In 2018 we saw Jaime Munguia (31-0, 26) go from the man that couldn't get sanctioned to face Gennady Golovkin to one of the most must watch fighters on the planet. He went from relative obscurity to become the WBO Light Middleweight champion, and managed to fit in 2 defenses in what was an incredible break out year for the baby faced Mexican. To begin 2019 he faces Japanese challenger Takeshi Inoue (13-0-1, 7), in what will be Munguia's third defense of the title he won in May, when he stopped Sadam Ali, and will be Inoue's first world title fight.
Of the two men it's clear the champion who is the more well known, thanks in part to a breakout 2018. At the start of last year Munguia was a 21 year old Mexican prospect with a 26-0 (22) record, who's only bout outside of Mexico was a win over Paul Valenzuela in Las Vegas, and even that was off TV. By the end of the year he was one of the leading Light Middleweights on the planet, a must watch fighter and someone who was being seen as the possible Mexican successor to Saul Alvarez. He would fit 5 fights into 2018 including his title win over Sadam Ali and title defenses against Liam Smith and Brandon Cook, and build a huge fan base in a very short amount of time.
In the ring Munguia is an all action fighter. He's technically very flawed but is a huge Light Middleweight, with an excellent engine, a high out put, a lot of power, an ability to soak up punishment. The technical flaws, most of which are defensive, are covered up by Munguia's hyper aggressive style. Compubox recorded Munguia as throwing well over 800 punches in his 12 round bout against Liam Smith, an incredible number for a world title bout at Light Middleweight. Worryingly many of those shots were full blooded power shots, and he looks like the fighter who is naturally very heavy handed.
Inoue, no relation to Naoya Inoue, is a fighter who had a huge 2017 in terms of regional success but saw 2018 as a near write off. The 29 year old from Tokyo has done it all on the regional level, unifying the Japanese, OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific Light Middleweight titles, and doing so in 7 months last year. As a professional his biggest wins are over the likes of Akinori Watanabe, Koshinmaru Saito, Ratchasi Sithsaithong and Yuki Nonaka, none of whom are really known outside of the Oriental region. Sadly 2018 saw him fight only once, taking a decision over Nonaka in a world title eliminator, due to protracted talks to face Julian Williams in a final eliminator, talks that never got sorted.
In the ring Inoue is a relatively small Light Middleweight, who has shown an ability to box or brawl at regional level. Sadly for him he isn't a big puncher, he's also not the quickest fighter out there, or the most defensively sound. Despite not having anything special he is a solid all round, often breaking opponents down in the middle rounds, with 3 of his wins last year coming by stoppage in the second half of fights. He'll need to rely on skills and a flawless game plan here, but unfortunately even that might not be enough to over-come Munguia.
We don't think anyone on the planet will have an easy time with Mungia, even the best fighters at Middleweight never mind Light Middleweight. Sadly for Inoue he's stylistically up against it here, and whilst we suspect Inoue won't struggle to find Munguia who won't have the tools to cope with the rampaging Mexican, who will break down the Japanese challenger, possibly even in the first half of the fight. We would love to see Inoue get the upset, but sadly we don't see how he can defeat Munguia, barring a freak accident from the Mexican
On August 26th boxing hits the mainstream once against as we finally get the long awaited showdown between Floyd Mayweather and Connor McGregor. On the same night, albeit on a different card, we get the chance to see a potentially thrilling action fight between Puerto Rican star Miguel Cotto (40-5, 33) and all action Japanese brawler Yoshihiro Kamegai (27-3-2, 24) for the WBO Light Middleweight title. The bout might not get the attention of the Mayweather Vs McGregor fight, but has the potential to be something much more exciting.
Of the two fighters it's Cotto who is the much more established and proven fighter. He's been a world champion in 4 weight classes, from Light Welterweight to Middleweight, and been one of the biggest names in world boxing for around a decade. At his best Cotto was a supreme boxer-puncher, who was exciting and aggressive, high skilled and a truly sensational fighter. His success in the ring will likely make him a first-ballot hall of famer, and with wins against the likes of Paul Malignaggi, Zab Judah, Shane Mosley, Sergio Martinez and Antonio Margarito his record speaks volumes. Whilst he has been beaten, by the likes of Margarito, Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather, Austin Trout and Saul Alvarez, he has faced so many top fighters that there is no shame in losing to the fighters he's been beaten by.
Despite once being one of the sports top pound-for-pound fighters Cotto has been out of the ring since November 2015, when he lost to Saul Alvarez. That sort of inactivity, especially at the age of 36, won't help the Puerto Rican. Neither will his long and hard career, which has seen him in numerous damaging wars.
Although much less well known Kamegai has become a relatively well known fighter around the globe and is one of the fighters who consistently delivers thrilling contests. He's a flawed fighter, with terrible foot work and a worryingly limited defense, but his incredible toughness, insane stamina and his willingness to take one to land one makes him a handful for fighters looking for a brawl. Against fighters that move Kamegai looks really limited, as we've seen in his losses to Johan Perez and Alfonso Gomez, but when fighters stand their ground Kamegai tends to come out on top.
Kamegai's recent wars with Jesus Soto Karass were back-to-back Fight of the Year contenders, and following those wars he has had a break from the ring, having not fought since last September. That sort of a break will help him recover physically and it's fair to say he'll be truly driven to make the most of his chance to become a world champion.
At his best Cotto would walk this bout. He would box, move and easily out point Kamegai over 12 rounds. Now with the clock ticking on Cotto's career, and with inactivity mounting, it's not as much of a foregone conclusion as it once was. We'd still suspect that a Cotto decision win would be the most likely, but we've seen some shocks this year, and if a hungry Kamegai can make this into a war, there is a chance he could break down Cotto for the late stoppage. It's a slim chance, but one that we can certainly see playing out.
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.