By Bob Caico
Middleweight Willie Monroe, Jr. (16-1, 6 KOs) of Rochester, NY is a promising prospect born into a family of fighters with the same name. Monroe Jr’s father, Willie Monroe, was a middleweight who rose as high as #6 in the world ratings in the early 90s. His great uncle, Willie “The Worm” Monroe, was a middleweight contender fighting out of Philadelphia in the 70s. Monroe Jr. aims to advance further than his predecessors.
He has won his last six fights since losing a split decision to veteran spoiler Darnell Boone three years ago, and hopes ESPN’s 2014 Boxcino tournament will be his ticket to a world title shot. In the quarterfinals, Monroe defeated Donatas Bondorovas by 6-round unanimous decision to advance to the middleweight semi-finals against Vitaliy Kopylenko on Friday night at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, NY.
What were you feeling when you were picked for the middleweight tournament?
I felt honored to be added to a tournament with seven other top middleweight boxers. That is a great compliment from a great promoter such as Banner Promotions, I feel very blessed and happy I was chosen.
What do you think of tournament style boxing?
I think the tournament is an awesome opportunity for some slightly known and unknown talent to be exposed. I think it also brings the essence of real fighting and keeps it exciting for the fighters but more importantly for the fans.
Your opponent has an impressive record. What do you know about him and how do you think fight will go?
My opponent in the semifinals, Vitaliy Kopylenko, is a good fighter. Everyone is picking him to win which doesn’t bother me because I was supposed to lose to Bondorovas but I beat him in his backyard with all the odds, the fans and officials against me, so this is nothing new. No disrespect to Kopylenko or his camp but I honestly believe he’s just not in my class. My boxing IQ is very high. I’m too intelligent. You are about to watch a jr. middleweight fighter school a bunch of middleweights.
If you win this tournament do you feel a title shot is next?
When I win this tournament, talks of a title shot will be held…but if I don’t get a title shot immediately I won’t be disappointed, I’m a patient individual besides I haven’t decided whether I’m going to stay at 160 or go back to 154. Whatever happens we will be super successful in our career. I’m happy and blessed.
Coming from a successful fighting family do you feel any pressure on becoming a world champion that had eluded them?
I really don’t feel any pressure. I’m an individual, my name means a lot to me but this has been a childhood holy grail for me. Boxing was what created the bond between me and my grandfather so my goals are totally from the sake of my name. I feel no pressure in that respect.
Tell us about your other career.
My music career is still moving along but my group broke up back in 2011 but my brother Trent Monroe is a huge success with his solo career so we have what we call the team Monroe movement. We try and make my boxing fans and his music fans come together. We like to say boxing and music never looked so good.