With the fight happening in just a few hours’ time, I am turning my attention to who, I feel, has the mental edge.
Billy Jo Saunders has looked cocky and confident all week, and says:
“I think it is going to be a very close fight but I already have the mental edge over him. He said he was done against Golovkin and that’s not what a warrior would do. I’d rather get knocked out cold than quit. I haven’t had the chance to show my true skill and talent as of yet as a pro. I can’t afford to overlook him and I’ll be in the best shape of my life on September 16th. I’m 100% going to get the win.”
I am not so sure. Whilst Willie Monroe Jr might’ve surprised a few with his head-down-on-his-mobile antics during the last press conference (something which Saunders’ trainer Dominic Ingle was quick to pounce on and join in on the Monroe Jr mockery), the 30-year-old seems to me to give off an air of a boxer who has matured, and grown, as a result of his loss to Gennady Golovkin.
In personality, these two boxers seem like utterly worlds apart. You only need to watch any of Saunders’ fight-week antics, and compare those to this honest and tearful interview with Monroe Jr to compare. The emotion palpably builds as Monroe Jr describes his grandfather’s wisdom and impact, and the sacrifices made by those close to him. I encourage you to watch the short interview if you have a few minutes.
Saunders had a frustrating 2016 with injuries, eventually fighting Artur Akakov last December in what has been described as an unconvincing win. Many have also written about the impact of Saunders’ new coach Dominic Ingle, how he has whipped him into shape and how this has led to Saunders’ being in the best shape of his life.
That is as may be, but he’ll certainly need to be in that best shape if he is to overcome Monroe Jr. One also suspects that, whilst ‘getting into his best shape’ might be a novelty for Saunders, Monroe Jr has been doing that as the norm.
Whilst Saunders’ rhetoric towards Monroe Jr has crossed the line into ‘offensive’ territory, the humble and religious Monroe Jr, who witnessed the birth of his daughter this week shortly before flying across the pond (a birth he would have missed, had Hurricane Irma in the US not delayed his travel plans), has maintained his composure and kept true to himself.
Even when Saunders has spoken most disrespectfully about his mother, and even when his own son – after Monroe Jr playfully ruffled his air – first punched him low, and then attempted to kick him in the same place, during the weigh-in.
Whilst Saunders has repeatedly alluded to Monroe Jr’s supposed ‘weakness’ due to stating that he was ‘done’ after his loss to Gennady Golovkin (one of this generation’s best fighters), Monroe Jr has rightfully fought back with the war of words, pointing out the fact that Saunders wouldn’t be needing to use such outrageous antics if he wasn’t taking this fight – and his opponent – seriously.
Monroe Jr posted this video to his Twitter followers last night – explaining how he kept his distance and didn’t want to do face offs with Saunders, to be ‘the bigger man’ and not want something to happen which led to the fight being called off. He also posted the below note on Twitter.
For me, it is Monroe Jr who has not only acted with more respect and grace, but has also been truer to himself. Just as Conor McGregor acknowledged his true emotions during his own fight week last month, Monroe Jr has too.
For that reason, and reflecting on the behaviour/actions on display by the two fighters this week, it is my feeling that Monroe Jr goes into this bout with the mental edge.
It should be a cracker of a fight, and hopefully a fitting prelude to ‘the fight of the decade’. Bring it on.
Saturday 16th September, 2017