The towel hit the floor with :41 left in the 11th round. Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan fought brilliantly all night, but Jaime Munguia had him against the ropes.
Spike’s corner knew that strength was O’Sullivan’s advantage and that his chance to win depended on his ability to land a knockout blow. A tough but tiring O’Sullivan could surely have lasted through 12 rounds, but late into the match his punches were not having the same impact. Munguia’s punches continued landing fast and hard. It was the final moment of an epic battle.
Golden Boy Promotions matched the two talented fighters because they knew it would draw a crowd, but few expected the fight to be so entertaining.
Munguia was a heavily favored, undefeated (34-0), speedy 23-year-old; Spike was the battle-tested 35-year-old with an impressive professional record (30-3) who, though he has knockout strength, many saw as a significant underdog.
Both fighters came out fast. Munguia played the part of aggressor, throwing more punches than O’Sullivan throughout the night. His fitness was clear.
O’Sullivan looked calculated and efficient – he was focused and had a plan. He knew that he could not put his foot on the gas and hope to roll over the talented Munguia. He would have to be patient and present for an opportunity to win.
In the 2nd round, Munguia began attacking the lower-right abdomen of O’Sullivan, who countered with a left hook and found Munguia’s jaw. Throughout the early rounds, exchanges went back and forth in similar fashion. Munguia was a times the aggressor, concentrating on shots to the body, but O’Sullivan navigated the flurry of punches well. Many glanced off of his gloves and elbows with no noticeable damage.
In the 3rd, Munguia landed some questionable shots at or near the back of O’Sullivan’s head. O’Sullivan backed off and attempted to signal this to the referee. There was no call. Munguia used the opportunity to strike. He landed a few jabs to the face and gained advantage. O’Sullivan battled back. Late in the 3rd he hit Munguia hard. Spike caught him with a hard left hand followed by another hard right just as time ran out.
Munguia looked visibly shaken on his way back to the corner. The mood of the crowd began to shift.
Down in San Antonio, home of the Alamo, the crowd enthusiastically favored Munguia. Mexican flags waved in the hands of boxing fans sporting “Munguia” headbands. “Mexico” and “Tijuana” chants were abundant. The lyrics of the music coursing through the Alamodome were mostly in Spanish, and before the fight the in-ring announcer followed “Are you ready for the maaaain event?” with “Donde estan mis Mexicanos?” This event was, in many ways, meant to highlight the up-and-coming talent, Munguia.
So when Munguia looked shaken after round 3, the noise of the crowed seemed to settle. A gentleman in the 2nd row from ringside leaned to a security guard and said “I didn’t have this going past 3.” Control had not shifted fully to O’Sullivan, but this was not the clear-cut outcome many expected.
Munguia recovered and kept the scorecard advantage for bulk of the fight. Still, another O’Sullivan hook to the jaw could have put Munguia down at any time. So they battled on.
The main controversy of the event came in the middle rounds. As O’Sullivan worked to protect his jaw, Munguia continued to work the body. Speedy left hooks connected low. At times, too low.
In the 6th, O’Connell again signaled to the referee, this time indicating that he was being hit below the belt. He was. Slow-motion replays clearly revealed that a few of Munguia’s shots landed just center-left of the groin. Referee Mark Calo-Oy finally issued a one-point penalty, but the damage had been done.
When the initial low-blow landed and O’Sullivan was stunned, Munguia squeezed in another shot to the jaw. The illegal hit racked up some serious damage.
In the 7th round it happened again, this time sending O’Sullivan to a knee.
Still, he got up. He kept fighting. O’Sullivan has the names of his four children tattooed above his heart. On Saturday night he had good friends in his corner. He was supported in his own way, and he wasn’t willing to quit.
Munguia had 10,000 fans cheering his name. He was energized. And when O’Sullivan contested the low-blows they booed.
Important to note that Munguia’s low-blows were not shots of desperation. He is a talented fighter who looked in control most of the night. But they were clearly illegal.
After that first warning, it would not have been unprecedented for the next below-the-belt offense to disqualify the perpetrator. Andrew “The Nutcracker” Golota was famously disqualified from brutal matches with Riddick Bowe for blatant low-blows.
Referee Calo-Oy let the fight play out.
By the 9th round Spike was finding it difficult to protect his face. His right glove could not seem to get high enough to protect his chin. Munguia capitalized.
Late in the 11th round, the speed and talent of Munguia continued to shine. O’Sullivan was tired. As Munguia advanced, landing more shots than ever and backing O’Sullivan into the ropes once again, it was time.
Paschal Collins, Spike’s longtime friend and highly respected coach, threw in the towel. 2:17 into the 11th round, the fight was over.
Whether or not this was the last fight for O’Sullivan remains to be seen. There is surely public interest in seeing him fight again.
It is clear that this is just the beginning for Munguia. He has his sights set on Canelo, a championship, and achieving all-time status.
Both fighters head home knowing that this was one for the ages. Munguia’s camp thinks that this was one of his best fights to date, acknowledging that O’Sullivan brought out the best in him. O’Sullivan’s camp recognized Munguia as a genuine young man whose athleticism and talent is through the roof. All parties seem to respect one another.
And through the mist of the match – the controversy, the challenge, and the excitement – it is that mutual respect which shines through.
O’Sullivan, who is now 30-4 and has only lost to champions or future champions, posted on Instagram that “Credit and big respect to @jaimemunguiaoficial – he’s a warrior and a great fighter and I wish him all the best in his career going forward.”
Munguia, who has not lost to anyone, thanked the fans and appeared to be gracious in his success.
If an athlete can fight hard in the ring but maintain respect for opponents and those around him, that is special. That sort balance creates a role model. Both of these boxers seem to be working toward that title.