Modern sport maybe awash with analytics, but boxing has never lent itself to trial by numbers.
After all, so elemental is the sweet science that it could hardly ever be a perfect one.
The sport’s drama is built on illogicality, its formlines little more than fool’s gold for those who choose to follow them.
Dennis Hogan was among 2019’s cases in point, his titanic tilt at Jaime Munguia’s light-middleweight title belying the lopsided pre-fight odds and analysis.
Were the ring anywhere but on Munguia’s own turf, Kildare’s 20-1 underdog would likely have left it far more than a moral victor.
Instead, the scorecards sported something of a hometown hue, Munguia escaping with his perfect record unblemished.
2020 presents pastures new for the Latino star, Golden Boy Promotions’ latest golden child having moved up to middleweight in search of further fame.
Tonight serves as his 160lb bow, Corkman Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan this time primed to replace Hogan in the supporting cast on a bout upgraded to an WBO Inter-Continental title. Much like the latter, however, Spike too has designs on the leading role.
“Jaime’s a great fighter, but he should be under no illusions, I have prepared really, really hard,” says O’Sullivan of the clash in San Antonio.
“I made a lot of sacrifices to be here. I recently bought my first home, and I was looking forward to spending Christmas with my family, but I remained in training camp for all the holidays. I’ve given everything I’ve got to this camp.
“In terms of the fight, it’s nothing personal, I really like Jaime. I wish him good health and good luck in his life. But on Saturday night, I’m coming for war, and I’m coming to win.”
In theory, Hogan’s showing should be a source of solace for O’Sullivan, his effort having coldly framed Munguia’s deficiencies. And yet, in practice, such algorithms aren’t so easy to abide.
“We’d be wrong to try and use Dennis’ tactics as a blueprint,” says O’Sullivan’s coach Packie Collins. “He and Spike are just totally different fighters.
“If he carried that bit more power, he could have stopped him.”
His charge has no such reticence in the power stakes. Not that those in the Munguia camp will need reminding, Spike having arrested the development of their Golden Boy stablemate Antoine Douglas back in 2017.
It was that win which propelled the Leesider to the top table, murmurings around potential match-ups with middleweight totems Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin growing ever louder.
A decisive defeat to David Lemieux ground any such talk to a halt, however, Spike’s status atop the title trail soon swapped for boxing’s no-man’s land.
Today sees him back on-broadway, a future crack at world honours again the carrot. Collins, for one, exudes more than a quiet confidence in the task at hand.
“Munguia, as good as he is, is probably one of the easiest fighters you can prepare for,” notes the Dubliner.
“There’s nothing really different to him than anyone we’ve faced in the past. He’s strong, he’s young, he’s athletic, he hits hard. But he gets hit.
“You’ve got to knock him out, even put him down once or twice. Force the issue.
“It’s not rocket science, we’ve got to try and stop this guy, break him down, maybe even cut him. Spike’s the guy to do that.
“He hits so hard, and when the opportunity arises, he will land those shots.
“This camp has come together so well, I can see the difference in him. Sometimes, he might lack concentration depending on the opponent, but not this time.
“Jaime’s been a world champion, he’s tasted that glory. Spike hasn’t had that holy grail. It’s something he’s trained his whole life for, weeks upon weeks away from his family.
“I believe it’s Spike’s destiny. Twelve rounds is a long time to be in there, and Munguia will make mistakes. When he does, Spike will capitalise.
We know Jaime’s a nice guy. Fighters like to hate their opponents, but this is a hard guy to hate! He’s a real gentleman, a great ambassador for the sport.
“It’s nothing personal, but on Saturday night, Spike is coming to take his undefeated record. His ‘O’ is going to go.”
Munguia, for his part, is all too aware of the stakes. Likewise, promoter Oscar De La Hoya.
It was he who navigated compatriot Canelo to the zenith of the sport, rarefied air De La Hoya himself inhabited during his own heady heyday.
Munguia has long been pegged for those same heights; tonight abounds as a key staging post.
“Jaime’s one of the top, rising stars, not only in Mexico but the world,” says De La Hoya.
“He’s got a great record, he’s jumping into the middleweight division and he wants to make an impression.
“Just like when [Munguia’s trainer] Erik Morales had that epic battle with Wayne McCullough, who could forget that?! This will be the same.
“I know O’Sullivan’s got no quit in him, he’s a people’s champion. When you see him fight, you know why. I’m sure he’s trained harder and smarter than ever before. This is the opportunity of a lifetime. If people think this is going to be a walk in the park for Munguia, you’ve got another thing coming.”