Playing the odds: Munguia vs. O’Sullivan and Tanajara Jr. vs. Burgos
Welcome to a new feature by The Ring. Every week, one boxing event is highlighted, with the match-ups analyzed to determine the most likely outcome. Our debut evaluates this weekend’s DAZN card (9 p.m. ET/ 6 p.m. PT) featuring popular former WBO junior middleweight beltholder Jaime Munguia moving up in weight to take on veteran brawler Gary O’Sullivan. The main support is hometown hero Hector Tanajara, a stylish prospect matched with former title challenger Juan Carlos Burgos in a classic crossroads battle. Golden Boy Promotions President Eric Gomez is excited by the possibilities, “It’s a new division for Jaime Munguia as he vacated his title and moved up his weight in middleweight and he wants to challenge all the big champions like Canelo [Alvarez], [Gennadiy] Golovkin, so it’s going to be a very exciting time for him. It all starts with ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan, who is a very tough customer himself and he wants to upset Munguia and prove that he belongs. This fight will be a classic Mexico vs. Ireland war.” 2019 was notable for the number of prospects and champions who suffered unexpected losses? Will 2020 be as generous to bettors favoring underdogs?
At the Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas
Jaime Munguia (34-0, 27 knockouts) vs. Gary O’Sullivan (30-3, 21 KOs)
Hector Tanajara Jr. (18-0, 5 KOs) vs. Juan Carlos Burgos (33-3-2, 21 KOs)
Juan Carlos Burgos (odds at +700) – Like NBA teams, some boxers need a losing finals appearance to become championship-caliber. Burgos was that type of fighter, rebounding with four wins, to include a back-and-forth brawl with undefeated prospect Luis Cruz, after suffering a respectable 12-round loss to underrated champion Hozumi Hasegawa in 2010. A solid puncher with 21 stoppages in 33 wins, turning pro at 16 after watching his uncle Victor Burgos win an IBF title. Juan’s parents urged him to retire when Victor lapsed into a coma after a stoppage loss to Vic Darchinyan but he eventually relented. He grew up in a gym and is trained by his father, which lends to the development of instincts that have to be experienced instead of taught. Has advantage of going 10 and 12 rounds multiple times, registering 246 rounds against divergent styles. Burgos is a top-notch gatekeeper, only losing to elite boxers including Mikey Garcia and Devin Haney, but there is no sugar-coating that he is deteriorating at age 33 and lacks activity, last entering the ring 16 months ago.
Hector Tanajara (odds at -1600) – An elite amateur, winning eight national titles and international competitions, Tanajara surprised many, turning pro instead of competing for a spot on the 2016 Olympic team. Sports superior tactical skills, able to choose between speed or precision to secure victories. At 5-foot-10, Tanajara is a big lightweight and he knows how to deploy that size, rarely suckered into clinches or toiling along the ropes. Learned his craft sparring pound-for-pound elite Mikey Garcia and avoiding the cruder rushes of Jesus Cuellar and hard-charging Brandon Rios in West Coast sparring sessions. Tanajara’s goal is to fuse the attributes of his favorite boxers Ricardo “Finito” Lopez and Rafael Marquez, combining precise anticipatory skills of Lopez with the pinpoint power of Marquez. Obviously with only five stoppages in 18 wins, the power has yet to materialize but at 23, it can still develop. Tanajara explains, “I’m a boxer-puncher. I just like to stay smart and use my reach. I always had that style. It’s just been more sitting down on my punches, just getting the little tricks of the professional game.”
Verdict – There is a small chance returning hometown boy Tanajara presses the action too much against a still dangerous Burgos. Otherwise Tanajara proves too smooth and mobile for Burgos to track down or land against consistently if he goes into a shell looking for counterpunching opportunities. Tanajara will dominate from the opening bell but not have the power to drop or stop Burgos unless it comes in a five-punch combination. I see a unanimous decision along the lines of 100-90. or 98-92 if Tanajara reaches with punches early looking for a spectacular homecoming victory. The win won’t mark Tanajara as a player at lightweight yet; his team needs to address a lack of knockout power and low-key personality limiting the fan appeal of an otherwise excellent prospect.
Gary O’Sullivan (odds at +750) – Colorful Irishman, with a handlebar mustache reminiscent of Daniel Day-Lewis in “Gangs of New York,” has matched wits with elite boxers on both sides of the Atlantic. Only bested by top-10-rated performers, O’Sullivan rarely fails to entertain in or out of the ring. Conversely O’Sullivan has never defeated a big name but his determined attitude and volume punching keep getting him invited to big dances. He has the advantage of fighting at a higher weight and opts for power on every shot, preferring quantity to quality or playing angles. O’Sullivan has amassed a respectable 64% KO ratio, which is a bit deceiving, given his opposition has been mostly pedestrian. Shown some ability for patience and countering, notably besting Antoine Douglas and sporadically against Chris Eubank Jr. but falls back into a free-swinging mode at every opportunity. Will not be intimidated by the raucous Tex-Mex atmosphere, as the well-traveled veteran is used to entering hostile environments as the underdog. Should have a measure of desperation; at age 35, this should prove O’Sullivan’s last chance to earn a world title fight.
Jaime Munguia (odds at -2000) – Some guys have that indestructible look, accompanied by a knowing smirk (think Stanley Ketchel, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Carlos Monzon) and, for me, Munguia can develop into a star attraction. You can sense he came up tough, turning pro at age 16 in blood-soaked Tijuana rings, but did not let tough environs corrupt his soul. Munguia is still only 23 years old and, like many youngsters, limitations are on the defensive side where his sense of space and defensive posture need to mature. Not a uniquely gifted boxer with flashy speed or great power but, like previous Mexican icons, Munguia can find popularity as a blood-and-thunder boxer without the need to showboat. He is pleasing to the eyes as well as adrenal glands, pushing advantages and refusing to retreat. No world titleholder is as active as Munguia, successfully defending his title five times in 17 months. An ability to cut weight has proven a major advantage, enabling him to shrink to 154 pounds, then put on 20 pounds of mass before the opening bell. Even at middleweight, Munguia will retain a size advantage over many, which favors his straight-ahead engaging style. Like other popular Mexican boxers, Munguia has a built-in advantage of drawing fans from both sides of the Rio Grande aiding title opportunities. The jury is out on whether Munguia is more Yori Boy Campas or Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. but a move to middleweight seems a step in the right direction.
Verdict – Many believe Munguia was unmasked by Dennis Hogan as a brawler whose feet will let him down against a tricky target. Unable to cut off the ring, Munguia relied on his ability to soak up punishment before imposing his physical dominance rallying in the championship rounds. That should not be a problem with O’Sullivan, who likes to meet his antagonist at center ring. Munguia blamed the poor Hogan performance on making weight, quickly hiring Hall-of-Famer Erik “El Terrible” Morales to be his mentor/trainer, hoping to deliver a breakout performance at the new weight. Though moving up to middleweight, Munguia will have a two-inch height and reach advantage, not to mention a 12-year edge in age for the Mexican strongman. I like Munguia to score a stoppage in the mid-to-late rounds; the best bet is in the fifth but a motivated O’Sullivan could last until the eighth stanza.
You can follow Marty Mulcahey on Twitter @MartinMulcahey.
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