The biggest fights in boxing typically have championship belts at stake, but some major bouts have a less tangible prize up for grabs. That was the case for Jaime Munguia’s super middleweight main event against John Ryder on Saturday in Phoenix.
Munguia was looking to put on an impressive performance in order to land a high-profile date with Canelo Alvarez, the biggest star in boxing. And impressive he was, dropping Ryder four times, including twice in Round 9, when the bout ended as Munguia was delivering more damage with Ryder helpless against the ropes.
The finish came after Munguia (43-0, 34 KOs) dropped Ryder for the third time with a looping right hand then swarmed him and put him down again. When Ryder wobbled back to his feet following the fourth knockdown, Munguia trapped him against the ropes and continued his onslaught. A Ryder cornerman climbed onto the ring apron with a towel in hand to end the fight, but referee Wes Melton did not see him. Officials rang the bell to get Melton to wave off the beatdown at 1:25 of the round.
Was Munguia’s performance impressive enough to earn a date with Alvarez? One measuring stick: Ryder (32-7) fought Alvarez in May, and while Ryder was floored once, he went the distance. So, Munguia’s four knockdowns and the brutal finish were attention grabbers.
Afterward, Munguia issued the most respectful of callouts to his countryman.
“It will be a great fight among Mexicans,” Munguia, a 27-year-old from Tijuana, said through an interpreter. “And if Canelo gives us a chance, it will be an honor to be in the same ring as him.”
Early on in Saturday’s fight, it was looking like Munguia might be in for a short night’s work. He dropped Ryder with a straight right hand barely a minute into the second round, and with plenty of time to work before the bell, he went all out for a finish. But Ryder managed to avoid any more damage in the round, and the 35-year-old British boxer even landed shots of his own.
Munguia scored a second knockdown in the final seconds of Round 4, and he wobbled Ryder in the fifth. But Ryder kept coming and appeared to be timing Munguia and landing his own punches, particularly a crisp jab that connected several times in his best round, the sixth.
But Munguia remained the aggressor. Unlike his reckless past, though, he showed off patience and poise perhaps drilled into him by his new trainer, Freddie Roach. Though Ryder was resilient, Munguia landed the harder punches throughout and gradually wore down his foe. Munguia then did what he has always done: He finished violently.
The fight card at the Footprint Center also had two title fights, both won by the reigning champions.
• Oscar Collazo defended his WBO strawweight championship with a third-round TKO over Reyneris Gutierrez in the co-main event. Collazo (9-0, 7 KOs) found a home for his left hook right from the start, and the 27-year-old Puerto Rican fighter got the job done with a combination of aggression and patience.
After clipping Gutierrez, 28, of Nicaragua, several times in the second round, Collazo hurt his opponent in the final minute of the third, trapping him against the ropes then dropping him face-first with a left hand. Gutierrez (10-2) beat the count but immediately got trapped against the ropes again, and with Collazo unleashing a flurry, the referee jumped in at 2:37 of the round.
• Earlier, IBF women’s flyweight champ Gabriela Fundora remained unbeaten after handing Christina Cruz a first defeat by scoring a 10th-round TKO in her first title defense. It didn’t come easily for Fundora (13-0, 6 KOs), as Cruz used side-to-side movement early on to keep the 21-year-old champ from Coachella, California, off-balance. But by the middle rounds, an attack to the body slowed Cruz, 41, of New York City, and Fundora seized control.
The fight ended at 59 seconds of the final round when, after Fundora landed a right then a left, Cruz (6-1) bent over, turned her back and walked away as Fundora continued to wail away. That prompted the ref to wave off the fight. The scorecards at that point read 89-82, 90-81 and 87-84, all for Fundora.