Junior middleweight world titleholder Jaime Munguia and mandatory challenger Liam "Beefy" Smith will square off on July 21 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. The fight, announced by Golden Boy Promotions on Friday, will headline a "Boxing After Dark" card on HBO beginning at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
Munguia (29-0, 25 KOs), 21, of Mexico, will be making his first title defense when he meets former titleholder Smith (26-1-1, 14 KOs), 29, of England. Smith was scheduled to challenge then-titleholder Sadam Ali for the 154-pound belt but dropped out because a severe skin infection kept him from training. Smith was replaced by Munguia, who knocked Ali out in the fourth round of a one-sided destruction on May 12 and inherited the mandatory obligation.
"I'm very excited and thankful with everyone that made this possible," said Munguia, who will be fighting in the United States for the third time. "I invite the fans to go and see me live or to tune in on HBO. I will defend my WBO title with pride and honor. See you in Vegas!"
Golden Boy Promotions CEO Oscar De La Hoya gained a contractual option to promote Munguia's next fight because of the deal the company made with Zanfer Promotions' Fernando Beltran for the fight with Ali.
"Jaime Munguia exploded onto the championship scene last year in devastating fashion, and we're delighted to showcase him once again on another HBO main event," De La Hoya said.
Said Beltran: "I'm proud and excited that this Mexican kid from Tijuana, who's the hottest fighter in boxing today, will once again fight on July 21 against the tough Liam Smith. I know he will prevail again in spectacular fashion like he always does."
Smith will face Munguia for the same belt he once held. He won the vacant title in by seventh-round knockout of John Thompson in England in 2015 and made two successful defenses before making his United States debut in September 2017 and losing the title by ninth-round knockout to Canelo Alvarez in an HBO PPV before more than 50,000 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Smith has won three fights in a row since and hopes to reclaim the belt against Munguia.
"To go to Vegas and fight for a world title is every fighter's dream," Smith said. "But it's only an extra incentive to my main motivation -- getting that WBO world junior middleweight title back around my waist. Munguia is obviously a dangerous puncher, and I'll have to be wary of him early on, but he's never fought someone as good as me and a fully-fledged 154-pound fighter.
"I can't afford to look an inch past Munguia though. He's world champion for a reason and with such a high knockout percentage, I'm going to have to be my best ever. Unfortunately for Munguia, that's what I'll be."
Frank Warren, Smith's promoter, said Smith believes that Munguia is a better style match for Smith than Ali would have been.
"Liam Smith was very confident of beating Sadam Ali, but unfortunately the allergic reaction he suffered temporarily sidelined his plans," Warren said. "Munguia looked impressive beating the former champion, but Liam actually feels he is a better stylistic matchup for him than Ali would have been. I'm very confident Liam will be recapturing the WBO junior middleweight title and bringing it back to the U.K."
In the co-feature, junior lightweight world titlist Alberto Machado (19-0, 16 KOs), 27, of Puerto Rico, will make his first defense against mandatory challenger and fellow southpaw Rafael Mensah (31-0, 23 KOs), 27, of Ghana.
Machado won the 130-pound belt in upset fashion in October by knocking out Jezreel Corrales in the eighth round and it took quite some time for Golden Boy, his promoter, and Mensah promoter Don King to make a deal and then to get a date from HBO.
"One as a fighter knows the sacrifices that are made to become world champion. Because of that, I will defend my title with blood and honor this July 21," Machado said. "Rafael Mensah is the mandatory challenger, and he possess great credentials, including an impressive record. That's why I'm preparing more than ever to walk away with my hand raised in my first defense."
Despite Machado's compliments, Mensah has faced extremely low-level opposition throughout his eight-year career and will be fighting outside of Africa for the first time. All of his bouts have been in Ghana except for one fight in Benin.
Still, Mensah is confident.
"I know Machado and there is no doubt I can beat him," Mensah said. "When I saw Machado, I said, 'Yes, I can beat you. You are not somebody that can beat me. You cannot beat Rafael Mensah. I will come and maybe not knock you out, but I will beat you in boxing and teach you a good boxing lesson.'"
A third fight for the telecast has been in discussions, but it remains to be seen if it will be finalized. The fight under discussion is an all-southpaw middleweight bout between former two-time junior middleweight titlist Demetrius Andrade (25-0, 16 KOs), 30, of Providence, Rhode Island, and Brazil's Yamaguchi Falcao (15-0, 7 KOs), 30, a 2012 Olympic bronze medalist.