WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders (24-0, 12 KOs) spent the better part of Monday’s kickoff press conference telling #5 WBO Willie Monroe Jr. (21-2, 6 KOs) that he’s “mentally weak” ahead of their fight on September 16 at the Copper Box Arena in London, England.
The 30-year-old Monroe Jr. is the replacement for Saunders’ previous opponent Avtandil Khurtsidze, who was arrested recently and is unable to take the fight. During Monday’s press conference, Saunders, 27, continually reminded Monroe Jr. that he quit in the 6th round in his stoppage loss to middleweight champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin on May 16, 2015.
Monroe Jr. was knocked down by GGG in the 6th. After getting back up, Monroe told the referee that he didn’t want to continue fighting. Saunders thinks that Monroe showed mental weakness by not sticking it out and going out on his shield like a warrior against Golovkin. In looking at that fight, Monroe had no chance if he had continued in the 6th. Golovkin was just getting warmed up, and he would have likely finished Monroe off had the fight been allowed to continue.
The winner of the Monroe vs. Saunders fight will be able to use the WBO middleweight title to get the winner of the September 16 fight between Golovkin and Saul Canelo Alvarez. There’s a lot of money to be made in the Saunders-Monroe Jr. fight facing the winner of the Canelo-GGG match. That fight probably won’t take place until 2018, as there’s likely going to be a rematch between Canelo and Golovkin in December. There’s too much cash to be made for the two fighters to move on without fighting again right away. This isn’t a fight that Canelo and Golovkin want to make the boxing fans wait for. They have to make the rematch while the iron is still hot.
“It’s a great fight. Willie Monroe’s record is 21-2. One of those losses is to Golovkin,” said Saunders’ promoter Frank Warren during Monday’s Saunders-Monroe kickoff press conference. “This is a mandatory defense. The winner of this comes through; they have the WBO title, which is the piece of the jigsaw puzzle, the winner of Golovkin-Canelo will want. So I’m in Bill’s corner. If he comes through, we’ll be pushing very hard. We’ve had conversations with Golovkin’s people. We can do that fight in December provided Gennady Golovkin wins. If not, then maybe Canelo in the New Year,” said Warren.
There is a chance that Saunders could wind up fighting Golovkin in December. If Golovkin knock out Canelo in an impressive fashion, then it’s probable that Canelo’s promoters at Golden Boy will steer him away from fighting Golovkin again. Canelo is too valuable to fight GGG a second time under those circumstances. As such, Golovkin would then look to fight the Saunders-Monroe Jr. winner in December.
Personally, I see Monroe Jr. beating the stuffing out of Saunders in front of his own boxing fans in London on September 16. Neither guy can punch, but Monroe Jr. has a little more pop in his punches, and he’s got MUCH better stamina. Saunders is a 6-round fighter at best, and he’s only had one fight in the last 2 years in squeaking by fringe contender Artur Akavov on December 3, 2016. That was a very, very close fight that easily could have gone to Akavov. Indeed, Boxing News 24 scored that match for Akavov. Saunders gassed out after 5 rounds, and did nothing for the last 7 rounds. I don’t know what fight that judges were watching, but it wasn’t the same one I saw. I had Akavov winning.
I’ll be surprised if Saunders makes it into the fight with Monroe Jr. without pulling out due to an injury. Saunders twice dealt with injuries during 2016, which kept him out of the ring for 12 months. Saunders put on a lot of weight during his time out of the ring. He did take the weigh off to fight Akavov, but he fought poorly. Saunders admitted himself that he wasn’t happy with his performance. He talked about how he had to take off a lot of weight to get in shape for the Akavov title defense, and that he felt sluggish in the ring against him.
“I think he’s a good boxer. He’s got skill,” said Saunders about Monroe. “He’s been in there with good opposition. He’s been in there with Golovkin, but came up short. I think it’s going to be a very tough fight, but I think I’ve got the edge. No disrespect to him, but in round 6 with his fight with Golovkin, he said he was done. That’s not a good sign from a warrior. My spirit wouldn’t let me do that. I’d get knocked out cold first. So I look at him and frown upon. It’ll be a 12 week camp for this fight, and definitely 100 percent, I’m going to win,” said Saunders.
What’s interesting is that Saunders is now being trained by Dominic Ingle, the same trainer for former IBF welterweight champion Kell “Special K” Brook. We just saw Brook quit in his last two fights against Errol Spence Jr. and Golovkin. Saunders is talking about quitting, and he’s got a trainer whose fighter Brook just quit. Saunders might want to make sure there are no towels lying around during his fight with Monroe Jr. Ingle threw in the towel in the 5th round to save Brook when he started taking punishment at the hands of Golovkin. Brook had stopped throwing punches, and he was just trying to make Golovkin miss. Brook was doing a poor job of it. Had Ingle not tossed in the towel, Brook would have surely been pummeled into the canvas. If Monroe Jr. starts working the flabby Saunders over in the second half of the fight, hopefully we don’t see Ingle throwing in the towel to save him. I mean, with Saunders flapping his gums about him being a warrior and how he would go out on his shield if he were in the same place as Monroe Jr. in his fight with Golovkin. It might not look good if Ingle throws in the towel to keep Saunders from going out on his shield. I’m just saying.
“That was 2015. It’s 2017 now,” said Monroe Jr. in addressing him quitting against Golovkin.
There’s no shame in Monroe telling the referee that he didn’t want to continue fighting Golovkin. Monroe was badly hurt and there was no way he was going to be able to continue for more than 20 seconds.
“Once you surrender once, you will surrender again, 100 percent,” said Saunders to Monroe. “A fighter just can’t quit. We’re in the wrong sport to do that. I’m not Golovkin, but when our skills are coming up with skills and our wills are coming up with wills, I know one thing, I won’t quit. I think he’s a very good fighter, but I think he’ll be lacking talent on the night,” said Saunders.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Saunders quits against Monroe. If Saunders gets tired, I can definitely see him quitting.
“Experience,” said Monroe Jr. in being asked ‘what’s the difference between him now and him back in his fight with Golovkin.’
“He’s only boxed once since then, so let’s just say there’s 36 minutes difference in a years past,” said Saunders.
Saunders obviously hasn’t been keeping up with Monroe’s boxing career in the last 2 years. Monroe Jr. has fought TWICE, not once since his loss to Golovkin in 2015. Since his loss to Triple G, Saunders has beaten Gabriel Rosado and John Thompson in his last 2 fights. Saunders seems to only know about Monroe’s fight with Rosado. Monroe has been busier than Saunders. That’s the sad part. Saunders has fought just once in the last 2 years. At least with Monroe, he’s fought twice in the last 2 years. Neither of these guys has been busy with their careers. Monroe Jr. just hasn’t been given the opportunities. With Saunders, he’s had injuries.
“He’s a good fighter,” said Monroe about Saunders. “He’s going to get his [expletive] whipping worse if he keeps talking like that. We took Golovkin on 6 weeks’ notice; the same thing with [Gabriel] Rosado. We took that on 4 weeks’ notice. Before that, we took John Thompson on 4 weeks’ notice,” said Monroe.
I see the Saunders-Monroe Jr. fight as one that Monroe Jr. will likely win. He’s got the far better stamina of the two, and the superior punching power. As long as Monroe Jr. makes sure that he knocks Saunders out, I see him winning with flying colors. However, I doubt that Monroe Jr. can win a decision. I don’t think they’ll give it to Monroe Jr. unless he drops Saunders 3 or more times. I can’t see the judges giving Monroe Jr. a decision victory with him being the visiting fighter.
“No disrespect, Rosado is a journeyman, isn’t he?” said Saunders to Monroe Jr. “But you’re always in shape, you always live the life, so it doesn’t matter if you took it on 2 weeks’ notice,” said Saunders in trying to convince Monroe Jr. that it doesn’t matter if he took the fight with Golovkin on short notice.
I wouldn’t say that Rosado is a journeyman. He just gave contender Martin Murray all he could handle in arguably being robbed of a decision in losing a 12 round majority decision on April 22 in Liverpool, England. A lot of boxing fans had Rosado beating Murray. Rosado beat Antonio Gutierrez and Joshua Clottey recently. Those are good fighters. Saunders would have his hands full with either of those guys.
“It’s just experience,” said Monroe Jr. in discussing why he lost to GGG. “It was early in my career and I never had these big backers, these big money guys in my corner to make sure things happen. So when a fight like that comes up, you take it. I think I gave a great account of myself, but that may have been too big of a moment. The moment shook me up more than the fight. When you step into an arena and you have 15,000 screaming fans, and 14,990 are for the other guy that you’re fighting and he’s supposed to be God, that moment can shake you up. I’m human. Billy Joe Saunders has had a great promoter in Frank Warren. His fights have been in his backyard. He hasn’t had to go into the lion’s den and fight a guy with all of those screaming fans against him,” said Monroe Jr.
“As a fighter, it doesn’t matter about backers and money,” said Saunders in trying to say that it doesn’t matter if a fighter has good management. “When you get in the ring, it’s only me and you. With you can Golovkin, you said, ‘I’m done,’ so you are a mentally weak person. I know by looking at you in your eye that mentally, you’re weak. I can tell that,” said Saunders about Monroe Jr.
“By looking at you, I can tell you’re fat,” said Monroe Jr. about Saunders.
“You’re right, I might be fat,” said Saunders in agreeing with Monroe Jr’s observation of him being a fat person. “I can look at you in the eye and know what type of person you are. You have to be patted on the back. I know, I can see in your eye, you’ll quit. Listen, you’re a good fighter. When you’re on top, you’re a very good fighter. The reason you don’t have backers and people to look after you, when it comes down to the big time, that big crunch, you don’t have that crunch in you,” said Saunders.
Just how Saunders can sum up Monroe’s entire person by looking at him in the eye is the big question. The two fighters weren’t even making eye contact during the press conference, and yet Saunders kept yapping about looking Monroe in the eyes. It didn’t make sense. When you say something like that, you’re supposed to be looking at your opponent and not at the audience the way that Saunders was doing during the press conference today. I got the impression that Saunders was talking about another fighter, and not Monroe.
“You don’t know nothing about me,” said a very calm Monroe Jr. to Saunders.
“Listen, I don’t know you, but I can look in your eye,” said Saunders to Monroe. “I’ve studied you enough to know what type of fighter you are. When you’re looking good and rocking and rolling, you look like $1 million dollars. But when someone puts it on you, you’ll quit and that’s a fact,” said Saunders.
“On September 16, you’ll have 12 rounds or less to show me,” said Monroe Jr. to Saunders.
It’s going to look bad if Saunders gets whipped by Monroe Jr., given all the trash talking that he’s doing now. Saunders is just getting warmed up with his trash talking. I think he’ll continue to flap his gums up to the moment the two fighters touch gloves inside the ring on September 16. Saunders wants/needs to get inside Monroe’s head so that can gain an edge and somehow beat him. Monroe has the better boxing skills, ring IQ, and he’s more athletic fighter of the two. Monroe has more talent and a better engine.
“I’ll be obliging you that, and I’ll be defending the belt against you,” said Saunders to Monroe. “You’re not mentally strong enough to beat me, ever. Even if I got in the ring fat and unfit, you’ll never beat me mentally,” said Saunders.
“I understand it’s gamesmanship,” said Monroe Jr. in commenting about the blunt trash talking that Saunders was doing.
“It’s not gamesmanship,” said Saunders. “I see you say, ‘I’m done,’ in the ring. You did do that. I’m only speaking the truth about what went on.”
“I had my opportunity against Golovkin. I didn’t win,” said Monroe. “I’m thankful for the opportunity [to fight Saunders for his WBO title], because it puts me in the position to be the missing piece in the middleweight division. So that brings you back full circle. The only belt missing from the middleweight collection between Golovkin and Canelo is the WBO, and I need that,” said Monroe.
“To be fair, you were in the fight,” said Saunders to Monroe Jr. in reminding him about his fight with GGG. “You were giving a good account of yourself, but when it got to that little bit where you had to dig to climb that first part of the mountain, you decided to say, [‘I’m done.’]. You beat the count. I’m only asking you what did you have enough for. Did the gas run out? What was it? I’m only asking you to explain yourself, because it intrigues me. Do you want to watch the video? When I look at it, you look alright,” said Saunders in talking about the video of the GGG vs. Monroe Jr. fight.
“I don’t believe I owe you any explanation right now,” said Monroe Jr. to Saunders. “Come September 16, you’re going to have 12 rounds or less.”
“I can listen to your voice and kook into your eye, you’re a mentally weak person,” said Saunders to Monroe Jr. “You can be beat mentally.”