D’Mitrius Ballard didn’t know whether this moment would come.
The one-time amateur standout, who lost in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, toiled eight-plus years as a pro before finally landing a big fight as a late replacement against middleweight contender Jamie Munguia in April of last year only to lose the opportunity when he suffered an elbow injury in training.
Munguia would go on to defeat Kamil Szeremeta and Gabriel Rosado in June and November, with a healthy Ballard outpointing Paul Valenzuela Jr. on the latter card.
However, he didn’t know whether he’d get a second chance against Munguia until the call finally came. They’ll fight on Feb. 19 in Tijuana, Munguia’s hometown.
“It was iffy,” Ballard told Boxing Junkie. “Sometimes the call never comes again. I thought I might’ve missed the boat. My family, my wife, my kids, everybody kept me uplifted. I continued to work, continued to build.
“And then I got the call that I would get the same opportunity in Mexico. I’m not worried about that. I’m just happy.”
Now he has to take care of business against one of the top young fighters in the world.
Munguia (38-0, 30 KOs) is a former junior middleweight titleholder who has ability and heavy hands. Also, he seems to be improving under the direction of Hall of Famer Erik Morales, who has trained him for two-plus years.
Ballard was asked what he believes to be Munguia’s greatest strength. “His ability to impose his will,” he said.
At the same time, Ballard (21-0-1, 13 KOs) believes he has the God-given tools and experience to give any 160-pounder problems. That’s why this opportunity is so monumental for him: He now has the chance to prove himself on a large platform (DAZN).
“I feel like I’m a complete fighter,” he said. “I feel I can do it all. I can adapt to whatever happens in the ring. I haven’t fought anyone like him but he hasn’t fought anyone like me either.”
The victory over Valenzuela was important for Ballard. Before that fight, he hadn’t fought in nearly two years because of the coronavirus pandemic and then his injury.
And he had a disappointing 2019 in the ring, a no-contest when opponent Elias Espadas suffered a cut in June and a majority draw against 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Yamaguchi Falcao of Brazil in December.
Ballard didn’t look great against Valenzuela but he did more than enough to win, taking eight of the 10 rounds on all three cards.
“Just getting myself back to boxing was great for me, getting back in the ring, getting back in the groove, getting back to throwing punches,” he said.
That was three months ago, meaning the ring rust has been shed and he should be sharp for the biggest moment of his career, a shot at a rising star and former champion who holds a minor world title.
“It’s crazy,” he said. “I remember when I was 12, 14, 15 I would visualize this moment, fighting for a world title in another fighter’s backyard. It just happens that it’s in Mexico. It’s funny how things turn out.
“… Eighteen years of boxing, nine years as a pro, this definitely is my biggest opportunity.”