By Ian S Palmer
Unbeaten WBO Middleweight Champion Billy Joe Saunders of England will be defending his title against Willie Monroe Jr. of the U.S. at the Copper Box Arena in London this Saturday, September 16th. Saunders last fought in December when he beat Artur Akavov by unanimous decision. Monroe hasn’t fought since last September when he beat Gabriel Rosado by a 12-round unanimous decision. This is Saunders’ second defence of the title. The 12-round bout can be seen live in the UK on BoxNation and BT Sport. Saunders, a southpaw, won the title by stopping former champ Andy Lee of Ireland by a close 12-round majority decision in December of 2015 and had Lee down twice in the third round.
The 28-year-old Saunders enters the bout with a perfect record of 24-0 along with 12 Kos. He’s hoping to earn possible big-money fights down the road with the likes of Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and/or Gennady Golovkin, the other middleweight champion. However, he needs to get past the 30-year-old Monroe first. Saunders was also the Commonwealth Middleweight Champion with his biggest wins being against Lee and a 12-round split decision over fellow Englishman Chris Eubank Jr. In 2014.
Saunders competed in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China and has fought 151 rounds since turning pro the same year. Other notable opponents include Gary O’Sullivan and Jarrod Fletcher. The champion stands 5-feet-11-inches tall, but BoxRec doesn’t list his reach. He’s not known as a KO artist with his knockout ratio currently standing at 50 per cent. He does have decent power though and Monroe shouldn’t underrate it or his boxing ability.
Monroe Jr. Is best known for being stopped in May of 2015 by Gennady Golovkin in the sixth round in a world title shot. Since then he’s beaten John Thompson and Rosado by unanimous decisions. Monroe is also a southpaw, but hasn’t been too active lately. Monroe hails from Rochester, New York and has a record of 21-2 along with 6 Kos. He’s won 11 of his last 12 bouts with the lone loss being to Golovkin. His other career defeat came at the hands of Darnell Boone via split decision back in 2011.
Monroe is a skilled boxer with a solid chin who stands 5-feet-10-inches tall and has a 74-inch reach. He possesses very little in the way of power though as his knockout ratio currently stands at just 26 per cent. He turned pro in 2008 and has fought 140 rounds since then. Monroe took part in the Boxcino Middleweight Tournament in 2014 and defeated Brandon Adams, Donatas Bondorovas and VItaliy Kopylenko. He also has a win over Brian Vera.
Monroe has done pretty well so far against Grade B opponents, but his wins over Vera and Rosado should be noted and he did as well as he could against Golovkin. However, he hasn’t faced a steady diet of Grade A fighters. But that being said, Saunders isn’t the best middleweight champion of recent years and the Briton didn’t look too impressive against Akavov. Saunders will need to box much better against Monroe if he hopes to retain his belt.
This is actually an evenly-matched bout with both being good boxers and Saunders having the edge in power. The champion needs to be at his best though as Monroe won’t be an easy opponent for him. I think Saunders is just a bit better at the moment though and should win a close decision.