Jaime Munguia, Erik Morales And The Zombie Apocalypse

It’s tempting to view boxing as the ultimate meritocracy. On Forbes’ annual World’s Highest Paid Athletes list, a fighter routinely cracks the top five — and often leads the way, with Floyd Mayweather recently banking nearly a third of a billion dollars in a single calendar year. Social media directly connects fans to fighters, promoters and broadcasters, allowing for public opinion to influence matchmaking. Purse bids and mandatories and official scorers effectively level the playing field and ensure an egalitarian, checks-and-balances system of performance-based value and earned worth at all levels.

And here is where we’ll pause for you to collect yourself from the floor and wipe away your tears of laughter.

The reality: Promoters lie, broadcasters can’t be bothered to conceal their naked greed, and fighters piss and moan for the best, most lucrative fights — until those matchups threaten their own standing. Judge Adelaide Byrd, for chrissakes, is still gainfully employed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. The sport isn’t a democracy, or even an autocracy with a singular, iron-fisted dictator whose rules can at least be followed and occasionally understood. It is chaos theory as taught by a used-car salesman. Boxing is a zombie apocalypse, a world in which the strong survive — but only long enough to be torn limb from limb by the ever-present, relentless, sneaky-as-fuck undead.

It was into this world that Jaime Munguia was dropped, a 6-foot, anvil-swinging junior middleweight babe in the woods — but a babe nonetheless. Like many young Mexican fighters, the Tijuana-born Munguia, 22, already possesses a ridiculous wealth of experience. Seasoned in well over 100 amateur fights, he turned pro in 2013, at age 16, and has fought at least four times a year — including seven bouts in both 2015 and 2016 — ever since. Dude is getting his reps.

But even those who believe that repetition is the best teacher must admit that, sometimes, the best teacher is a decent goddamn teacher. Jaime Munguia Sr. is a former heavyweight pro who has led his son to an undefeated record and a (*shudder*) world title, so his work as manager and trainer can’t be discounted. Yet he’s also Junior’s old man, and ugly things often happen when a driven father stands too long between a man-child — especially one who’s had a taste of success — and his independence. There’s a reason why, in boxing, for every Shane Mosley, a dozen more Isaac Dogboes have crashed among the rocks of paternal ambition and youthful obstinance.

Lucky for Munguia (34-0), his people have some juice with the Mexican Boxing Living Legend Big Brother program. For the fighter’s latest camp and Saturday’s junior middleweight matchup with Patrick Allotey (40-4) in Carson, Calif., Team Munguia recruited retired four-division champ Erik Morales to serve as chief second, mentor and sacred boxing buddha for its (hopefully) still-impressionable fighter. And “El Terrible’s” arrival came perhaps not a moment too soon. For all Munguia’s in-ring experience, his best wins have come against second-tier types Sadam Ali and Liam Smith, and his funk since those fights reached its nadir in a ham-handed majority decision over Dennis Hogan. Despite his power and ruggedness, Munguia has lacked patience, timing and all instincts and aptitude for self-preservation. And with a frame that is no longer suited for 154 pounds, he could use all the practical advice he can get — the do’s and don’ts — from Morales, one of Tijuana’s finest shape-shifters, as he prepares for a leap to 160.

This was the bigger news as Munguia prepared to meet Allotey at Dignity Health Sports Park on Saturday, and that has been the exact rub: The narrative surrounding Munguia is always two steps ahead of where he’s currently standing. Last year he was nearly called up from obscurity as a replacement opponent to face Gennady Golovkin, but the NSAC — in a stunning moment of clarity — nixed it, declaring Munguia too green. Instead, he wound up standing in as a replacement a week later against Ali, and his surprise triumph immediately set the clocks forward on his career timeline. Munguia, amid near-constant talk of riches to be found in middleweight matchups with Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez, has been grinding his gears against inferior competition a division lower ever since.

Allotey, a 30-1 ‘dog whose claim to fame entering Saturday’s fight was a 2015 knockout loss to Patrick Teixeira, surely wouldn’t be the guy to serve Munguia and crew their comeuppance for a lack of focus — but he was live enough early on to throw a scare into the operation. He won the opening round with his jab and a clean lead left hook. He held his own in the second, answering Munguia’s uptick in activity and thudding body work with one particularly crafty combination. But the wheels came off for Allotey in Round 3, as Munguia crammed a left hook into his liver, doubling over the Ghanian and dropping him to a knee for a knockdown. Allotey recovered, in a manner of speaking, and even snapped a hard jab to Munguia’s mouth as the final seconds ticked off the round. Now, imagine, if you will, watching Friday-night prime-time network television as a child in the late 1970s and hearing the words, “Don’t make me angry,” and then witnessing a small Ghanian man fart in Bill Bixby’s mouth. That was Allotey’s jab.

Munguia pounced on Allotey in the corner, leading with a straight right hand up top, followed by a doubled-up left — uppercut to the midsection and check hook — then a right cross, another body/high-hook combo, a looping right hand and two maximum-force left hooks, all of them unanswered by the challenger. As the bell for the round sounded, Allotey went down as if he’d indeed been flicked across the ring by Lou Ferrigno. Whatever fight he’d had in him seemed to leave his body in that moment.

You had to feel for him. Allotey’s promoters had secured themselves visas to be in Carson on Saturday, but according to PBC editorial director Kenneth Bouhairie, they hadn’t extended the same courtesy to … Allotey’s trainer. So it says something that, after staring down referee Jack Reiss from his seat on the canvas with the universal “Man, this is bullshit” look, Allotey dutifully popped up to beat the count. He even came out of his corner for the fourth and endured a couple more minutes of Munguia stalking and slugging away before finally thinking better of it. When Munguia cornered Allotey and (maybe?) landed a left hook, then slung several more breezing shots that never hit their mark, Allotey slowly backed out to an adjacent corner, paused, then bent the knee. He was done, his handlers knew it, and that was that.

It was that kind of night: Munguia got his stoppage, boxing fans reveled on Mexican Independence Day weekend, and Ryan Garcia Instagram fangirls were left hot and bothered at the only fight card they’re likely ever to attend. Allotey, cynical as it may sound, was just more churn in Boxing’s Great Meritocracy, a fraction of the fighters Golovkin and Alvarez represent, in every sense. DAZN blow-by-blow man Brian Kenny probably summed up Munguia’s night thusly: “I don’t know exactly what he proved, but he looked good and he looked as powerful as ever.”

If Munguia was listening, maybe he’ll see this, too: Focus on the former, kid. Ignore the latter. Prove it, every chance you get, because it doesn’t last. Ask “El Terrible” and he’ll tell you: One day you’re the champ. The next, you’re the churn.

(Jaime Munguia, left, Patrick Allotey, right; Tom Hogan, Hoganphotos/Golden Boy)