Monday, December 05, 2022  |


Willie Monroe Jr. fights out of passion, not necessity


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Willie Monroe Jr. needs to defeat Bryan Vera to prove he can be a contender in the middleweight division.

In reality though, he doesn’t need to be fighting whatsoever.

Boxing is often a sport athletes come to out of grave necessity. There are plenty of other ways to make a dollar without getting punched in the face, but for many, it’s either the best risk-and-reward scenario out of their given situation, or in some cases, the only option.

Monroe, a 28 year old from Rochester, has plenty of options. He’s a multi-talented, well-spoken individual who might even be making more money at this point in his life had he followed one of the other paths he was capable of navigating.

Heck, at one point, he was even a part of a moderately successful R&B outfit called Singnature, which opened up for big name acts such as Trey Songz, Tank and Ginuwine.

“You have to realize, I have all the options,” Monroe told “I’m educated, I went to college. I have my associates (degree) in physical education. There’s so many other things I could have done and been successful at, and made some good money. There was plenty of times when I thought, ‘Man, I should just go back and work on my bachelor’s’. But God brought me back.”

Monroe, a devout Christian, explains a lot of things by invoking a divine intervention of sorts. But at his core, it’s evident that he fights because he genuinely loves it.

It’s not like he hasn’t had chances to walk away. In 2011, he ran into prospect killer Darnell Boone, who took a split decision from him in New York. Almost immediately, he says, his entourage disappeared, and more importantly, so did his promoter Lou DiBella.

“Not only do I feel like I’m a world-class fighter inside the ring, but outside the ring. I didn’t give up, I stayed training, I stayed in the gym. I grabbed two jobs, and I stayed in the gym even when I had two jobs. Just scratching and clawing,” said Monroe, who at one point was splitting time between Foot Locker and training camp.

Not long after, he found himself under the Banner Promotions umbrella. Last year, he was offered a spot in ESPN’s Boxcino middleweight tournament – mostly, a collection of fighters in the same position he was in, hoping for some exposure. He gladly accepted, though he claims some of the others weren’t quite as enthusiastic about the challenge.

“Even the guys that signed up for the tournament, some of their managers were calling my manager saying ‘Oh, we can petition so that our fighters don’t fight one another,'” said Monroe. “My manager called me and asked, is there anyone you have reservations about facing? And I said ‘Listen, throw my name in the hat, draw two and keep it moving. I’ll fight all seven of them on the same night if I can.'”

Monroe would indeed go on to run the table, defeating Donatas Bondoravas, Vitaliy Kopylenko and Brandon Adams to win the tournament. He proved to be a slick boxer on the outside with exceptional hand speed, and showed plenty of know-how on the inside in a 16-by16-foot ring against Bondoravas as well.

The tournament was marketed as a springboard of sorts into title contention, the way it had been for fighters in previous ESPN TV tournaments decades prior. It almost paid immediate dividends for Monroe, whose manager Damian Walton even fielded calls about possibly facing then-undefeated contender Matt Korobov late last year.

But boxing has a way of making fighters pay their dues, one way and at one time or another. Before a fighter can think about a title shot, they generally have to beat a true gatekeeper in their division.

Vera is akin to this generation’s Curtis Parker. If you’re a real middleweight contender, you have to be able to beat him. It remains to be seen how much resistance Vera can still provide to this level of fighter at this stage in his career, particularly following a stoppage loss at the hands of Gabe Rosado in BKB. In his last two real boxing matches however, he was competitive with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., if not better for the first bout.

As big as a victory on Friday would be, Monroe has a realistic view of what its immediate impact will be.

“You know how this boxing game goes. You can go out and beat Bryan Vera and they say okay, you’re a top 10 guy, you’re ready for a shot at the championship, and then you have to go out and beat three more Bryan Veras,” said Monroe.

Once again, Monroe is willing to stay the course, because as many things as he’s capable of doing, there’s only one he’s ever really done full-time.

“One thing I know I can do is fight. There’s a lot of things I don’t do well, but I can fight like a son of a bitch,” said Monroe.