Chris Algieri's School Of Thought: If It Can't Be Benavidez, Then Munguia Is The Best Opponent For Canelo

Before assessing Saul “Canelo” Alvarez-Jaime Munguia, it’s important to recognise that David Benavidez is the fighter who most deserved the opportunity Munguia has been presented with.

That’s one of the fights the world most deserves – so much so it’d be a shame if it doesn’t materialise in the near future.

But as an alternative to that, Canelo-Munguia is a fight I really like. It can be expected to be fun – Munguia’s entire career has been building towards it. He’s also continuing to improve, as he showed in January against John Ryder. He’s young; he throws lots of punches; his progress under Freddie Roach has also been encouraging, not least because Roach is an attack-minded coach, which complements Munguia’s aggressive instincts. Munguia’s right hand, particularly, showed improvement against Ryder, which is something we’ve previously seen with Roach and Manny Pacquiao.

Canelo has never had a high punch output, but his work-rate is subtly decreasing. At 33 he’s picking his moments more, and resting more – which isn’t uncommon among ageing fighters. That, combined with Munguia’s aggression, makes theirs an appealing match-up.

Canelo fought and struggled to stop Ryder a little over six months before Munguia actually did stop him, but there’s no reason that should be seen as significant. Canelo looked fantastic for the first half of that fight but doesn’t have the engine he did when he was younger, and Ryder gave it everything that night and left the best of himself in the ring, making him a kinder opponent for Munguia, particularly after the payday he earned against Canelo.

Canelo was still with Golden Boy Promotions when the they first started promoting Munguia, and even back then it looked like they could be on course for a fight in future. This looks the dream fight for the younger fighter and his team.

If it doesn’t seem personal between the two fighters, it does seem personal between Canelo and Golden Boy – or, more specifically, Oscar De La Hoya. Sometimes De La Hoya forgets he’s a promoter and returns to being a competitor – once a fighter, always a fighter – and it often looks like it troubles him to see Canelo having the success he once had. The tension between them is one of the narratives that intrigues. 

There was a lot of speculation about Canelo leaving Premier Boxing Champions, but it doesn’t surprise me that he’s fighting under them for this fight. It wouldn’t have made any sense in the context of the ambitions of PBC, Al Haymon and Amazon Prime to lose him – it was probably promoting Canelo that helped them get the agreement they have with Amazon in the first place. 

If, as I expect, Canelo beats Munguia on May 4, I expect him to fight and beat Edgar Berlanga in September, and again get handsomely paid. I hope he’ll then close out his career like a true Mexican warrior in the biggest-money fight available to him – against Benavidez. But I’m struggling to be optimistic that he will. 

Terence Crawford was the fourth opponent he was regularly linked with. Crawford is the best fighter in the world today, but I don’t think any true followers of boxing wanted to see them fight. It may have been a commercial success, but, like Canelo recognises, the size difference between them means he’s supposed to beat Crawford, and if he loses it tarnishes his legacy. Weight classes exist for a reason, and ought to be respected. 

We’re entering a crucial period for Golden Boy. Munguia is one of their greatest assets. Ryan Garcia is even more valuable, and two weeks earlier will fight Devin Haney. 

Both are expected to lose, which makes the wider picture risky for Golden Boy. But if one of them were to win, it would be massive for them. 

It regardless is early enough in Munguia’s career that he can recover from defeat and become a money-maker in the future – particularly through working under Roach, which in America has enhanced his star power. 

If Haney-Garcia happens when it’s scheduled to, and Garcia loses, he will continue to be a draw. He’s been a draw without being a world champion – including with casual followers of boxing  and will continue to attract a wide audience.

But it’s difficult to see that fight happening. It’s not that I don’t believe Garcia wants the fight – I do – but his behaviour makes me concerned for his wellbeing. I hope those around him are aware of his mental state – I don’t believe he’s simply selling the fight – because so close to their scheduled fight night he seems beyond distracted and lacking in focus. Aside from the fight lacking competitiveness and entertainment value, an ill-prepared Garcia going into a fight at this level can be very dangerous. His health is far more of a concern, and should be far more of a priority, than the status of his next fight.