By Ian Aldous: On Saturday May 16th, The Forum in Los Angeles plays host to the WBA world middleweight championship bout as Willie ‘The Mongoose’ Monroe Jr. (19-1) challenges the defending champion and P4P ranked Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin (32-0). It’s a potentially life changing opportunity for the twenty-eight year old Monroe, and earlier this week he took some time away from his training camp to talk with me over the phone.
Golovkin is commonly known as one of the nice guys of our sport, and the same can be said for Monroe. The initial press conference announcing this fight was played out in a calm and friendly vibe between the two camps. Monroe sees himself and Gennady as two peas in a pod. “Yeah, we’re two of a kind, we’re both humble, both competitive. (We) do our work inside of the ring and outside of the ring, we’re nice people. Two of a kind.”
Over the last three years, the Kazakh born and Los Angeles based Golovkin has been consistently and devastatingly defending his middleweight belts against a growing list of credible challengers from around the globe. Despite that fact, some of those opponents have shown fleeting moments of joy before eventually succumbing to his power. “Curtis Stevens showed a few things, Gabe Rosado showed a few things and even Martin Murray showed a few things.”
It was somewhat of a shock to see Willie get the chance to battle one of the P4P best in the world. Winning the 2014 Boxcino middleweight tournament on ESPN was his launch pad and just two fights later – the chance of a lifetime awaits. But making this fight wasn’t completely straightforward and it appeared the GGG camp didn’t want to fight him. “It was shortly after he fought Martin Murray and what a lot of people don’t know and it’s closer to the fight so I can let this be released without it being too crazy (is) a lot of people don’t know that GGG’s camp turned me down twice when my name was brought up. They turned us down and they wanted to fight Tureano Johnson. There’s a picture floating around – they had already made the poster for him and Tureano and that’s who they were gonna fight. HBO was sort of like ‘We really don’t want to see you fight him because you knocked out Curtis (Stevens) and then Curtis went and knocked him out’. So then it was between me and (Jorge Sebastian) Heiland. HBO was like ‘He’s not really known in America and the only guy he’s really beat is Matthew Macklin and you (GGG) knocked him out!’ So he was almost forced to have to fight me. I know for a fact that the other two opponents was offered more money than me. I hear a lot of people saying ‘Monroe must be taking this for the money’, I know for a fact they were offered more money than I was but that’s just the type of guy I am, I like to fight.”
Winning a tournament of any kind in boxing is worthy of praise and the combined pro records of the men that ‘The Mongoose’ beat on the road to glory was a healthy 55-4-1. Apparently he was the first man to sign up for Boxcino and this illustrates his willingness to fight anyone and face risk to reap reward. “Yeah, I feel like it played out right and like I said on ESPN that I think a lot more fighters should take that approach. I got put in a bracket to fight some tough guys and I had tough fights throughout the whole Boxcino (tournament). (Donatas) Bondorovas, I fought him in his backyard and I fought him in a 16×16 ring and you know a small ring like that is kryptonite for a fighter, but I made the necessary adjustments and I won a unanimous decision. Then I fought an undefeated Ukrainian fighter (Vitaliy Kopylenko) who was an Olympian and he’d beat everybody, had a high knockout percentage and he was the favourite to win the tournament and I made him look the easiest out of everybody. Then I beat the undefeated Brandon Adams, so I think that shows a lot about the character who Willie Monroe is, period.”
Today Monroe stands a world away from the unenviable position he found himself in after dropping a split decision to Darnell Boone (the man who beat Adonis Stevenson and took Sergey Kovalev to a split decision loss) in 2011. After that loss, he was released by his then promoter – DiBella Entertainment. “Yep, a lot of people walked away. They thought I was damaged goods, you know. I guess being 10-1 is a sin in boxing. I lost a split decision in which a lot of people at ringside thought I won, but it’s just one of those things in boxing. We know how the boxing game is – been like that since day one.” He continued “I’m a firm believer in God and I’m a firm believer in hard work. If you believe and continuously work hard, keep knocking at the door and eventually one is gonna open. And if they don’t open it then kick the son of a bitch in (laughs)!”
The preparations for Willie and his team were turned upside down when less than a month ago, his trainer Tony Morgan was arrested for allegedly selling methamphetamines to undercover police officers in Florida. But, I’m to believe Tony has been working with Monroe and he told me that on May 16th, “He’s gonna be in my corner.”
Another interesting aspect building up to fight night was the news that Monroe would not be complying with the WBC safety rules entailing 30-day and 7-day weigh ins, and as a result will not be able to win the WBC interim 160lbs belt held by Golovkin. It’s something that very much fails to bother him. “What people don’t understand, I think that was another ploy to distract Willie Monroe, it’s a political thing to take me off my rocker. They’re still surprised I took the fight under the circumstances. What they fail to realise is we were never fighting for the WBC anyway. (Miguel) Cotto is the WBC champion, we’re fighting for the WBA (championship). I just cracked the top ten for the WBC – I’ve been rated top ten by the WBA and the WBO way longer, you know. I think that was just a ploy on the WBC’s behalf or maybe on Golovkin’s team’s behalf just in case he loses this fight they can still keep him in the WBC (title) picture for the Cotto fight because that’s a fight that everybody wants to see. It was smart on their behalf but that’s still not gonna stop me from taking the WBA. I haven’t really had much to say about it but one thing I will say is – How can I fail to comply with something that was never brought to me nor my team?”
Presented by K2 Promotions and GGG Promotions in association with Banner Promotions and the Forum, Gennady Golovkin Vs. Willie Monroe Jr. will be televised Live on HBO World Championship Boxing® beginning at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT on Saturday May 16th.