Why is Canelo Alvarez fighting Jaime Munguia? What about David Benavidez?

Boxing

The latest winner of the Canelo Alvarez sweepstakes is Jaime Munguia, who beat out Jermall Charlo and Edgar Berlanga to land a May 4 fight in Las Vegas against boxing’s top star. With that fight comes a chance at boxing championship glory, and of course, the biggest payday of Munguia’s career.

Munguia (43-0, 34 KOs) enters the undisputed super middleweight championship bout on the heels of a career-best performance, a ninth-round TKO victory over John Ryder in January. Munguia has improved greatly under the guidance of Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach.

And now he’ll meet his countryman, Alvarez, on Cinco de Mayo weekend. Munguia represents Canelo’s first Mexican opponent since May 2017, when he shutout Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Alvarez-Munguia is the first all-Mexican showdown for a title above 160 pounds.

How did Alvarez (60-2-2, 39 KOs) select Munguia? What lies ahead for Canelo now that he’s back in the fold with PBC for at least one fight? Let’s dive into it:

Does Munguia have any realistic shot of beating Alvarez?

Munguia is a worthy opponent and arguably earned his shot after the way he defeated Ryder. In comparison, Alvarez wasn’t able to finish Ryder in May and went the distance, though he did break the Englishman’s nose and handed him a comprehensive 12-round beating.

And there’s little doubt Alvarez softened up Ryder for Munguia. Nonetheless, Munguia capitalized. His defense was his biggest flaw as he built up his record, a flat-footed pressure fighter who relied on power shots. But against Ryder, Munguia was far more defensively responsible.

He held his guard up tight and used his jab much more effectively in that fight in January. Munguia boxed on his toes more, too. He’s come a long way since his days as a 154-pound titleholder and appears to be steadily improving with each bout.

Naturally, it’s one matter to box with discipline against a fighter like Ryder, a world-class boxer who retired afterward. It’s quite another to do so with success against one of the sport’s elite.

While Munguia’s defense is much improved at age 27, it’s still a weakness. He’s often wide open for counter shots, which should make him an easy target for Alvarez’s power punches.

Alvarez’s hand and foot speed will be disparate, too, as is experience. Alvarez has shared the ring with all-time greats such as Floyd Mayweather, Gennadiy Golovkin (36 rounds) and Miguel Cotto. Sixty rounds with those boxers alone.

Munguia’s toughest opponent, meanwhile, was Ryder.

Munguia could find success early in the fight; he has the adequate size and strength to compete with Alvarez. But once Alvarez finds his timing against the slow-footed Munguia, he should be able to land his vaunted power-punch combinations at will, where Munguia’s chin will be truly tested for the first time.

At 33, Alvarez remains boxing’s top star and is rated the No. 4 pound-for-pound fighter by ESPN. He opened up as a -650 favorite, per ESPN BET.


Wait, didn’t Alvarez say weeks ago that he was going to fight an American?

Yes, the plan was for Alvarez to fight Jermall Charlo on May 4. Actually, the original vision when Alvarez signed a three-fight deal with PBC in June was a bout with Jermall Charlo in September followed by a bout in May with twin brother Jermell Charlo.

Jermall withdrew from the assignment due to personal matters before the fight was officially announced, with the understanding he would fight Alvarez in May. That was Alvarez’s understanding, too, sources said.

Alvarez went on to dominate Jermell, scoring a knockdown in a lopsided decision victory in September. Jermell never took any chances in the bout and appeared to be content to go the distance in a fight that was greatly disappointing through no fault of Alvarez’s.

Jermall remained one of the preapproved names for Alvarez’s final two fights, but it quickly became clear the matchup would be a tough sell for May. It’s a big event any time Alvarez fights, but there was little commercial demand for a matchup with another Charlo after Jermell’s listless performance.

Any brotherly revenge angle was dismissed, too, when Jermell didn’t show up to support Jermall in that bout. His stock fell further in November, when he failed to impress in a decision win against Jose Benavidez Jr. The bout was Charlo’s first in 29 months.

Errol Spence Jr. was another preapproved name (by Alvarez and PBC), but that was before he was TKO’d by Terence Crawford in a one-sided beatdown in July. Then, in January, Spence underwent cataract surgery which left Jermall Charlo as the main target for Alvarez.

When Alvarez and PBC couldn’t agree to terms for the Charlo matchup, Canelo was contractually allowed to explore other options.

He discussed a return to DAZN for bouts with Munguia and Berlanga this year, but when those talks stalled, the champion returned to the table with PBC.

And now, Alvarez remains in the fold with Al Haymon and against a far more interested opponent on Cinco de Mayo weekend.


What about his next bout in September? Is David Benavidez a realistic option for Alvarez?

The biggest fight for Alvarez remains against Benavidez, a volume-punching fighter who seemingly possesses the biggest threat to Alvarez.

“The reason why this fight is not happening is because Alvarez doesn’t want it to happen, plain and simple…,” Benavidez told ESPN last month. “I mean, the money is there, the anticipation from the fight fans is there. It would be an amazing event.”

Alvarez has shown little interest in the matchup, but that doesn’t mean the fight won’t happen. Alvarez will once again be a network and promotional free agent following the Munguia bout. Though he’s back with PBC, it’s a one-fight deal, sources said.

Benavidez fights under the PBC banner, so Alvarez’s continuing partnership is good news for “The Mexican Monster.” Regardless of which network Canelo fights on, who he faces is always entirely up to him. He calls the shots.

In the past, he’s shown a willingness to take on high-risk, low-reward fighters such as Austin Trout and Erislandy Lara. Now that he’s at a different stage of his career, perhaps Alvarez sees things differently. But there was also chatter years ago he would never face GGG. Alvarez went on to fight him three times.

If it’s not Benavidez in September, Crawford would represent another marquee option. ESPN’s No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter is looking to move up in weight for his summer return and the welterweight champion has publicly lobbied for a matchup with Alvarez.

Alvarez hasn’t shown much interest in fighting Crawford, commenting that he’s too small. But if Crawford can prove himself at a higher weight against a formidable fighter, that could change things.

More likely for September are some less attractive options Alvarez is already eyeing: Berlanga, Charlo and maybe even Spence, assuming the fighter is healthy and ready.

But first thing’s first: Canelo must turn back Munguia in the fourth defense of his undisputed crown.

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