Sparks are flying as the WBO World Middleweight Title contest between Britain’s Billy Joe Saunders and America’s Willie Monroe Jr fast approaches. Saunders has been outspoken in the build up and his antics have progressed to a new level as the fight draws near. It will be the Englishman’s first fight in over nine months as he looks to forget a poor performance against previous opponent Artur Akavov and return to his best. Monroe is coming to London for his second attempt at clinching a world title, his first ended in a defeat to the boss of the division Gennady Golovkin. The fight has gained some momentum as the event draws near, but the fight itself was greeted with a mixed response.
Saunders is undefeated. He’s been a world champion for just under two years. However, he is not a household name and still has major critics in the boxing community. His controversial nature harms his status slightly but it is his lack of competitive action since becoming WBO champ that has caused issues. He won the belt back in December of 2015 in a mixed decision win against Andy Lee. The fight was a close affair, but Saunders scored two knock downs on his opponent in the third round which ultimately sealed the victory.
Since that famous night Saunders has only defended his WBO strap once against Akavov in what was a terrible night for Saunders. He was far from his usual standard and was extremely sloppy. He did win by unanimous decision and after the fight he slammed his own performance and said that he could forget a potential fight with Middleweight king GGG if he continued to perform as he had done.
Still boasting an unbeaten record since his debut in early 2009 Saunders most famous night came against English rival Chris Eubank Jr. Saunders was able to storm into an early lead and hold off a late Eubank rally to claim a split decision victory. Saunders showed great boxing skills to put Eubank on the back foot early. He got behind his jab and stopped Eubank imposing his aggressive style on the fight. A rematch is touted for the future and with both being outspoken it could be a great fight for British Boxing.
His opponent will be no pushover. Coming off the back of his second career defeat against Golovkin he has been able to win his next two fights before taking this shot at the WBO champion. Back to back unanimous decision wins against John Thompson and Gabriel Rosado who are both at a decent standard will give the American confidence.
As for causing Saunders problems it may have to be technique that the American turns to. He has no real knockout power in either hand only managing six KO’s in his 21 wins. He has good boxing ability but it is difficult to see him getting the better of an in-form Saunders. If Saunders comes in and performs as he did against Akavov Monroe may be able to cause his some real issues. Saunders will be hoping that he can see off an American fighter going for his world title unlike fellow Brit Kell Brook.
Saunders has a new trainer in Dominic Ingle, after splitting with Adam Booth, which could see his career take an upturn. Ingle has certainly improved Saunders physique and he looks more like a world champion than he has before. The change in trainer, diet and workout regime could be related to comments Canelo Alvarez made when Saunders hijacked the announcement of his fight with GGG. Canelo told the British fighter to get into shape and ‘lose some weight’ before getting in the ring with either himself or Golovkin. Saunders has obviously taken those comments on board and looks to be in the best shape of his life.
The Ingle’s are a legendary boxing family. Brendan Ingle, Dominic’s father, trained Naseem Hamed and Johnny Nelson (amongst others) and his son has gone on to train fighters such as Kell Brook, Junior Witter and Kid Galahad. It is fair to say that the family know a little bit about top level boxing. With a camp with the Ingle in his locker expect a different Saunders. He looks fitter, he looks sharp and his confidence seems unflappable.
Monroe said that the fact Saunders was raising his voice meant he feared him. Unfortunately for the American that is not the case. Saunders has always been outspoken and being out of the ring for so long will only have intensified the fire in him. Saunders will start fast and it will be a case of Monroe trying to hold on.
It is the time for Saunders to silence all his critics and go and get the huge fights that are waiting for him in the middleweight division. A good performance against Monroe will see him legitimately stake a claim to a mega fight, perhaps with the winner out of GGG and Canelo. Failing that there are some British rivals who will be looking to fight the unbeaten champion.
It all starts with this fight. He needs to deliver after such a long stretch of time and so little fights. It is time for Saunders to make a real statement.
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