Junior middleweight world titlist Jaime Munguia said before defending his belt against former titlist Liam "Beefy" Smith on Saturday night that he hoped to outdo Canelo Alvarez's performance against him.
While Munguia didn't do what Alvarez did, which was to knock Smith out in the ninth round of a 2016 junior middleweight title fight, Munguia nonetheless powered past Smith to win a wide unanimous decision in an action-packed fight in the HBO "Boxing After Dark" main event before 2,470 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
The judges scored the fight 119-108, 117-110 and 116-111 for Munguia, who knocked Smith down in the sixth round.. ESPN.com had Munguia winning 117-110.
"I think I did very well. It was a tough fight but, truthfully, I gave a show to my public," Munguia said through an interpreter.
As for not bettering the performance of his far more famous Mexican countryman, Munguia said, "He's a tough opponent, and I was always looking for the knockout, but he's a tough opponent. But I'm always looking for it. Obviously, I went to get the knockout, and I always put my heart into it like a true Mexican."
Munguia, who retained his 154-pound belt for the first time, took a highly unusual road to the title. The Nevada State Athletic Commission refused to sanction him as a replacement opponent for unified middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin when his May 5 rematch with Alvarez was canceled following two positive drug tests. The commission reasoned that Munguia, just 21, was only a prospect, had no experience against any quality opponents and would have to move up in weight to face one of boxing's pound-for-pound elites.
But Munguia continued to train, and when Smith withdrew from a May 12 mandatory shot against titleholder Sadam Ali because of a skin infection, Munguia got a title opportunity on two weeks' notice and easily stopped Ali in the fourth round to win the belt in Verona, New York.
Munguia inherited the mandatory obligation against Smith and went past 10 rounds for the first time.
Smith was complimentary of Munguia following their spirited battle.
"It's his night tonight. He's a good fighter. He answered a lot of questions," Smith said.
So how does the kid compare to Alvarez?
Smith resisted the question at first but relented when asked by HBO's Max Kellerman to compare their punching power.
"I don't want to disrespect him, but Canelo hits harder," Smith said. "But he's young and he's probably going to get stronger. He's a good fighter and he will probably only get better and better."
Smith (26-2-1, 14 KOs), 29, of England, who was seeking to regain the belt he held from 2015 to 2016 and defended twice before Alvarez knocked him out, took it to Munguia (30-0, 25 KOs) early on. He clipped him with solid right hands and uppercuts in the early rounds while the more powerful Munguia was wild with many of his shots and unable to land cleanly.
In the third round, Smith rocked Munguia with a left hand and had his left eye swelling by the end of the round. Munguia finally began landing power shots in the fourth round and kept it going in the fifth round, bouncing him off the ropes with a series of hard combinations.
Munguia continued to pour it on in the sixth round -- including being warned for low blows by referee Russell Mora -- and Smith began to look discouraged. Then, with about 40 seconds left in the round, Munguia landed a left hook to the side of the head that knocked Smith down.
Munguia badly hurt Smith early in the ninth round with a left hook to the body and then whacked him around the ring for about the next 30 seconds, but Smith managed to stay upright. Then Smith, whose three-fight winning streak ended, mounted a big rally late in the round as they stood and traded in the center of the ring. They continued to swing for the fences over the final few rounds in an exciting fight.
Munguia landed 277 of 837 punches (33 percent), and Smith connected with 198 of 702 (28 percent), according to CompuBox punch statistics.
Though Munguia very much wanted to score a knockout, he said he was not disappointed to go 12 rounds for the first time.
"We worked on it in the gym. We did 12, 13 rounds," he said. "We went to the decision. No problem. It was a learning experience. No excuses. Nothing is wrong with this. I am a little green, no doubt. But Smith has a lot of experience, and I had a tough opponent. But this is experience that will help me for the next rival."
Machado dominates Mensah
In the co-feature, junior lightweight world titlist Alberto Machado pounded on mandatory challenger Rafael Mensah en route to a shutout decision -- 120-107 on all three scorecards -- in a fight in which no rounds were close.
Machado, trained by Hall of Famer Freddie Roach, won the 130-pound belt in upset fashion in October by knocking out Jezreel Corrales in the eighth round and made his first defense against Mensah, a nephew of former welterweight world titleholder Ike Quartey.
Despite his bloodlines, Mensah was overwhelmingly outclassed in his first fight against a world-class opponent and his second fight outside of his native Ghana (and first outside of Africa). Though Mensah (31-1, 23 KOs) compiled a glossy record, he had faced nothing but low-level opposition before fighting Machado, yet he was somehow deemed the mandatory challenger.
"Though I couldn't finish him, I'm happy I went all the rounds because it was an experience I hadn't had before," Machado said. "I hurt my left hand early, so that's why I stopped throwing the left hand to the body. But I kept to the game plan that Freddie Roach had for me and used the jab and worked from a distance. I'd fight anyone. I have to talk with my promoter first, but I would like fight [former titlist] Francisco Vargas."
Machado, the bigger man, got off to a fast start when he hammered fellow southpaw Mensah with a perfect right hook on the chin for a hard knockdown in the final seconds of the first round. Mensah's eyes rolled up into his head when he got caught, but he beat the count and the round ended.
Machado (20-0, 16 KOs), 27, of Puerto Rico, landed another hard right hand to the head to rock Mensah, 25, in the third round. He also attacked the body and landed powerful combinations to do more damage in the fourth round.
"I got hurt early with a shot," Mensah said. "It took four or five rounds for me to come back. He's a tall and lanky fighter and made it tough to come back."
Mensah, fighting with a heavy heart following the death of his daughter from malaria last month, gave a determined effort, but he was simply outclassed.
By the fifth round, the right side of Mensah's face was swollen -- perhaps an injured jaw -- as Machado continued to use him for target practice for the rest of the fight.
He was taken to the hospital to have his jaw checked after the fight. According to CompuBox, Machado landed 234 of 780 punches (30 percent), and Mensah connected with 90 of 441 (20 percent).