By Scott Gilfoid, first uploaded on Boxing News 24.
WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders has dropped a lot of weight to prepare for his title defense against Willie Monroe Jr. (21-2, 6 KOs) in 8 days from now on September 16, and he says he’s in the best shape he’s ever been for a fight. Saunders, 28, had better hope so, because his dream of fighting the winner of the Saul Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady “GGG” Golovkin fight could go up in smoke if he gets beaten by Monroe Jr.
Saunders vs. Monroe Jr. is a 50-50 fight in my eyes, and in the eyes of ton of boxing fans. Saunders has looked dreadful for a long time now in his fights. He’s a glorified 6-round fighter, who has gotten lucky in his last 2 fights in winning very questionable decisions against Artur Akavov and Andy Lee. If Saunders is only able to fight hard for 5 or 6 rounds on Saturday, he’s going to get to beaten by Monroe Jr. I take that back. If Saunders can only fight hard for 5 or 6 rounds, he might still win, but it’ll be another controversial outcome. I don’t know if the judges will give Monroe Jr. the decision in this fight. You can only hope the judges are fair when it comes to scoring of the fight. Monroe Jr. looked amazing in his last fight against Gabriel Rosado last September. If Monroe Jr. is able to fight like that against Saunders, he’s going to put the judges in a position where they’ll have to give him the victory. I don’t know if they will give Monroe Jr. the win, but he’ll certainly deserve getting the nod from the judges.
Right now, Saunders looks very thin and drained. You can tell from looking at video of Saunders that he’s battling to get down to the 160 lb. limit. If he doesn’t make it, his WBO belt will be stripped from him by the World Boxing Organization. With the loss of his WBO title, Saunders will have lost his big chance for a payday/cash out fight against the winner of the Canelo-GGG fight, which will be taking place on the same night on September 16 next week. There will be some crocodile tears for Saunders if he loses out on that fight, because it’s unlikely that he’ll ever win another world level title again. The middleweight division is now stacked to the brim with talent.
There aren’t any paper champions holding belts at middleweight like there was when Saunders beat Andy Lee to win the strap nearly 2 years ago on December 19, 2015. It’s hard to believe that Saunders has only defended his WBO 160 lb. title 1 time in the 21 months since won the belt. I wonder what the WBO thinks about having a world champion that only defends his title once per year. The sanctioning bodies obviously like having popular champions that defend their titles frequently. Saunders defends his WBO belt once in a blue moon.
Saunders had his chance to fight Golovkin last year, but he didn’t take it for whatever reason. Saunders barely won his first title defense of his WBO strap against Artur Akavov on December 3 last year in winning a questionable 12 round unanimous decision in the UK. Saunders is now about to face an even better fighter than Akavov when he gets inside the ring with former world title challenger Monroe Jr. on September 16. The only thing Saunders has going for him is he’s fighting at home at the Copper Box Arena in London, England. That might give Saunders an advantage right out of the gates.
As the saying goes, home fighters start off with a 4-round advantage over their visiting opponents. I hate to say it, but I totally agree with that belief. After seeing Saunders win a controversial 12 round decision over Akavov by the scores 116-113, 116-112 and 115-113. Boxing News 24 gave Akavov the win by a 116-113 score. It just shows you how truly difficult it is for visiting fighters to win a decision. Saunders had NOTHING in the Akavov. After 5 rounds, Saunders was fighting on fumes and getting belted around the ring by the Russian fighter. I had Akavov winning the last 7 rounds. None of them were close, as Saunders was absolutely gassed out from having drained himself to make weight. He looked like a thin, weak fighter that had taken the weight off the wrong way.
”I would say I am in the best shape I have ever been at this stage in my training, most definitely,” said Saunders to boxnation.com. But it is all about on the night, I’ve got to turn up and do the business. Everything is going well though and I’m feeling good. I’ve got to get the win and hopefully put myself in the frame for a big one,” said Saunders.
I disagree with Saunders. He doesn’t look like he’s in the best shape of his life. He looks drained. When a fighter starts draining 2 weeks out from a fight, that tells me the guy is struggling with his weight. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if Saunders loses his WBO title on the scales by weighing over the 160-lb. limit. Even if Saunders wins the fight, he’ll have lost his chance to face the winner of the Canelo vs. Golovkin fight. They’re not going to want to fight Saunders once he no longer has the WBO title. He can forget getting either of those guys to fight him. Saunders can yap all he wants about Canelo and Golovkin, but they won’t bother throwing him a bone and giving him a fight if he doesn’t have the WBO strap in his possession.
The way that Saunders has been fighting in the last 3 years, I think he’s over-the-hill, and not the same guy he was in the past when he first turned pro. What’s hurt Saunders’ career is a combination of inactivity and poor conditioning in between fights. He gains a lot of weight after he fights, which turns his training camps into fat farms. Saunders has to train longer in camp to take the weight off, and I think it’s hurt his performances in the last 3 years. I thought Saunders should have lost to Chris Eubank Jr., given a draw against Lee, and a loss to Akavov. As such, Saunders’ record in those 3 fights should be 0-2-1.
Monroe is a very good fighter despite not having a lot of power. He hits hard for a guy with only 6 knockouts on his resume, and he’s quick, highly skilled and relentless. The best thing of all is Monroe Jr. has excellent stamina. He’s not going to wear down in the later rounds, especially against a non-puncher like Saunders.
Saunders did a lot of trash talking in the buildup to this fight about Monroe Jr., and now he’s got to try and back that up. Monroe Jr. does not like Saunders, and he wants to put him in his pace and take his WBO title on September 16. Monroe wants to be the guy that faces the Canelo vs. Golovkin winner. If you’re not in shape against Monroe Jr., he’s going to beat you. Right now, Saunders has been fighting more like a journeyman than a world champion. Monroe Jr. is going to take a personal pleasure in doing his best to thrash Saunders and take his WBO strap. Monroe Jr. will be on easy street if he can get his hands on the WBO belt. He’ll make a lot of good cash from a fight against Canelo or Golovkin.