? Would he be able to maintain a fast pace for 12 rounds? 

Munguia was effective in asking those questions of Canelo; however, Canelo answered all of them affirmatively. After the first three rounds where Munguia more than held his own, Canelo started to throw the types of pulverizing counter shots that initially led to his fame in the sport. And in a further turning back of the clock, Canelo wasn't just throwing one shot at a time; he let his hands go in combination. 

Canelo (right) throwing a right hand
Photo courtesy of Esther Lin/Premier Boxing Champions 

Take the knockdown in the fourth round. Canelo dropped Munguia for the first time in his career with a sizzling left hook/right uppercut combination. He even threw a clean-up left hook that didn't land as Munguia was already on his way down. Throughout the fight Canelo was letting his hands go in twos and threes and it was a thrilling reminder of how skilled and dynamic a craftsman he can be. Yes, Canelo had the heavier hands, but he also had significant advantages in punch placement, creativity, and a larger punch arsenal. 

Perhaps the biggest advantage he had in the fight was defense. Canelo was magnificent in catching shots on his arms, taking a step back to evade big punches, and using head movement. He had a full complement of defensive techniques that he employed to tame an active, aggressive power puncher. 

CompuBox credited Munguia with landing 170/663 punches (25.6%) and 96/328 power punches (29.3%). And let's take a minute to understand just how many big power shots that Canelo evaded: over 230 of them! These weren't shots from well out of range or thrown with terrible technique; Canelo was mostly right in front of Munguia, who doesn't have bad hand speed, and yet the overwhelming majority of punches failed to land. It was a stunning defensive display. 

But let's also give Munguia credit. Although he didn't land at a high percentage, he did certainly land. Connecting with 170 blows is nothing to sniff at; it's almost 100 more than Jermell Charlo landed in Canelo's last fight. And many of these were big punches from a hard-hitting super middleweight, and not someone moving up from 154 lbs. 

Munguia certainly had a case for winning three or four rounds in the fight and he landed some blistering shots over the course of the bout. So, let's also praise Canelo's chin. He took some big bombs throughout the night yet was never in any real trouble. His defense was great, but his sturdy chin insured his preeminence on the night.

The two boxers appreciating each other post-fight
Photo courtesy of Esther Lin/Premier Boxing Champions 

Overall, I was really entertained by the fight. Both took turns countering and leading. And there were portions of the bout where each one tried to drive the other back. It turned out to be a wonderful showcase for what Canelo can offer in the ring. However, Munguia pushed him; he made Canelo bring out long-dormant sides of his game. 

Canelo won by unanimous decision, but it was a competitive fight. Munguia showed that he has the offensive skills and internal fortitude to become an important part of the North American boxing landscape. He answered many questions as well. When the going got tough, he didn't fold or become cautious. He continued to go right at Canelo; a sign of a real fighter.  

I'm not sure if Canelo-Munguia will be remembered decades from now, but let's not let legacy cloud the overall satisfaction from Saturday's fight. Yes, the fighter who was supposed to win, won, and the bout wasn't one of those fights that had any doubt as to who deserved the victory. But boxing is also about entertainment. And Canelo-Munguia had that in spades. 

Munguia was out to make a name for himself. Although he ran into a superior talent, he wasn't dissuaded. And Canelo, the old veteran, relished the give-and-take of the combat. He seemed to love being in a fight where he didn't have to go looking on milk cartons for his opponent. It was two guys slugging it out for glory. There were bombs a-flyin', the crowd cheering, and two boxers giving it their best in the ring. In the end, the word that sprang to mind was enjoyment. And we certainly don't use that word enough when it comes to boxing. The fight delivered. There were smiles all around. Job well done to both. 

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of
He's a contributing writer for Ring Magazine, a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
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