Houston's night of fights

Boxing phenom Jaime Munguia puts his title on the line at Toyota Center

Jaime Munguia. Photo courtesy of Golden Boy Productions.

World championship boxing makes a rare stop in Houston on tonight with a pair of world title defenses on the line at Toyota Center. The card is packed with 14 fighters, but the star of the show is 22 year old Mexican phenom Jaime Munguia, who puts his World Boxing Organization junior middleweight title on the line in a defense against Takeshi Inoue.

Munguia (31-0, 26 KOs) has stormed onto the championship boxing scene in the past 18 months. He was just 21 years old when he claimed the WBO title via a violent 4th round knockout of Sadam Ali in May of last year. Ali was scheduled to fight Liam Smith in thebout, but Munguia stepped in as a late replacement when Smith pulled out with an injury. Munguia dominated the action, scoring four knockdowns before the referee called a halt to the action in the fourth round. Following his impressive performance to win the title, Munguia won a unanimous decision against the aforementioned Liam Smith, and followed that up with a knockout of Brandon Cook in the 3rd round as the co-feature to the second Canelo/Golovkin fight. Munguia's pressure style will remind fight fans of a more unpolished Golovkin, stalking opponents, working behind the jab and landing thudding shots to the head and body.

Inoue (13-0-1, 7 KOs) has an undefeated record but is taking a big step up in competition. It will be his first fight outside of Asia, with 13 of 14 previous bouts coming in his native Japan. The betting odds reflect Inoue's unknown status; Munguia is a -9000 favorite to win the fight.

With such strong odds in his favor, Munguia's goal won't be just to win but to look good doing so. Promoter Oscar de la Hoya will look to continue Munguia's meteoric rise, and another early knockout will likely be what will continue that path forward. Inoue is not known as a puncher, so I would expect Munguia to be willing to take risks in order to close the show early. If you're headed to the Toyota Center don't be late to your seat, because the fireworks from Munguia are likely to start as soon as the opening bell rings.

UNDERCARD REPORT

The co-feature is another world championship matchup with Jesus Rojas defending his World Boxing Association featherweight title against Xu Can. Rojas (26-2-2, 19 KOs) lost his last fight to Joseph Diaz but retained his belt because Diaz failed to make weight. Xu (15-2, 2 KO) has won his last 12 fights, but has only scored one knockout in that period.
Also on the undercard is 20 year old prospect Vergil Ortiz (11-0, 11 KOs.) He steps in what is to be a showcase fight with Jesus Valdez (23-4, 12 KOs.)

GET IN DAZN

If you're not headed out to Toyota Center, the fights will be streamed live on the app DAZN. The app (pronounced Da' Zone) is a subscription based service specializing in live boxing with plans of moving into other sports in the coming years. The service is $9.99 per month but a one month free trial is available. In recent months fighters like Canelo Alvarez, Anthony Joshua, Oleksandr Usyk, and Jesse Vargas have signed contracts to fight on DAZN. The app also holds the rights to the World Boxing Super Series tournaments.

SportsMap Weekend Boxing Rewind

Manny proves age is just a number

Photo courtesy of Premier Boxing Champions.

Manny Pacquaio outworked, outsmarted and outslugged Keith Thurman on Saturday night in Las Vegas to claim the WBA Welterweight Super Title and re-announce his presence to the rest of the division. Pacquiao looked like his old self, especially early in the fight, to win a clear but competitive decision over Thurman, who entered the ring ten years Pacquiao's younger. Ringside judges scored the fight 114-113 for Thurman and 115-112 (twice) for Pacquiao. SportsMap.com also scored the bout 115-112 in favor of Pacquiao.

Pacquiao, who now splits his time between boxing and senatorial duties in the Philippines, looked like vintage Manny in the early going, landing a right hook near the end of the first round that sent Thurman sprawling to the canvas. Thurman was up quickly and didn't appear to be badly hurt by the knockdown. Pacquiao continued the quick start by landing the harder, more damaging punches throughout the first half of the fight. Pacquiao routinely initiated the action by pressuring Thurman with flurries of combinations. The knockdown, paired with Pacquiao's early success gave him an advantage on the scorecards he would never relinquish.

Thurman began to feel Pacquiao out as the fight moved into the middle rounds, timing Pacquiao's volume combinations with well placed counters. While Thurman snapped Pacquiao's head back at times, he never rose beyond competitive and never seemed to take the fight back over from Pacquiao, who laid claim to it following the knockdown.

If there was any doubt the 40 year old could finish off the victory, it was removed in round ten, when Pacquiao badly hurt Thurman with a body shot. The blow left Thurman covering up to the body and leaving his head vulnerable to combinations for the remainder of the round. Thurman bounced back with a nice round 11 but the damage was done. Entering the final stanza Thurman needed a knockout. But once again it was Pacquiao who landed the heavier work.

Thurman was gracious in defeat, saying he felt the fight was close but acknowledged that he had lost. It was the first defeat in Thurman's career. He expressed interest in making a rematch.

By winning Pacquiao once again has claim to being a top-3 welterweight in the world, along with PBC stablemate Errol Spence as well as Terence Crawford. A unification bout with Spence, the IBF welterweight champion, would be easy to make. However it won't be made in the immediate future. Spence is set to fight WBC welterweight champion Shawn Porter in September. Spence would be a heavy favorite over Pacquiao. Because of this fact, paired with Pacquiao's marketability, a fight between the two would likely only be made it what would be Pacquiao's last fight. After Saturday's performance Pacquiao's career doesn't appear to be anywhere close to finish, so I would expect Manny to be back in the ring in the fall against the mandatory challenger for his WBA title.

UGAS DOMINATES FIGUEROA

On the undercard Cuban national Yordenis Ugas has no trouble defeating Omar Figueroa, winning a unanimous decision by scores of 119-107 (three times.) SportsMap.com also scored the fight 119-107 for Ugas.

Ugas won every minute of every round, beating Figueroa at his own game. Figueroa, content to fight on the inside, was a step behind the quicker, more technically skilled Ugas. He was repeatedly countered with uppercuts up the middle, and never made any adjustments that led observers to believe Figueroa could solve Ugas. The fight makes Ugas the mandatory challenger for the WBC welterweight title. Ugas fought Porter for the WBC title earlier in the year and lost a controversial decision.

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