Billy Joe Saunders can look forward to bigger fights after defending the World Boxing Organisation (WBO) middleweight title by unanimously out-pointing Willie Monroe Jr on Saturday.
The English boxer made a second successful defence of the title to set up the possibility of a more lucrative bout against the winner of the more significant world middleweight title fight between Gennady “GGG” Golovkin and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, taking place in Las Vegas a few hours later.
Saunders was rewarded for being busier and more ambitious by scores of 117-111, 115-114 and 117-112 after a far from thrilling affair at the Copper Box Arena in London.
For American Monroe, it his second failure to win a world title after Golovkin stopped him two years ago.
“I felt a bit ring rusty in there but I want to thank everyone for the opportunity,” said Saunders.
Injuries and postponements had restricted Saunders to a disappointing points win over Russia’s Artur Akavov last December since winning the belt on points from Ireland’s Andy Lee a year previously.
But the 28-year-old Saunders (25-0, 12 KOs) said he had felt reinvigorated under new trainer Dominic Ingle.
The English boxer began full of energy and had the better of the first round, with a glancing left the best punch landed in the opening session.
Monroe (21-3, 6 KOs), whose wife gave birth to a daughter in New York four days ago, mostly counter-boxed early on and it was Saunders who was the more aggressive.
New Yorker Monroe, 30, had dismissed Saunders’ attempts pre-fight to upset him with his taunts. The American was also hit between the legs by Saunders’ eight-year-old son Stevie at Friday’s weigh-in.
And Monroe continued to avoid trouble until Saunders caught Monroe flush with a right just before the bell at the end of the their round after roughing up the American on the ropes with a series of lefts.
It had been a good start from Saunders, but he was cut above his right eye at the start of the fourth after a clash of heads and was later in the same round warned about using his head.
Monroe landed his best shot of the fight in the fifth round, a big left to the side of the head, but Saunders returned fire with a good left hook of his own later in the round.
Saunders was the busier boxer from start to finish, though with Monroe being cagey and Saunders failing to establish any rhythm or get his jab working tt was ugly at times.
Saunders landed an impressive left on the counter in the eighth and, with the challenger failing to sustain any pressure, the decision was never in doubt. AFP / SAMAA