HBO Boxing Preview: Ali vs. Munguia, Hovhannisyan vs. Vargas


By: Oliver McManus

Live on HBO this coming weekend there’s a mammoth world title double-header from the Turning Stone Resort & Casino, Verona, New York promoted by Oscar de la Hoya, on behalf of Golden Boy Promotions,featuring Sadam Ali – Jaime Munguia and Rey Vargas – Azat Hovhannisyan.

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Photo Credit: Golden Boy Twitter Account

Topping the bill is the WBO Super Welterweight world championship clash between Sadam Ali, 26-1, and Jaime Munguia, 28-0. Munguia is a name fresh on the mind having been hotly linked as a replacement opponent for Gennady Golovkin in the wake of Canelo’s failed drugs test – the Nevada State Athletic Commission would go on to refuse to sanction the proposed bout – but the 21 year old Mexican has his crack at world title glory on at the weekend.

A crack that’s arose purely as a result of yet another withdrawal – this time to the mandatory challenger and, former WBO Super Welterweight champion, Liam Smith who was forced to pull out in thanks to an allergic reaction; the hope is that they’ll reschedule the fight for August with Frank Warren keen to bring it to the United Kingdom.

Mugnuia will be in his third fight of 2018 having secured two third round knockouts against Jose Carlos Paz and Johnny Navarrette already with the latter being enough to secure the WBC Latino title. Over the past twelve months Munguia has worked on his footwork and hand-speed enabling him to perform to the more archetypal explosivity expected of a Mexican boxer.

In particular he packs a wincing left upper-cut which he floats around with sublime accuracy and split-second timing, leaning his whole body into the shot, as he did with specific effect against Alvaro Robles in 2016 before having sense-of-mind to pounce when Robles had beaten the count and send in a flurry towards the body to finish the fight.

Sadam Ali will always be known as the man who stole the show for Miguel Cotto’s farewell party thanks to his narrow (116-112, 115-113, 115-113) unanimous decision victory over the Puerto Rican in December of last year.

Determined to prove that victory was through his own hard-work and skill as opposed to the combination of luck and a past-it Cotto, Ali will be in no mood to take his time when the bell sounds for round one.

From his 26 victories he’s hailed 14 KO’s and whilst many of those have been against lesser opponents, he’ll be looking to take the fight to Munguia right from the off with his in-your-face fight style enough to put off the most virtuous of fighters.

Whether it’s fair or not there will likely be no praise for Ali regardless of the manner in which he wins for he is expected to a job on his challenger, comfortably so, after all this IS a man who’s never gone 12 rounds before, never even been scheduled for the full 12 but then again, we’ve had this sort of match-up before – I’m thinking James DeGale vs Caleb Truax I, no-one gave Truax a chance but then he went and shocked the world.
Nearly did it twice.

Rey Vargas vs Azat Hovhannisyan for the WBC Super Bantamweight title completes this HBO World Title double-header as Vargas looks to make the third successful defence of the belt he first claimed in February 2017 thanks to an MD win over Gavin McDonnell.

Aged 27 but looking closer to 47, it’s predictable that Vargas carries with him a mature head with plenty of wisdom – both in the ring and out of it – but the Mexican possess an underrated knockout power brought to the fore when countering an opponent’s lazy jab. It really is a work of art.

That being said you’ll never see the 31 fight veteran searching for a stoppage, he’d much rather outbox his opponent, keeping a high tempo, being clever with his shots to do damage in terms of fatigue and mental fortitude but never relentless.

That victory over Gavin McDonnell was arguably Vargas’ finest fight, boxing to punch perfection against a game, gutsy Gavin who threw everything, including the kitchen sink, at him.

Hovhannisyan represents one of the easier voluntary defences that Vargas could have made, ranked number nine by the WBC and having two losses in the early stages of his career to nothing opponents represents enough chinks in the armour of this, otherwise, untested boxer for Vargas and his team to be willing to take the chance.

Nonetheless the Armenian will be coming to fight in a manner similar to McDonnell, seeking to throw bombs from the very beginning in a bid to take Vargas into the unknown – forget a phone box fight, this could be a postage stamp fight if Crazy gets his way.

You suspect the champion will use all of his experience and tactical awareness to nullify the threat of Hovhannisyan but Azat will be seeking to galvanise the momentum he gained by knocking out Ronny Rios in the 6th round in March – the very same Ronny Rios who, last August, took Vargas all the way to points.

It’s a case then of the tactician vs the magician and it’s never a magic trick without fire… BRING IT ON.

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