The Other Middleweight Titleholder: Billy Joe Saunders Defeats Willie Monroe Jr.
Billy Joe Saunders has the one other world title at middleweight — he has the WBO belt, while Gennady Golovkin has the IBF, WBA and WBC titles and Canelo Alvarez is the lineal champion. But if Saunders wants to be something other than a side note in the grander conversation, he’ll need to show more than he did on Saturday night.
Saunders won a unanimous decision over Willie Monroe Jr. in a fight that wasn’t much to watch. It started off tense and tentative and remained largely devoid of sustained action, with Monroe not letting his hands go enough and Saunders letting loose enough to win but not enough to entertain. There were just too few punches of consequence thrown, never mind landed.
Some of that is Monroe’s fault; it can be difficult to look good against an opponent so intent on defense at the expense of offense. Then again, Golovkin was able to take Monroe out in six rounds back in 2015. It’s fair to say that Saunders isn’t Golovkin.
Saunders is more of a boxer, and a decently skilled one. He’d beaten Andy Lee for a world title at the end of 2015 but has been very inactive, sidelined for most of 2016 by injuries. He beat unheralded Artur Akavov last December. This bout with Monroe was his first fight of the year, thanks to a bout with mandatory contender Avtandil Khurtsidze being canceled when Khurtsidze was arrested as part of a federal crackdown on an alleged organized gang.
Saunders, who moves to 25-0 with 12 KOs, called out Amir Khan afterward. That’s a fight that would make money, but otherwise it makes little sense and matters even less. It would mean even less than when Canelo knocked out Khan in 2016.
The best thing Saunders can do instead is get a fight made with any of the many legit middleweight contenders and prospects around. He needs to fight more often, and he needs to fight more meaningful opponents. Even if Golovkin and Canelo aren’t fighting Saunders, there are several others who would take him on for a shot at the title.
Monroe, who is now 21-3 with 6 KOs, is a decent fringe contender but otherwise has twice fallen short when he’s stepped up.