Jaime Munguia to fight Liam Smith at Hard Rock Hotel

Updated June 22, 2018 - 6:37 pm

Jaime Munguia was tabbed as Saul “Canelo” Alvarez’s replacement to fight Gennady Golovkin on May 5 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, but the Nevada Athletic Commission didn’t give him the green light.

Turned out, the commission did Munguia a favor.

Golovkin knocked out Vanes Martirosyan in two rounds at the StubHub Center in Carson, California. A week later, Munguia became a world champion after a surprising fourth-round technical knockout over Sadam Ali.

Munguia, 21, will get a chance to thank the Nevada commission in person for his first title defense. He will defend his WBO junior middleweight belt against Liam Smith on July 21 on an HBO-televised main event at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel.

Golden Boy Promotions announced the Las Vegas card Friday. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Thursday and can be purchased on ticketmaster.com.

In the co-main event, Alberto Machado defends his WBA junior lightweight title against Rafael Mensah.

Munguia might have suffered the same fate as Martirosyan if the commission allowed him to fight Golovkin, the unified middleweight champion. Munguia was an unknown fighter from Mexico who had never fought at 160 pounds or even been scheduled for a 12-round fight before facing Ali.

Now, Munguia is viewed as a powerful junior middleweight and considered the best champion in the division by some boxing insiders.

“He made a good hit,” Golden Boy Promotions president Eric Gomez said. “It was a good win for him, and the kid has star potential. He’s fighting a tough guy in Liam Smith, a guy who’s going to be right in his face.”

The 29-year-old Smith (26-1-1, 14 knockouts) was supposed to fight Ali on May 12, but an illness forced him to withdraw a few weeks before the bout. That’s when Munguia (29-0, 25 KOs) got the call.

Smith, whose loss is to Alvarez, didn’t hesitate to make the bout with Munguia even after seeing the pop in the Mexican’s punches.

“Frank Warren (Smith’s promoter) contacted me right away,” Gomez said. “They wanted this fight quickly. Liam Smith feels this fight is easier than the Ali fight because he doesn’t have to go looking for Munguia. He’ll be right in front of him.”

More boxing: Follow all of our boxing coverage online at reviewjournal.com/boxing and @RJ_Sports on Twitter.

Contact Gilbert Manzano at gmanzano@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GManzano24 on Twitter.

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