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Saunders Vs Monroe Jr – Lackluster In London




In the hours before the Gennady Golovkin – Saul Alvarez mega fight in Las Vegas the only piece of middleweight hardware not on the line in the Nevada desert was up for grabs in London, England. Home fighter Billy Joe Saunders, returning after a ten month layoff, was defending his WBO 160lb strap against Willie Monroe Jr of America.

Understandably, due to the excitement surrounding Golovkin’s showdown with Alvarez, Saunders vs. Monroe Jr was flying very much under the radar. This was until Friday’s weigh-in. After the formalities had been completed Saunders’ ten year old son wormed his way between the fighters and punched Monroe Jr in his nether region. The little miscreant then swung a kick at the American boxer before he was removed from the stage. Even by boxing’s standards this was a bizarre incident in which only Monroe, due to showing impeccable restraint, emerged with any credit.

This unsavoury episode drew attention to the fight and created a bit of an uproar on social media. From what I saw most fans were hoping that Monroe Jr would have his revenge by leaving London with the title. It was not to be as the challenger adopted a strange wait and see game plan against an opponent who looked ripe for the picking. As a result of this Saunders retained his title after twelve uninspiring rounds.

If you didn’t see this fight don’t worry – just read the rest of this report and you will be up to speed – I watched it so you don’t have to.

As the clock was approaching midnight local time the bout began but the in-ring action would’ve done nothing to help anyone attempting to fight off any drowsy feelings. The two southpaw boxers tentatively exchanged jabs in the opening four rounds but the punch output was low and the pace slow. Monroe Jr wanted to wait and counter while this suited Saunders, who looked happy to conserve energy. An accidental head clash in the fourth round opened a small cut near Saunders’ right eye but this was easily taken care of by his cut-man,

Monroe Jr continued with his wait and see approach as we entered the second third of the contest. It looked clear, even at this early stage, that this would not be enough to score an away victory. Despite this I had the scores all level on my card at the halfway stage as Saunders wasn’t exactly convincing with his work either. Monroe Jr’s faster jab was keeping him in the hunt and if he had followed this up with some left hands or body shots he may have prevailed.

Saunders showed slightly more aggression in the seventh and eighth rounds and then Monroe Jr’s continued, perplexing waiting in the ninth allowed the champion to take some sort of command on my scorecard. I’m sorry there isn’t any actual punches of note to describe here – there weren’t any.

The overall slow pace of the fight had me hoping that both guys, with plenty left in their respective tanks, would open up in the closing stages and provide those of us still paying attention with some excitement. This optimism was misplaced. Saunders by virtue of spending the tenth round on the front foot secured another round on my card before finally Monroe Jr awoke from his slumber. In the penultimate frame the American finally threw a couple of fast combinations, landing and looking good in doing so. Monroe Jr followed this explosion of work up with an energetic (comparatively speaking) closing round – he let his left hand go and had some success with it as Saunders, unbelievably looking exhausted, staggered to the final bell on fumes.

The closing two rounds brought the scores closer on my card (115-113 Saunders) and there was no doubt that, despite looking ripe for the taking, the title would be going home with the Englishman. The judges concurred scoring it 117-111, 115-114 and 117-112 for Saunders. That brought one of the poorest world title fights I have ever watched to an end.

Saunders (25-0-0, 12KOs) if he’s being brutally honest can’t be happy with this performance. He got dragged down to Monroe Jr’s level and pace and still somehow looked short of stamina in the closing stages. If he steps up to face either Golovkin or Alvarez, on the evidence of last night, Saunders would be lucky to make it into the second half of the fight. Monroe Jr (21-3-0, 6KOs) will be kicking himself on his trans-Atlantic flight home, knowing that perhaps he will never again have a better chance to lift one of the major world titles in the 160lb division.

We didn’t get to hear from Monroe Jr during the post fight in-ring interviews and Saunders said nothing of importance or consequence. It seems appropriate then to end with a word from the individual who got everyone talking about this fight in the first place. At the request of his father, Saunders Jr stepped up to the microphone to offer Monroe Jr an apology. “Sorry for punching you in the nuts” the youngster offered with a devilish smirk on his face which indicated a serious lack of sincerity.

A weigh-in low blow and a child’s apology book-ended a disappointing world title contest. There is nothing more to say as the crazy world of boxing keeps turning and keeps us all coming back for more week after week.

A boxing fan since his teenage years, Morrison began writing about the sport in July 2016. He appreciates all styles of boxing and has nothing but respect for those who get in the ring for our entertainment. Morrison is from Scotland and can be found on Twitter @Morrie1981.