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Monroe Jr. doubts Saunders’ new conditioning will help him

Billy Joe Saunders

By Scott Gilfoid: WBO middleweight belt holder Billy Joe Saunders (24-0, 12 KOs) has dropped a lot of weight in training camp to get ready for his title defense against former world title challenger Willie Monroe Jr. (21-2, 6 KOs) in 10 days from now on September 16 at the Copper Box Arena in London, England.

While Saunders has done an admirable job in burning off the blubber to trim down to near the 160 lb. limit for the fight, the 30-year-old Monroe Jr. doesn’t believe it’s going to help him any. Monroe Jr. points out that there’s a significant difference between a fighter that stays in shape year-round compared to one that burns off a lot of weight to get in shape for a fight the way that Saunders is doing. In other words, losing a lot of weight for an important fight isn’t going to make Saunders the same fighter he would have been had he been in excellent shape for the past 2 years. Saunders has fought only 3 times since 2015. He’s mostly been sitting on the shelf since he won the WBO middleweight title off Andy Lee in 2015.

Saunders recently posted a photo of his trim physique, showing that he’s burned off a lot of weight and looking like something out of an old ‘Rambo’ movie. It’s impressive that Saunders, 28, has taken off so much weight for his fight with Monroe Jr., but it might not bring him back to the fighter that he once was before he started to have his weight issues years ago.

“[It] really doesn’t matter how good of shape a man can get into in 12 weeks when compared to a man who lives the ‘in-shape’ life,” said Monroe Jr. about Saunders on his Instagram.

I totally agree with Monroe Jr. about his thoughts on someone who suddenly takes off a mess of weight, and then thinks they can compete with someone who is always in shape. Like a lot of fighters that balloon up in weight in between fights, Saunders fights well for the first 5 to 6 rounds of his matches, but then he fades badly after that and is very beatable. We saw that in Saunders’ fights against Lee, Chris Eubank Jr. and Artur Akavov. Boxing News 24 scored Saunders’ fights with Lee and Eubank Jr. as 12 round draws. Saunders should have lost to Akavov, because he totally ran out of gas after just 5 rounds. Akavov, who was little more than a fringe contender, dominated rounds 6-12, but he wasn’t given the victory.

Saunders was bellyaching after the fight about how he had to take off a ton of weight to get down to the middleweight limit, and he felt that he wasn’t at his best due to the weight loss. That was last December. Saunders has once again had to lose a lot of weight for his fight against Monroe Jr. It’s unclear how long Saunders has been in training camp. Monroe Jr. says he’s been in training camp for 12 weeks. That is an incredibly long training camp, isn’t it? Usually fighters train for 8 weeks to get ready for a fight. Saunders’ 12 week training camp suggests that the first part of the training camp was a glorified fat farm for him to burn off the weight before the serious part of the training camp started.

“I don’t call names and look for reasons why I should win because I already know I’m gonna win Sept 16th he will be locked in a ring with an animal!” said Monroe Jr.

The way for Monroe Jr. to beat Saunders is as follows:

• Pressure him for the full 3 minutes of every round

• Don’t let Saunders rest. He likes to rest a lot because of all the weight he takes off for his training camps

• Target Saunders’ bread basket. He seems to hate when he gets hit to the body. It drains him like a battery.

• Ignore Saunders’ showboating style in the first 6 rounds. Saunders likes to showboat early on in his fights to try and unnerve his opponents. Ignore that and stay mentally composed to wear Saunders down

• Stay close. Don’t let Saunders move around the ring without staying on top of him Golovkin style. Saunders needs space for him to do well. When he has someone in close quarters, he struggles badly

The thing that Monroe Jr. has going against him in his fight with Saunders is the fact that he’s the visiting fighter entering into the lion’s next in London, England. Saunders is the home fighter in England, and you’ve got to imagine that it’s going to be hard as heck for Monroe Jr. to get a decision win on September 16 unless he does something extraordinary like knocking Saunders down 6 or 7 times to make it a blatantly one-sided fight. Monroe’s lack of punching power will be a problem for him when it comes to getting a victory. I still think Monroe Jr. can win a decision, but he’ll probably need to dominate Saunders the way he did his last opponent Gabriel Rosado in their fight last year on September 17, 2016.

Monroe Jr. is coming off of a 12 month layoff to take the fight with Saunders, and he could have stamina and/or ring rust issues of his own given his long period of inactivity. The World Boxing Organization has kept Monroe Jr. rated in their top 10 all this time despite his long time out of the ring. It’s a big strange how the sanctioning bodies doesn’t give the boot to inactive fighters and focus on ranking guys that are staying busy with their careers.

Just recently the WBO had Miguel Cotto ranked No.1 at 154 despite him having been out of the ring for 20 months, and coming off of a 12 round decision defeat at the hands of Mexican star Saul Canelo Alvarez. I don’t know about you, but if I’m ranking fighters, I’m definitely not going to be putting someone at the No.1 spot if he’s been out of the ring for 20 months and coming off of a loss. Monroe Jr. is a good fighter though, as he showed in his win over Rosado and in his competitive bout with middleweight champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin in 2015.

Saunders’ tendency to balloon up in weight will hurt him against Monroe Jr. on September 16 in my view. Saunders is another Ricky Hatton in terms of the way he lets himself go in between fights. It’s almost as if he forgets his job is to be an athlete, and he lets himself go. Gaining all that weight after each fight is bad news for anyone in boxing. The time to gain weight is after your career is over, not while it’s still going on. I think Saunders had gotten his priorities confused. He’s supposed to be an athlete, but he’s been acting more like a retired fighter gaining weight and not doing much to keep his weight down. With just 1 fight in 2016 and 2 fights in 2015, I doubt that Saunders can get back to the fighter that he once was. When an athlete takes their foot off the accelerator in their respective careers, they lose the edge that they had over their competition, and rarely are they able to get back to the level they once were at. I think that’s going to be the case with Saunders.

I can’t picture Saunders beating Monroe Jr. without controversy. Saunders may win, but I see him getting another Akavov-type decision in his favor instead of a clear cut one. Monroe Jr. has got to realize what he’s up against in facing Saunders. He’s entering into Saunders’s home country with a lot of pro-Saunders boxing fans that will be present on September 16 to cheer him on. If all the judges are hearing is cheering for Saunders, then you can assume that he’ll have an advantage when it comes to scoring of the fight. It take a really good judge to shutout the fan applause that they’re hearing and focus on the actual fight that’s taking place in front of them.

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