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Willie Monroe Jr. Will Try To Replicate Feat of His Great-Uncle, Willie “The Worm” Monroe

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Nobody gives Willie Monroe Jr. (19-1, 6 KOs) much of a chance to dethrone WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin (32-0, 29 KOs) when they square off in the HBO-televised main event Saturday night in Inglewood, Calif. Oddsmakers have made Monroe, a slick-boxing southpaw with negligible punching power, anywhere from a 15-1 to 20-1 underdog.

But upsets do happen and, well, there is a member of Monroe’s family who knows what it’s like to beat a supposedly unbeatable foe. If it happened once before, why not again?

“I’m hoping that he wins it, and I believe he’s going to do well,” Monroe’s great-uncle and namesake, former middleweight contender Willie “The Worm” Monroe, said from the Sicklerville, N.J., home he shares with his daughter. “It wouldn’t shock me if he wins the fight.”

“The Worm” knows a thing or two about shocking upsets. He is one of only three fighters to have defeated the great Marvin Hagler, and, in some people’s minds, the only one to do so without any hint of controversy. His 10-round, unanimous decision over Hagler on March 9, 1976, in the Spectrum in Philadelphia, was emphatic enough that even the rising superstar from Brockton, Mass., had to admit he had been bested fair and square.

“I controlled Hagler with the jab,” Monroe said in late March 1987, before Hagler’s final bout, a split-decision loss to Sugar Ray Leonard that Hagler to this day has refused to acknowledge or accept. “Threw the uppercut from time to time. I cut him over the eye. He bled so much that night. I found out later I had busted a blood vessel in his nose. I closed both his eyes. I remember that fight real good.”

So does Monroe’s former promoter, J Russell Peltz, who wishes he had a film of “The Worm’s” finest hour as part of his extensive video library. Then again, no one has any footage of what took place on Monroe’s night of nights. There was a blinding snowstorm that not only limited attendance, but prevented a film crew from even making it to the arena.

“Willie Monroe vs. Marvin Hagler (whose first loss, which was hotly disputed, was to Watts) will go down in history as a much bigger, much more significant fight than Willie Monroe Jr. vs. Triple G ever could,” said Peltz, an unabashedly old-school traditionalist. “You got champions on every street corner now. Guys like Willie Monroe and Boogaloo Watts and Cyclone Hart … I hear people say, `How good could they have been? They never even got a title shot!’ Yeah, but it wasn’t that easy back then to get a title shot. (Carlos) Monzon was the king of the middleweight division then. Maybe for a while (Rodrigo) Valdes had a piece of the title, and he was no walk in the park either. Guys had to wait their turn and try to fight their way up the ladder. Now, you win a tournament on ESPN against a bunch of non-contenders (as Monroe Jr. supposedly did in the Boxcino tourney) and the next thing you know, you’re on HBO.”

Peltz’s assessment might be a bit harsh, but at least the Boxcino tournament was televised. Monroe is all too aware that the absence of a fight film has served to lessen the relevance of his landmark conquest of Hagler. To some, unless they see something on TV or on video, it’s like it never happened.

“All I’ve got is some photos, action photos,” he sighed. “But I tell you what, he had never fought a fighter like me. He didn’t know what to do with me. I must have done him some good, though; he never lost again until Leonard, and I’m not too sure about that one. I like to think I sent him back to school.”

The elder Monroe, who turns 66 on June 5, posted a 39-10-1 record with 26 victories inside the distance in a career that spanned from 1969 to ’81. The Rochester, N.Y., native was one of four Philly-based 160-pounders to be ranked among the world’s top 10 in the 1970s, along with Bennie Briscoe, Watts and Hart. When you consider that heavyweights Joe Frazier and Jimmy Young, light heavyweight Matthew Saad Muhammad and bantamweight Jeff Chandler also were active during that era, it constituted perhaps the most glittering golden age of Philadelphia boxing, one perhaps beyond matching.

It was with the idea of honing and refining his ring skills that Monroe, then 23, came to Philly in the mid-1960s. It was a fortuitous move; he soon was under the tutelage of Yank Durham, who took Frazier to the heavyweight championship, and, after Durham passed away, another master of the corner, Eddie Futch. During that halcyon period, Monroe became a marquee attraction in his adopted hometown, regularly fighting his fellow middleweight headliners before large, enthusiastic crowds in the Spectrum.

And when it was finally over – on a fourth-round knockout loss to Willie Edwards on Oct. 24, 1981 – Monroe remained in the area, which explains in part why he has such a lack of familiarity with that part of his family that remained in Rochester, including grand-nephew Willie Monroe Jr.

“I hardly know my nephew, to be honest with you,” Monroe said. “I never really had the chance to get to know him. It’s just one of those things. I came to Philadelphia before he was even born. The same thing goes with his father (Willie Lee Monroe, a super middleweight who posted a 24-4-2 record), who I never got a chance to know either. They were there and I was here, either fighting or traveling. I fought a lot in Europe, too.”

It would have made for an interesting slant on Golovkin-Monroe Jr. had “The Worm’s” 28-year-old relative requested some tips on how to take down “Triple G,” as his great-uncle had taken down Hagler. But that call never was made, from either direction. Time and distance have served to chill whatever relationship they might have had.

“At the end of the day, it’s about what I do,” stressed Monroe Jr., who listed his pugilistic role models as Roy Jones Jr., Sugar Ray Leonard, Pernell Whitaker and Hector “Macho” Camacho. “It doesn’t matter the pedigree or where you come from or what your name is. I really try not to live off what my dad and my uncle did. I’m creating my own legacy. I’ve made it further than both of them already.”

Maybe, and maybe not. Willie the Worm was much more of a puncher than Willie Jr., whose nickname is “The Mongoose,” which might or might not be a nod toward the legendary Archie Moore, minus the original’s high volume of knockouts. But while the elder Monroe says he’ll be rooting for his namesake – “Of course I will; regardless of whatever the situation is, that’s still my blood. Family counts” – he isn’t prepared to fully commit to the notion that his grand-nephew will do unto Golovkin what he did to Hagler.

“I saw his last fight (a 10-round unanimous decision over Brian Vera in the final of the Boxcino tournament) on television,” Monroe said. “He did what he had to and he won. He really wasn’t that impressive, but he won and winning is the main thing.”

Interestingly, Monroe has a much more cordial and warm relationship with Hagler, with whom he swapped punches three times, than with his Rochester relations. They stand as irrefutable proof that friendships sometimes can be forged in the crucible of competition.

“I spent time with Marvin after all three of our fights,” Monroe said. “I even spent time with him in Italy, where he lives now. I fought over there, back in the day. We talked at his hotel and had a great time. There wasn’t any problem. Him and me, we have a lot of respect for each other.”

So, did Monroe realize, after their first bout, that Hagler would eventually become one of the most feared and revered middleweight champions of all time?

“I knew he was going to be good because he was very determined,” Monroe recalled. “He had a great attitude to be in the game. I noticed that. I realized he had the potential to be great.”

If Monroe Jr. has any chance against Golovkin, who comes in with a streak of 19 consecutive knockout victories, it might be if “Triple G” makes the mistake of being overconfident. He is, after all, in prime position for high-visibility, big-money unification bouts with fellow middleweight champs Miguel Cotto and Andy Lee, and maybe a megafight with former WBC/WBA super welterweight titlist Canelo Alvarez, whenever he decides to move up. Also on Golovkin’s wish list — at the top of it, actually — is Floyd Mayweather Jr. Who could blame “Triple G” for viewing Monroe as just another step in his relentless march toward Hagler-like prominence?

“I think this fight will truly be won by ring intelligence,” said Willie Jr.’s trainer, Tony Morgan. “I think that Golovkin makes a lot of mistakes. I think he’s beatable. I think any guy’s beatable if you bring the right plan to the table.

“And I think what we bring to the table is something Gennady’s never seen and realistically can’t prepare for. There’s really only one Willie Monroe.”

That’s probably true. But until further notice, the still-reigning ruler of fighting Willie Monroes is a “Worm” who wriggled on the hook one snowy night in 1976 and got Marvin Hagler to take the bait.

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Saul Sanchez Wins in Ontario, CA

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ONTARIO, CA- Saul Sanchez remained undefeated after a tumultuous battle against Mexico’s Fernando Saavedra to win by majority decision to the dismay of a small crowd on Friday.

In a battle of bantamweights at the Doubletree Hotel, it was Pacoima’s Sanchez (11-0, 6 KOs) who started quicker but San Luis Potosi’s Saavedra (7-6, 3 KOs) closed the gap in the latter half of the fight in front of a boisterous crowd of maybe 400 fans.

Sanchez nearly floored Saavedra in the first 20 seconds of the fight when a three-punch combination had the Mexican fighter wobbled. It spurred Sanchez to go on the attack, ultimately leading to a toe-to-toe battle.

The quicker hands and feet of Sanchez proved troubling for Saavedra, who needed the Southern Californian to stand still. That seldom happened in the first four rounds.

But though neither boxer seemed to tire, Sanchez began getting trapped against the ropes and allowing Saavedra to connect with powerful blows. The last three rounds were especially close and Sanchez was able to slip more blows than Saavedra. But each never ready to quit.

After eight bantamweight rounds, two judges scored it 77-75 for Sanchez and one had it 76-76 a draw. Sanchez was deemed the winner by majority decision.

Many fans were angry by the decision.

Other bouts

Corona’s Louie Lopez (5-0, 3 KOs) remained undefeated with a solid performance over Bakersfield’s Ray Cervera (0-2), a resilient super welterweight. Lopez was able to use his quick left hooks to score in every round but Cervera had a good chin and was able to counter with rights. No knockdowns were scored in the four round fight and all three judges scored the fight 40-36.

Oscar Torrez (3-0, 1 KO) knocked down Richard Soto (0-1) in the last round to assure a victory by unanimous decision in an entertaining heavyweight fight. Torrez fights out of Rialto, CA and is trained by Henry Ramirez who also trains Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola. The two heavyweights seemed evenly matched for the first two rounds, with Soto having his best round in the second when he continually landed one-two combinations with good effect. But Torrez resumed control of the fight in the third by using the jab, then mixing up his attack. In the fourth round, Torrez unleashed a 10-punch barrage that dropped Soto in the corner. The fighter from Northern California got up and survived the round but was unable to turn things around. Two judges scored it 39-36 and another had it 40-35, all for Torrez.

Anthony Franco (3-1-1) took time to warm up before scoring a knockdown and defeating Kansas fighter Antonio L. Hernandez (1-4) by decision after four rounds in a super welterweight contest. In the third round, Franco slipped under a left by Hernandez who tripped and when he turned was met by a perfect left that knocked down the Kansas boxer. Though he wasn’t hurt, it changed the complexion of a close fight in favor of Franco who lives in Redlands, CA. All three judges scored it for Franco 38-35, 39-36, 38-37.

Tijuana’s Rafael Rivera (26-2-2, 17 KOs) ripped into Guanajuato’s Jose Ramos (11-15-1, 8 KOs) with a savage attack to win by knockout in the first round. A barrage of blows sent Ramos backward dangling over the ropes. Referee Ray Corona ruled it a knockdown and let the fight continue. Rivera resumed the attack and blistered the taller Ramos with blinding punches forcing the fight to be stopped at 1:51 of the first round. It was Rivera’s first fight since losing to Joet Gonzalez by split decision last July in Los Angeles.

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Pacquiao-Broner: A Perfect Fight for Pacquiao and the Good Guy Wins

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Various sites are reporting that eight division titlist Manny Pacquiao 60-7-2 (39) will meet four division title winner Adrien Broner 33-3-1 (24) in December or January with Manny’s WBA regular welterweight title on the line. The fight hasn’t been confirmed yet but here’s how you know it’ll happen, and that is the fight makes dollars and sense for the super-star involved and that’s Manny Pacquiao.

Pacquiao signed with adviser/promoter Al Haymon – with the hope of getting a rematch with Floyd Mayweather in 2019. Haymon is tied to Mayweather and Broner and most of the top welterweights in the sport – including world champions Errol Spence, Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter. Manny lost a unanimous decision to Mayweather in May of 2015 and has longed for a rematch ever since. And ironically, neither Mayweather nor Pacquiao want any parts of taking on a young gun boxer in his prime. Both Terence Crawford, the WBO title holder, and Errol Spence, the IBF titlist, would take apart and embarrass both of them and there’s a sound case to make that both would’ve been okay tangling with Floyd and Manny even during their prime.

However, Mayweather and Pacquiao are businessman first and fighters second at this time and that’s been the case for quite a while. Manny only has interest in facing Mayweather again because he seeks revenge and Floyd will be 42 and coming off a long period of being inactive by the time they face off. As for Mayweather, he’d rather partake in big money fiascos where he can continue to gouge the public in WWE gimmicks against elite MMA fighters like Conor McGregor, his last opponent, or McGregor’s recent conqueror Khabid Nurmagomedov.

The only real boxer Floyd would entertain fighting is Pacquiao, who at this stage is only a moderate threat to Floyd because Mayweather hasn’t been in the gym much and has been preoccupied with spending his money. That and Pacquiao has a style that Floyd knows he can handle and Manny holds a version of the welterweight title. Granted, Floyd would probably make more money facing Nurmagomedov and Pacquiao is more or less his plan B if Manny gets by Broner. The problem with Mayweather facing Nurmagomedov is that Nurmagodev’s MMA fights don’t attract big interest and just maybe after the McGregor farce, both boxing and MMA fans are fed up with Mayweather’s faux fights and rip-offs – and with him then rubbing it in their faces by bragging how much money he made. So perhaps fans have wised up and will only consider paying to see Floyd fight another boxer – therefore Pacquiao becomes relevant to him.

With it no longer a secret that Mayweather and Pacquiao are only interested in robbing the public, enter Adrien Broner. If there’s another fighter who has been rewarded with big fights after posting underwhelming performances every time he has faced an upper-tier fighter, I don’t know of him. Broner is 3-2-1 in his last six bouts, having faced two championship caliber opponents in Shawn Porter and Mikey Garcia. He lost on the judges’ cards by a collective 16 points versus Porter and 14 against Garcia….in other words he didn’t compete and after the first third of those fights you could’ve turned to something else and you wouldn’t have missed a thing…other than Broner scoring a knockdown over a coasting and careless Porter in the 12th round.

Broner, 29, is a highly skilled boxer, and when he fights he shows flashes of what he could’ve been but never was. Adrien’s problem is he has a low boxing IQ and never cared to expand it. He’s let his weight balloon up and he’s lazy. Actually, Broner doesn’t like to fight and does it because he’s pretty good at it and he likes the notoriety it brings him. Other than that, he’s a contented loser and that makes him perfect for an aging Pacquiao.

When they get in the ring Manny can count on Broner fighting no more than 30 seconds per round and posing and loafing for the remaining 2:30. Adrien will talk up a great fight, saying he knows time is running out and he needs a sensational showing, but once again his words won’t translate into deeds…they never do. Pacquiao, knowing that a potential Mayweather rematch hinges on how he looks, will show up prepared and ready for battle. Manny has been around the block a few times and knows nothing will escalate the interest in another fight with Mayweather like a good showing and perhaps him being the first to stop Broner inside the distance.

Hopefully boxing fans won’t be asked to shell out PPV dollars to watch Pacquiao vs. Broner. But it’s boxing, so nothing should come as a surprise. The only given here is that Broner doesn’t hold any advantage over Pacquiao in size or skill, which isn’t normally the case with Manny. Moreover, he’s facing a fighter who will fold and break the first-time things get tough, and if we know one thing about Pacquiao it’s that he doesn’t make it easy for anybody. And I expect him to feed off of Broner’s weak constitution as the fight progresses. In addition to that this is the perfect good guy versus bad guy match up.

The one thing that might add intrigue to Pacquiao-Broner is that Broner is an easy guy to root against and a ton of fans would love to see nice guy Manny Pacquiao beat him up and humiliate him. And if the fight comes to fruition, count on that being how it unfolds. Yes, Pacquiao fights the perfect guy in order to set up a rematch with Mayweather and Broner will exit the ring a loser once again, only with a little more money to flush down the toilet.

Frank Lotierzo can be reached at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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Irish Jason Quigley Keeps NABF Title at Fantasy Springs

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INDIO, Calif.- Jason Quigley returned to fight in Southern California after nearly two years away and found it tough going in defeating Mexico’s veteran Freddie Hernandez by unanimous decision to retain the NABF middleweight title on Thursday.

Nearly every round was contentious.

Quigley (15-0, 11 KOs) had decided to train in England after spending several years in Southern California. Though he beat Hernandez (34-10, 22 KOs) he must have forgot how to fight inside as that’s where the troubles began at Fantasy Springs Casino. The fight was televised on ESPN.

After spending the first several rounds picking apart 39-year-old Hernandez from the outside, when the Mexican fighter crowded Quigley, the Irish fighter found it difficult to maintain his punch advantage.

Hernandez used his crafty inside work to both score and muffle the punches incoming from Quigley. In the sixth and seventh round the Mexican fighter began mounting considerable damage on his foes’ face. Whether it was weariness or some other factor, Hernandez was scoring big with well-placed left hooks and lead rights.

The crowd began shouting “Fred-die, Fred-die” as the veteran landed flush blows. A look of concern crossed Quigley’s face.

Both fighters looked tired by the ninth round, but the older fighter Hernandez somehow seemed fresher especially while fighting on the inside. Then Quigley began separating himself and scoring with pot shots. That seemed to stop the rushes of Hernandez.

In the final round Quigley’s fans began shouting his name and the Irish fighter though weary managed to fire some combinations while on the move. Both fighters were exhausted when the final bell rang.

One judge scored it 99-91, the other two had it 98-92 all for Quigley.

“I feel great, I knew coming in this was a big test for me,” said Quigley.

Yes it was.

Gomez

New York’s Eddie Gomez (22-3, 12 KOs) was supposed to be joined with his dad for the fight against Japan’s Shoki Sakai (22-9-2, 12 KOs) in Indio, but unexpectedly his father passed away this past weekend. The fight still went on.

Gomez won every round against the game Sakai who was trained by Mexico’s famed Nacho Beristain. The welterweight Gomez from the Bronx used his speed and movement to keep away from Sakai’s big blows. After eight rounds all three judges saw it 80-72 for Gomez.

“It was very hard. He (father) was supposed to come out Saturday night. He took a week off of work. He was supposed to fly out and Saturday was the day he had died,” said Gomez after the fight. “I got to bite down. He was in camp with me. He had his input. He would have been proud today. I love you pops.”

Other bouts

Coachella’s Rommell Caballero (4-0, 3 KOs) floored Hugo Padron twice to win by knockout at 1:25 of the first round in a super featherweight match. Caballero, the 19-year-old brother of former super bantamweight champion Randy Caballero, connected with a counter left hook during an initial exchange that sent Pardo to the floor. He got up tentatively and was met with a crisp right through the gloves for a second knockdown. Referee Tom Taylor took a look at Pardo and waved the fight over.

“My first fight on ESPN I just want to thank everybody. All I’m doing is training. I’m getting ready and staying sharp,” said Caballero who was a former sparring partner for Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez. “Training with him (Gonzalez) is one of the greatest experiences I ever had.”

After losing most every round Ray Perez (24-10, 8 KOs) made a stand and connected with an overhand left that staggered Chimpa Gonzalez (19-3, 15 KOs) and then the Filipino fired another overhand left through the guard and down went Gonzalez. Though he beat the count, Gonzalez seemed light headed and when the fight resumed Perez connected with more blows and the fight was called at 2:15 of the seventh round. Perez was deemed the winner by knockout.

It was a rematch of a fight that took place last February at the same venue. In that contest Perez won by unanimous decision.

Gonzalez trained with Joel and Antonio Diaz in Indio for this match. And though the lanky lightweight was far ahead on the score cards, he seldom moved his head and paid for it. Before that, he was ahead by attacking the body of Perez who protected his body for the last three rounds. But once Gonzalez slowed Perez revved up his attack and finished Gonzalez.

In a featherweight clash Edgar Ortega survived a first round knockdown against Recky Dulay (11-4, 8 KOs) and rallied to win by unanimous decision after six rounds by scores 57-56, and 58-55 twice.

Southpaw lightweight Angel Ruiz (11-0, 8 KOs) knocked out Dominican Republic’s Jonathan Fortuna (8-3) at 1:40 of the fourth round. Ruiz, 21, fights out of Tijuana, Mexico.

Super featherweight Elnur Abduraimov (2-0) knocked out Giovannie Gonzalez (5-3) at 2:38 of the second round. Abduraimov, 24, is originally from Uzbekistan.

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