Boxing has been enjoying its greatest spring in a generation, and the momentum will keep going Saturday when one of the sport’s hottest stars, undefeated WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin, defends his title against rising contender Willie Monroe Jr.
The fight is taking place at the “Fabulous” Forum in Inglewood, California, which was a classic venue in the sport’s earlier glory days. It will be shown live on HBO at 10 p.m. ET/PT. The champion from Kazakhstan has made his training headquarters at Abel Sanchez’s facility in Big Bear, and GGG’s all-action, “Mexican style” approach to the sport has quickly made him popular with the hardcore boxing culture of Southern California.
Monroe is not a widely recognized name among casual fans, but he was an amateur standout and has looked impressive over the past two years.
|Per Boxrec||Gennady Golovkin||Willie Monroe Jr.|
|Record:||32-0, 29 KOs||19-1, 6 KOs|
|Weight:||160 lbs||160 lbs|
|Hometown:||Karaganda, Kazakhstan||Rochester, New York|
Golovkin and Monroe are of similar height and will weigh in at about the same number, but Golovkin is the more compact and rugged athlete. Monroe is going to need to make sure to take advantage of his four-inch advantage in reach.
This is a southpaw-orthodox matchup, and that could be an interesting angle to the fight. Monroe has a tricky style and should be able to give Golovkin the kind of looks he hasn’t seen much as a professional.
Gennady Golovkin comes into this bout riding a 19-fight knockout streak that stretches back to June 2008. Among his recent victims are some of the top-rated fighters in the division, such as Martin Murray, Daniel Geale, Matthew Macklin and Grzegorz Proksa.
Those are fighters who have held their own and turned in good performances against other world champions. GGG walked right through them all.
As a result of this trail of destruction, he’s become boxing’s most avoided fighter. Miguel Cotto is technically the lineal champion at middleweight, but that’s a title that means nothing if it isn’t defended against Golovkin. Cotto has given no indication that he’s interested in doing so.
So Golovkin and his team have been left in the position of continuing to build his momentum by facing the best opponents willing to get into the ring with him.
Willie Monroe Jr. is a credible contender at middleweight, even if he hasn’t quite compiled a resume that warrants a top-10 rating. He was an outstanding amateur and comes from a great boxing family.
His father was a contender in the 1990s and his great uncle, Willie “The Worm” Monroe, is a Philadelphia boxing legend and the only man to beat Marvin Hagler in a non-contested decision.
Monroe’s only loss as a professional came by split decision against the enigmatic journeyman Darnell Boone. Boone also has a victory of Adonis Stevenson and fought Sergey Kovalev to a split-decision loss. He’s the only fighter to knock down Andre Ward as a professional.
Boone is an opponent Monroe should have beaten, but given the size and experience advantage for Boone, it was an understandably tough fight for Monroe at the point in his career in which it happened.
Since then, Monroe has regrouped, and over the past year-and-a-half he has been as hot as nearly any fighter in the division. He cruised through ESPN’s Boxcino Tournament last year, handling Donatas Bondorovas, Vitaliy Kopylenko and Brandon Adams with ease.
In January, he breezed past tough veteran Brian Vera. That was the win that put him in position for this opportunity.
It is understandable that fans would prefer to see Golovkin in with a bigger-name opponent at this point, but Monroe at least represents a style that GGG has not been tested against. Monroe is a crafty southpaw who has great footwork and hand speed.
Monroe, of course, has not been in with anybody remotely like Golovkin. But that’s going to be the case no matter who GGG faces at this point.
Alex Gallardo/Associated Press
Golovkin is an outstanding offensive fighter with extremely dangerous punching power. He was an Olympic silver medalist, so his boxing fundamentals are solid. He has the footwork and jab necessary to cut off the ring against almost anybody.
He’s also extremely strong and durable with a granite chin. GGG walks through the sort of punches that drop many fighters. When he knocked out former world champion Daniel Geale, he threw the final punch at the same time as Geale connected flush with a straight right.
Monroe is a crafty, slick southpaw boxer. He has a terrific jab and great lateral movement. He throws quick, crisp combinations from medium range and has a sharp uppercut in close.
Monroe is a defensively minded fighter but is very good at circling back and counterattacking.
Golovkin has been a relatively easy fighter to hit during his career. It’s tough to tell how much of that is a defensive shortcoming and how much it is a tactical decision based on the fact that he knows he can beat other top fighters by trading leather with them.
But it remains to be seen how he’ll do with a strong defensive boxer who can slip his shots in close and time him for counters.
Monroe has knocked out just six opponents in 20 fights. A lack of big power is going to be a terrible disadvantage against a monster puncher like Golovkin, who has a stiff chin.
Gennady Golovkin will win this fight if he can cut off the ring on Willie Monroe Jr. and catch up to him with the big punches. That’s always the case when GGG fights.
Golovkin is going to need to focus on keeping Monroe in front of him, so rather than attacking in a straight line, he’ll need to move side to side and then come forward at an angle, eventually edging Monroe into a corner or along the ropes.
Golovkin should be prepared to deal with a busy jab from the southpaw and should look to slip under it and counter with his straight right to the body. The body attack in general could be particularly crucial for Golovkin in this fight. Monroe has good legs and is going to need to employ nonstop movement to win.
To slow that movement down, Golovkin should remain patient and hammer at Monroe’s torso. Golovkin has the power to win a fight outright with a body shot. And to slow Monroe down enough to land a solid shot to the head, he might need to break the challenger’s body down first.
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To win this fight, Willie Monroe Jr. is going to need to employ outstanding, almost nonstop, movement. He cannot afford to get caught for even a second or two on the ropes.
The first key to victory for Monroe Jr. is going to be to pump a quick, active jab as he moves away from Golovkin’s powerful right hand. Based on how easy it has been for opponents to hit Golovkin with straight rights, a quick southpaw like Monroe should be able to score well with his jab.
But Golovkin knows how to move to cut off the ring, so Monroe has to be prepared to shift directions and circle away quickly. And to prevent Golovkin from simply walking him down, Monroe is going to need to counterattack quickly and aggressively.
If Monroe can frustrate Golovkin, he can make this one of the year’s most interesting fights. A very real model for him here should be Pernell Whitaker’s sterling performance against Julio Cesar Chavez in 1993.
Golovkin is a come-forward fighter very much in the mode of Chavez. Monroe is a mobile southpaw, like Whitaker.
The Chavez-Whitaker fight was officially a majority draw, but it was a robbery. If Monroe can turn in a similar performance against Golovkin, no matter what the decision is with the judges, his career will take off with the fans and media.