September 16 will truly be the day (and night) of the middleweight.
Hours before unbeaten, unified middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin and Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez collide in the very best matchup that can be made in boxing today, Billy Joe Saunders will defend the sole remaining primary middleweight strap versus Willie Monroe. Their September 16 battle takes place at the Copper Box Arena in London, England, event handlers confirmed on Monday.
The unbeaten 27-year old southpaw—whom represented Great Britain in the 2008 Beijing Olympics—will make the second defense of the strap he annexed from Andy Lee in their Dec. '15 battle. Injuries and bizarre negotiating tactics have slowed his career progress to a crawl, but a fully healthy version of the outspoken Traveler is ready to resume his middleweight run.
“Willie is a good fighter and a good boxer,” said Saunders (24-0, 12KOs), whose lone other defense came in a 12-round win over Artur Akavov in an admittedly disappointing performance last December. “This is his big chance and he isn't coming over here just to make up the numbers. He has been in with some of the best fighters in the World including Golovkin where he came up short.
“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."
Naturally, the visiting challenger doesn't quite see things the same way.
"I am happy for this World Title opportunity," said Monroe Jr. (21-2, 6KOs), who will enter the ring exactly 52 weeks following his last fight, a convincing points win over Gabriel Rosaod. "I'm always in the gym and I'm ready to go now; I live the life. I can't wait to show up and show out in London. Saunders is a good fighter and a worthy World Champion but I'm coming for that belt.
"I gave a good account of myself against Golovkin but I will admit that I got caught up in the moment. Billy Joe has had a lot of luxuries throughout his career that I haven't had. All of his fights have been here in his own backyard, he hasn't had to go into the Lion's Den to prove himself. He calls me mentally weak but we'll see on September 16th."
Saunders’ promoter Frank Warren said: "Bill will have to be at the very top of his game to get the win on September 16th. The winner of this fight will have the missing piece on the Middleweight jigsaw, Canelo and Golovkin both want that WBO belt.
“If Bill comes through this fight we are pushing hard for the winner of Canelo vs. Golovkin. If Golovkin wins I hope we can do that fight in December, if Canelo wins it could be in the New Year. Bill has to go out there and prove a point, there is a lot on the line."
Artie Pelluo of Banner Promotions said: "I am very happy for Willie; this is a great opportunity. A lot of things had to fall into place for Willie to get this fight. Saunders is a great fighter, and this should be a terrific event. I want to thank tthe WBO as well as Frank Warren and Billy Joe Saunders for this opportunity."