By Gilbert Manzano
WBO junior middleweight champion Jaime Munguia was asked Thursday where he ranks himself in the loaded 154-pound division that includes Jarrett Hurd, Tony Harrison and Jermell Charlo.
“I consider myself No. 1,” Munguia said on a media conference call to promote his upcoming title defense against Dennis Hogan on April 13.
If the Mexican brawler made that statement last March, many would have paused before asking, “Who is Jaime Munguia?”
Munguia’s mindset hasn’t changed in the past year. He viewed himself as the division’s top fighter on March 17, 2018 after a third-round knockout against Johnny Navarrete at Arena Jose Sulaiman in Monterrey, Mexico.
But now Munguia has built a strong case to back up his No. 1 claim.
It’s been a fast rise for one of boxing’s most exciting fighters. Munguia, 22, went from being denied a middleweight title shot against Gennady Golovkin to becoming a world champion with a surprise knockout over Sadam Ali in New York nearly 11 months ago.
Two Las Vegas fights and three title defenses later, Munguia will be returning to Monterrey as a world champion, and fighting at a bigger venue than his last bout in Mexico.
Munguia (32-0, 26 knockouts) will face Hogan (28-1-1, 7 KOs) at the 17,000-seat Arena Monterrey.
“I’m very happy to come back to Mexico as a world champion,” Munguia said. “This is the last place where I fought before I became a world champion and made all of my defenses, so it’s very exciting to be coming back to Mexico, and coming back to Monterrey.
“This city has a great love for boxing, and I’ll be coming with all of the desire to not disappoint the fans and give a good fight.”
Munguia is scheduled to fight the Irishman Hogan, but Golovkin’s name was brought up multiple times during the conference call.
At this time a year ago, the Nevada Athletic Commission didn’t view Munguia as a formidable opponent for the then-unified middleweight champion from Kazakhstan.
Now, many are wondering how that Cinco de Mayo fight between Munguia and Golovkin would have played out.
“The truth is I don’t know … No one really knows what would have happened,” Munguia said.
Munguia, who plans to move up to 160 pounds in the next year, said he still wants a fight with Golovkin, a bout that could easily be made with both competing on the DAZN platform.
“A year ago if I felt ready, now I feel even more ready,” Munguia said about fighting Golovkin. “So with pleasure, we would accept the fight, but right now I’m focused on the fight that I have on April 13, but after that with pleasure we would take that fight.”
Hogan said he doesn’t feel disrespected that Munguia is being asked about future opponents. He’s using it as motivation.
“I am here to make an upset, and with that I have a lot of confidence,” Hogan said. “So I enjoy people asking what the biggest fights next are. Those other names being mentioned, they’re probably the names I’ll be fighting next.”