Willie Monroe sees Canelo beating Saunders
By Barry Holbrook: Former two-division world champion Willie Monroe Jr is giving Canelo Alvarez a 60-40 edge over Billy Joe Saunders when the two meet up on May 8th in their unification fight at 168.
Monroe (24-3, 6 KOs) views WBO super middleweight champion Saunders (30-0, 14 KOs) as a major talent, but he feels that his inactivity could negatively impact his performance against WBA/WBO champ Canelo (54-1-2, 36 KOs).
Up until recently, the Mexican star has been just as inactive as Saunders, but he’s changing that by taking on his WBC mandatory Avni Yildirim on February 27th.
That’ll give Canelo a slight edge, and it could be enough for him to get the ‘W’ against Saunders in May.
If not for Saunders being inactive, Monroe, 34, says he would see the Canelo contest as a 50-50 match-up.
Saunders beat Monroe by a 12 round unanimous decision in September 2017 in a fight that was mostly one-sided.
Monroe’s dogged determination allowed him to be competitive, and he won rounds that he otherwise shouldn’t have due to Saunders taking his foot off the gas pedal in the later rounds.
Saunders can ill afford to get lazy against Canelo because he’s already going to be up against it in trying to win a decision against the star in the U.S, which is where the match is expected to take place.
Saunders’ inactivity could hurt him
“I pretty much agree with what Tyson Fury says. When you got crafty guys like defensive wizards, who are guys that like to think of themselves as defensive wizards, and they fight off the sharpness and skill, you have to keep them busy,” said Willie Monroe to iFL TV when asked about Billy Joe Saunders’ chances against Canelo.
“When you look at [Erislandy] Lara or myself or Billy Joe Saunders, somebody that is more of a technical boxer, you’ll see a lot of ring rust settle in when we’re not busy.
“When we’re really busy, you’ll see we’re on point. Billy Joe Saunders is a really skilled fighter, crafty, slick counter-puncher.
“A fighter like that with tools like that, you have to be busy, and I kind of agree with what Tyson Fury says.
“He needs to get busy. But who knows? He may have been sparring all this time and had something up his sleeves. He’s a tricky guy, so you just never know,” Monroe Jr said about Billy Joe.
Inactivity has been an ongoing problem for Saunders since he first became a world champion in 2015. He’s had injury issues, and he’s let himself go in between fights physically by failing to stay in shape.
Who can forget how poor Saunders looked in his questionable 12 round decision win over Artur Akavov in 2016.
Many boxing fans thought Saunders was gifted a decision over the Russian fighter.
That was Saunders’ first title defense of his WBO middleweight belt after having beaten Andy Lee in his previous matches.
So the willingness for Saunders to stay focused in between contests hasn’t been there from start, and that’s likely had an impact on his readiness for many of his fights in the last five years.
Monroe giving Canelo a 60-40 edge
“Right now, it’s 60-40 because, as Tyson Fury says, he [Saunders] hasn’t been busy, and that’s what I eluded to earlier,” Monroe said in leaning in Canelo’s direction to defeat Billy Joe.
“I would say 60-40 for Canelo. It would be more of a 50-50 fight had he [Saunders] been busy, but as you said, during the pandemic, nobody has been busy.
“But we don’t know what Billy has been doing. He could have been staying sharp in the UK, lowkey, and we just don’t know about it, which would have suited him, you know?
“But I think what Tyson Fury said, it’s true. When you got a guy [Saunders] that is very crafty, slick, skillfully, quick, those type of fighters needs to be busy.
“Canelo is slick, and he’s got some crafty moves too. He hasn’t been busy, but he’s been busier than Billy, and he’s probably a bigger puncher too.
“So sometimes if you’re not that skilled and crafty, you still hold that punch. You can win a fight. I’ve seen it happen all the time. I’ve seen guys win 11 rounds and they get knocked out in the 12th,” said Monroe.
The Billy Joe that we saw give David Lemieux a boxing lesson in 2017 would be a major headache for Canelo if he could recapture that form.
That was four years ago, unfortunately, and Saunders hasn’t shown the same form in his four fights since that time.
We can only base Sanders on how he’s looked recently, and the fighter that we’ve seen since 2018 is just a shell of the guy that took Lemieux to school.
Can Saunders get back to where he was approximately 1,500 yesterdays ago? Possibly, but it’s going to take a lot of work for him to get there.
Canelo vs. Saunders will be VERY competitive
“Yeah, very competitive and very interesting,” said Monroe when asked if he views the Canelo vs. Saunders clash as a competitive one.
“With Billy Joe Saunders’ movement and being able to make those quick southpaw moves off the run.
“When you look at Canelo when he fought Lara and Austin Trout, you see those southpaw moves that gave him problems.
“Billy Joe Saunders can be real tricky and get in his head, almost like he did with David Lemieux. I think he could do well.
“Nah, there was nothing I wasn’t expecting. I knew I was fighting another tricky southpaw, you know what I mean?” said Monroe when asked if Saunders showed him something in their fight that he wasn’t expecting to see.
“He had edge and skill. I knew exactly what I was getting into when I fought him,” Monroe Jr said.
What could hurt Saunders is the weight that he packed on during the pandemic when he was inactive for over a year.
Saunders put on a lot of weight during a 13-month period from after his win over Marcelo Esteban Coceres in 2019 to his fight against Martin Murray last December.
Although Saunders took the weight off, he looked sluggish, even worse than he did in his two previous contests at 168 against Coceres and Shefat Isufi.
Billy Joe’s bad habit of kicking back and packing on the pounds in between fights isn’t conducive for him staying sharp, and keeping his boxing kills to where they would need to be for him to beat Canelo.
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