Scott Quigg vs. Tshifhiwa Munyai: 5 Key Questions Going into the Title Fight
Two weeks after his super bantamweight rival Carl Frampton raised his ranking with a second-round stoppage of Hugo Cazares, Scott Quigg fights for the first time in 2014 against the longtime South African pro Tshifhiwa Munyai on Saturday at Phones 4u Arena in Manchester.
Quigg was originally supposed to fight Nehomar Cermeno of Venezuela, but Cermeno had visa problems and Munyai was announced as the replacement around a week ago.
Whereas Cermeno—34 with five defeats—was almost certainly past his best, Munyai, aged 28, is a younger, fresher and possibly more ambitious opponent.
Munyai has boxed six times in the UK but not since 2008. He ended the unbeaten records of Martin Power and Lee Haskins fighting at bantamweight before being upset in an eight-rounder against Osumanu Akaba.
Quigg, 25, enters with more fights on his record of 27 wins and two draws. By comparison Munyai's resume is 24 wins, one draw and two defeats, but he has actually boxed considerably more rounds—181 compared to Quigg's 128.
The fight is advertised as a world-title bout because Quigg has the secondary WBA belt. Cuban champion Guillermo Rigondeaux holds the main WBA belt, and a shock win for Munyai would put him in the frame to fight Rigondeaux, an opponent Quigg is unlikely to want to face, at least in the short term.
Here are five key questions going into the fight.
1. What Condition Is Munyai In?
With Munyai being a late replacement for Cermeno, it is natural to wonder if he will be in top physical condition for a fight that could go 12 rounds.
Speaking to Ron Jackson of SuperSport in his native South Africa, the challenger said all the right things: "Taking fights at short notice is not a problem. As a professional boxer, I always stay at the gym even if I don't have a fight date."
Ben Jacobs at Boxing Scene reports than Munyai was already in England, having come over to spar with Martin Ward ahead of his challenge to Stuart Hall's IBF bantamweight title.
Although Munyai was announced as the new opponent only a week out, it is unknown how long ago Cermeno's problems were known and how early Munyai learned of the opportunity.
Munyai looked in trim condition at the weigh-in, but that doesn't prove much about his stamina, other than that he isn't carrying excess weight.
There is unquestionably a big difference between being in good shape as a sparring partner and being in good shape for a 12-round fight at a high level.
Quigg has enjoyed a full training camp and Munyai hasn't, and this could well be a big factor, especially if the fight extends into the later rounds.
2. Is Scott Quigg Adaptable?
Quigg clearly has the advantage when it comes to preparation time, but he has the disadvantage that he was working toward a different opponent.
He told Mike Dawes of the Daily Mail: "All the preparation was already done when the change of opponent happened. It isn't ideal but you have to be able to adapt and deal with it."
The original opponent, Cermeno, was much more of a known quantity than Munyai—there's five defeats you can watch to see how to beat him.
Munyai has two losses, but he is unbeaten at super bantamweight, coming off four straight wins. Unlike Cermeno, he is not an old guy who is slowing down.
Furthermore, Munyai is a different style of fighter than Cermeno—tallier and rangier, less likely to be easily outworked.
Munyai can go into the fight with nothing to lose but also without any preconceptions about how he should be fighting.
Quigg has prepared for someone else, and that might blow him off course. He needs to forget his original game plan and adapt to his new opponent, getting past the frustration of having wasted his time thinking about Cermeno.
If Quigg can't unlearn the plan for Cermeno, he might find himself fighting the wrong fight and thus give Munyai the advantage. How adaptable Quigg is in a short time frame will be important in the ring.
3. Who Is Better Suited to the Weight?
At 5'8", Quigg is a very big super bantamweight, but Munyai in listed as 5'9", and incredibly enough, he looks like he may even be a little taller than that when pictured alongside the Bury fighter.
There has been no suggestion that Quigg struggles at the weight, but Munyai failed to make weight at the first attempt at Friday's weigh-in.
Munyai ultimately lost the outstanding five ounces, but you have to wonder if he is potentially weight-drained. He has a large frame, and at 28, it is possible he can't trim down as easily as earlier in his career.
If Munyai has had to work extremely hard to lose the pounds at short notice coming into the bout, perhaps using undesirable methods, then he could be dead at the weight and a shadow of his real self.
The flip side is that if Munyai made weight healthily, then, with a larger frame than Quigg, he could rehydrate and pile perhaps 10 pounds on between the weigh-in and the fight, meaning he'd have a significant size advantage on the night.
With Quigg there are much fewer question marks in this regard but he is definitely used to being the bigger man in there, and depending on his conditioning, Munyai could therefore pose new problems for him.
4. Will Quigg Match Frampton's Performance?
Frampton showcased world-class power by stopping the veteran Cazares in two rounds recently. With all the talk and comparisons between the two domestic fighters, Quigg will hope he can put on an equally impressive performance.
Real heavy-handedness is perhaps one thing Quigg lacks, although he has 20 stoppage wins from 27 victories. If he could stop Munyai for the first time in his career, that would certainly send out a statement of intent.
Quigg has been talking bullishly, telling Sky Sports, "I am ready and I want to prove I am ready to fight the likes of Leo Santa Cruz, who people are all raving about."
He added, "I have to be beating people like Munyai, and doing it in style, which I am 100 per cent confident I will do."
Whilst it is encouraging that Quigg is thinking about performing with style beyond merely winning, there are dangers attached to such an expansive goal.
Munyai is a no-nonsense customer who will only care about victory, and it is possible that Quigg could put undue pressure on himself to push for a stoppage that may not be there.
Quigg will do best to stick to the game plan until he is in control of the contest before he starts worrying about the manner of victory.
If he is overeager to prove a point, he may not fight in the most efficient fashion, and Munyai is savvy enough to take advantage of any such deficiencies.
5. Will Quigg Surrender the Early Rounds?
Quigg's toughest fight to date was October's majority draw with the Cuban fighter Yoandris Salinas. In that fight, Quigg probably lost five of the first seven rounds before coming into it and dominating down the stretch.
One judge saw it for Quigg, two the draw and although the Bury fighter was perhaps a little unlucky not to pick up the decision, the cards accurately reflected that it was a close fight.
Salinas won most of the early rounds by using his jab, and the rangy Munyai will likely look to do the same, utilising his long levers.
Quigg had only gone 12 rounds once before that fight, so it's understandable if he was still feeling his way into the championship distance.
The Bury man should have learned the danger of a slow start—if Salinas had kept up his early activity, he could well have handed Quigg his first defeat as a professional.
Quigg must come out of the blocks with more conviction in this fight because if Munyai is able to win early rounds, that would strengthen his resolve as the night wears on.
Both fighters like to go to the body, and if Quigg can land his hurtful punches to the South African's torso, that will pay dividends and ask questions of Munyai's conditioning.
Quigg is a heavy favourite for this fight, but if he doesn't make an imposing start, Munyai is capable of making it a difficult night for him.