Sherdog’s Weekend Boxing Preview

By James Kinneen Jan 25, 2019
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What: Jamie Munguia vs. Takeshi Inoue, Junior Middleweights
When: Jan. 26
How to Watch: DAZN, 9 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: Because Jaime Munguia is the most exciting fighter in boxing, but that could change very soon.

Because of his brawling style, thudding power and significant number of defensive deficiencies, WBO light middleweight champion Jaime Munguia is the most exciting fighter in boxing today. Every one of his fights feature him walking face first into counter after counter, until his body shots do enough damage that his opponent slows down enough for him to corner them and beat them into submission. But Munguia knows he can’t fight this way forever.

Now trained by former Oscar De La Hoya trainer Robert Alcazar, Munguia has been working on using his jab better, becoming more defensively sound, and not having to rely on his power to bail him out while he is getting outboxed. That will undoubtedly help his career in the long term, but it will make his fights far less fun for us to watch.

This weekend, Munguia fights Takeshi Inoue, a largely unknown though undefeated fighter from Japan. Munguia is a huge favorite in the fight, this is Inoue’s first time fighting outside of Asia, and with the fight taking place in Houston there’s no question the crowd will be largely pro-Mexican. Munguia is also far larger than Inoue, so it shouldn’t be hard for him to walk through Inoue’s shots and eventually stop him.

Munguia is eventually going to change styles and become far less entertaining, but unless Robert Alcazars is a miracle worker it won’t be this weekend. Watch him now or regret it later.

What: Jesus Rojas vs. Xu Can, Featherweights
When: Jan. 26
How to Watch: DAZN, 9 p.m. ET

Why You Should Care: To see if Xu Can’s rapid improvement is enough to beat Jesus Rojas.

After losing to a debuting fighter and a 1-2 boxer in his third and fifth career bouts, China’s Xu Can could have quit out of frustration or the jokes that would have come from having the worst last name possible for a struggling fighter. Instead, he went on a 12-fight win streak, which included winning a couple of WBA “International” titles. But, while he has gone on a tear and turned himself into a completely different fighter, when it comes to earning stoppages he has struggled until late.

Can has only stopped two opponents over the course of his career, though he has stopped two of his last three. While it is unlikely he will be able to keep Rojas off of him, Can first greatly improved as a fighter and very recently has greatly improved as a puncher.

Puerto Rico’s Rojas was 26-1 with 19 knockouts and held the WBA interim featherweight title until facing Joseph Diaz in November. Rojas lost a decision and is looking to bounce back from the loss. Rojas isn’t looking past Can, but is already talking about possibly moving up in weight or unifying the featherweight titles (Diaz missed weight against Rojas, so he could not win the title despite winning).

Can thinks he can outbox Rojas, while Rojas is already thinking about bigger and better things. We’ll see if the man from China can look at Rojas’ future plans and say, no Xu Can’t.

What: Vergil Ortiz Jr. vs. Jesus Valdez, Junior Welterweights
When: Jan. 26
How to Watch: DAZN 7 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see if Vergil Ortiz can knock out a man whose only specialty is not getting knocked out.

Ortiz is 20 years-old, represented by Golden Boy Promotions, and a perfect 11-0 with 11 knockouts. After stopping Roberto Ortiz in just two rounds this September, it became clear that Ortiz would be fighting for a world title sooner rather than later, a sentiment he has echoed recently. But that is not what he’s doing this weekend.

This weekend, he will be taking a step back in competition, facing Jesus Valdez, a 32-year-old, 23-4 Mexican fighter not notable enough to have a picture on his boxrec page. But, while Valdez has lost to any fighter he’s faced with a pulse, he has one skill that will translate well to this fight; he’s really hard to knock out. Valdez has only been stopped once, by Jesus Rojas, despite facing vastly superior (to him) fighters like Lamont Roach and Matt Remillard. He is the type of opponent that will put up a good fight and give a young prospect good rounds, but he might not be the best guy to get fans excited about your prospect.

Ortiz is too good to lose to Valdez; the question is if he’s good enough to knock him out.

What: Keith Thurman vs. Josesito Lopez, Welterweights
When: Jan. 26
How to Watch: Fox 8 p.m. ET
Why You Should Care: To see if a 22-month layoff makes this the “one time” Josesito Lopez could beat Keith Thurman.

Thurman is back after a 22-month absence, in what he acknowledges is a tune-up fight. While Thurman is a vey good fighter, having beaten guys like Danny Garcia, Shawn Porter and Robert Guerrero, 22 months is a tremendous amount of time to be out of the ring. For refence, 22 months ago is 4 months later than the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight, an event that feels like it happened in an entirely different era. So, while Thurman should beat Lopez easily, there’s no telling how much rust can accumulate when you’ve been away longer than “Game of Thrones” has.

His much less anticipated return will come against the 36-7 Californian whose been beaten by guys like Andre Berto, Marcos Maidana and Canelo Alvarez, but has never beaten a marquee fighter. Still, Lopez is 3-0 since training with Robert Garcia and believes he still has it in him to make a run at a world title.

Thurman should beat Lopez on Saturday, and likely would beat him 99 times out of 100 if they fought that often. Luckily for Lopez, when you factor in a 22-month layoff, things get hazy. Thurman should win, but if he isn’t reacting the same way he used to, isn’t moving like he used to and isn’t reacting to punches like he used to, for Lopez this could be that one time.

What: Adam Kownacki vs. Gerald Washington, Heavyweights
When: Jan. 26
How to Watch: Fox 8 p.m. ET.
Why You Should Care: To see if Gerald Washington’s superior athleticism over Adam Kownacki translates to being a superior fighter than Adam Kownacki.

Washington played football for USC and was on a couple of NFL practice squads. At six-foot-six and weighing in at 246, Washington is built like an action figure and is clearly a freak athlete to have competed in two sports at such a high level. He’s also a very good heavyweight fighter, having lost only twice in his career to Deontay Wilder and Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller.

Kownacki is 18-0 with 14 knockouts, but is far from a freak athlete. Originally from Poland, Kownacki didn’t start training in boxing until he was 16 years-old. But, while Washington didn’t start until after he failed at the highest level of football and looks like a prototypical defensive end, Kownacki looks like he should be selling phones at Best Buy. But that might not matter.

The idea that the best athlete becomes the best boxer has failed many times, with guys like Ed “Too Tall” Jones and Mark Gastineau being the most prominent examples. Many great boxers were not great athletes, and the long-held theory has been that anybody athletic enough to succeed in a sport that doesn’t involve getting punched in the face will choose that sport instead.

Washington looks like he should kill Kownacki but looks can be deceiving. The only way to know for sure is to watch.

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