By Thomas Gerbasi

JAIME MUNGUIA isn’t accustomed to losing. In fact, through 42 professional boxing matches, he’s yet to experience the bitter taste of defeat. That’s not easy at this level of the game, and it may be a testament as much to the Tijuana native’s mental strength as well as the physical.

Don’t think so? I ask him for the last time he lost at anything. He pauses. Then pauses some more.

“The last time I lost was playing video games,” he told Boxing News through a translator. “It’s one of my pastimes or hobbies, but obviously no one likes to lose. Everyone wants to win.”

So, does it ruin his entire day when he comes up on the losing side in a video game?

He laughs.

“Sometimes yes, sometimes no.”

Luckily for the 27-year-old, he hasn’t had to go down that road in his day job, but while most would assume that getting into a dogfight this far into his career would be the test he might not be ready for, last June, he passed with flying colours when he defeated Sergiy Derevyanchenko in a bout that garnered Fight of the Year consideration around the sport.

“Yeah, I’m very happy with that fight,” Munguia said. “It was a good fight for all fight fans and for the people watching there live.”

All-action throughout, Munguia had to dig deep throughout the 12-rounder with the longtime middleweight contender as the pair fought for seemingly more than the spurious WBC Silver title at 168 pounds. And when the 12th round arrived and he was down on two of the three scorecards, Munguia stepped up and dropped Derevyanchenko with a left hook to the body, turning a potential loss into a victory via scores of 114-113 (twice) and 115-112.

It wasn’t as dramatic as, say, Julio Cesar Chavez’s last-second finish of Meldrick Taylor in 1990, but it truly established Munguia’s bonafides when it comes to being a “Mexican fighter,” something you can’t truly quantify, but you’ll know it when you see it. Munguia says it’s a collection of qualities shared by all his compatriots, whether in the ring or out.

Jaime Munguia (Getty Images)

“I would go as far as saying it’s not describing a Mexican boxer; I would just describe Mexicans, in general,” he said. “Mexicans have always been forward thinking, been pressing forward. Even if you tell them no, they’ll stay there. Mexicans will always fight and look for their opportunity.”

The next big target for the former super-welterweight belt-holder is the big opportunity for everyone at 168 and 175 pounds, and that’s Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. The Mexican superstar has been a topic in every recent interview with Munguia, even though the man standing across the ring from him this Saturday at Footprint Center in Phoenix is Islington’s John Ryder. Munguia takes the queries in stride, and he says the right things when it comes to looking ahead before the task at hand is completed.

“I’m a hundred per cent focused on John Ryder,” said Munguia. “He’s my main objective at this point, and if you want the big fights at 168, we have to get through this big test through John Ryder and that’s motivating for me.”

Ryder will be a tough test for Munguia, a gritty vet who went 12 rounds with Alvarez last May. A victory inside the distance for the Mexican would go a long way toward building public support for Munguia-Alvarez, but styles make fights, and comparing the end results of two different fights against the same opponent doesn’t always tell the tale of how a future bout will play out.

Munguia, a pro since the age of 16, is well aware of all the noise and how it has nothing to do with Saturday’s fight, and it’s a testament to a maturity he says he owes to his family.

“I’ve always been a very focused and disciplined man, but, quite frankly, my family keeps me grounded and centred and they’ve shown me the reality of how things really work,” he said. “It’s because of them that I am who I am.”

Talk of a May fight with boxing’s biggest star isn’t the only distraction leading up to the Ryder bout, as he is preparing in Los Angeles for the first time with Freddie Roach after an amicable split with Erik Morales. It’s not always an easy transition, especially when every fight has high stakes attached to it, but so far so good for Munguia, who expects his stay at the Wild Card to be a permanent one.

Jaime Munguia on the pads with Freddie Roach

“It was a very good decision,” said Munguia. “I’ve been acclimating really well with Freddie. It is going to be a very permanent decision to stay with Freddie and staying here to train in LA.”

Being in Los Angeles also allows him to dodge some diaper duty for his three-month old son.

“It helps,” laughs Munguia, who, all jokes aside, has been making sacrifices like being away from his family for most of his boxing life. So, at this point, it’s second nature.

“Being away for Christmas, being away for New Year’s and being so far away from my family,” he said when asked what he’s given up to reach this level in his career. “I just had a son who is now three months old, and staying away is very hard, but these are the things that we give up and that we have to overcome to be able to get to the point where we want to go to.

“All of my life, since I was little, I’ve always known I was meant to be a boxer. When kids would ask me, ‘Oh, what do you want to be?’ I always said, I want to be a boxer and I’m very happy and pleased to be able to say that I’m making my dream come true.”

The dream isn’t over yet. There are more titles to win, big fights to secure, and a legacy to cement. All while having a target on his back placed there by opponents who would like nothing more than to be the one who puts a mark in his loss column.

Jaime Munguia is fine with that. He’s a Mexican fighter.

“More than pressure, it’s motivation to train harder and to be the best.”