Photos: Will Hart
By Kieran Mulvaney
Ask Gennady Golovkin why he chose to fight Willie Monroe Jr., out of all possible opponents, on Saturday night, and he’ll tell you it isn’t in spite of Monroe’s awkward, challenging style, but because of it.
“First of all, he’s southpaw,” he told a small gathering of reporters in Los Angeles earlier this week. “It’s different for me. Canelo had problems with Lara; Cotto had problems with Trout – it’s a different style facing a southpaw. It’s very interesting for me. It’s my motivation. It’s a new test for me. I want to show my fans, my team, that I can beat any style. It’s very interesting for me. I know it’s not easy.”
His trainer Abel Sanchez, however, sees it as perhaps less of a challenge than does the fighter himself.
“In the amateurs, he fought a lot of southpaws, like Sergey Kovalev, Andy Lee, Lucian Bute,” he said. “But that was over three rounds. Willie can be slick the first few rounds, like in the amateurs, but then he’s going to have to still deal with him after that. He does present some movement, but I’ve noticed in some of Willie’s fights, when he gets a little confident, he tends to hang out on the ropes a little. He can’t do that against Gennady, or it’s goodnight.”
And for all the focus on Golovkin’s power – which is understandable given that he is currently riding a 19-fight KO streak – sometimes overlooked is his ring generalship, and in particular his ability to cut off the ring against his opponent.
“Oh, absolutely,” agreed Sanchez. “After three rounds, he’s going to have him figured out, he’s going to know where he’s going and how he’s going, and when he’s going to be there – and when he does, it’s going to be difficult for Willie.”
It is a measure of Golovkin’s dominance that the highest level of intrigue surrounding his latest title defense is not whether he might lose (few people who are not called Monroe truly expect that to happen) but how long it will take him to figure his opponent out and stop him.
Still, as promoter Tom Loeffler points out, that same dominance scares off a lot of potential opponents, “and Willie Monroe Jr. is a solid guy and he wanted the fight, and that’s why we have to give him a lot of respect. All Gennady can do is fight whoever gets into the ring with him. His career is dependent on his activity and how he looks in the ring.”
That level of activity has played almost as big a role as his knockout power in developing his fan base. Saturday’s bout with Monroe will be his ninth since making his HBO debut against Grzegroz Proksa in September 2012, and when it is pointed out to him that champions seven or eight years his junior nowadays frequently fight just twice a year – roughly half his pace – he animatedly exclaims, “I don’t know why!” He likes to fight; and for all the talk of future big match ups with the likes of Canelo Alvarez, Miguel Cotto, or Andre Ward, for now the focus is very much on his next fight, with Monroe – and what Golovkin, at least, hopes will be a tough challenge on Saturday night.
Monroe certainly looked ready to rumble at Friday’s weigh-in at the Forum, where Saturday’s fight will take place. He had mentioned to reporters that he had invested more effort than usual during camp in weight training, as a way to combat Golovkin’s strength, and it showed as he tipped the scales at a ripped 160 lbs. Golovkin himself came in one pound under the middleweight limit, at 159 lbs.
In the co-main event, flyweight challenger Edgar Sosa initially weighed a fraction over the limit at 112.2 lbs., but somehow found weight to lose from his frame and made weight on his second try. Champion Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez, making his much-anticipated HBO debut, came in at 111 lbs.
Gennady Golovkin 159 lbs.
Willie Monroe Jr. 160 lbs.
Roman Gonzalez 111 lbs.
Edgar Sosa 112 lbs