Last week the announcement came out that undefeated WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin (31-0, 28 KOs) will make his next defense against Willie “The Mongoose” Monroe (19-1, 6 KOs) at the legendary Forum in Inglewood, California, on May 16. Golovkin is riding a 19-fight knockout streak and is among the sport’s hottest fighters. It’s turning into an occasion every time the Kazakhstan native steps into the ring.
Monroe is relatively unknown outside of hardcore boxing circles, which has prompted some casual fans on social media to gripe that GGG is fighting “another cab driver.” But that’s a cynical and poorly informed assessment that is unfair to both champion and challenger.
Ideally, Golovkin would be lining up unification bouts with other middleweight belt holders—most notably, WBC and lineal champion Miguel Cotto. But the other “champions” have little interest in risking their gold against the monster-punching GGG. So he’s left in the position of fighting the best contenders he can find.
Despite lacking tremendous name recognition, Monroe is a legit contender at 160 pounds and potentially one of the most dangerous. Last year he cruised through ESPN’s Boxcino Tournament, while hardly losing a round. He looked outstanding in January, trouncing rugged veteran Bryan Vera by unanimous decision.
Monroe is a very crafty southpaw with a strong amateur background. He literally grew up in the sport. His father, Willie Monroe Sr., was a middleweight contender in the 1990s, and his great-uncle, Willie “the Worm” Monroe, is the only fighter to record a clean victory over all-time great Marvelous Marvin Hagler.
Monroe’s single loss came against the enigmatic Darnell Boone in 2011. Boone is one of the sport’s great mysteries—he’s a sub .500 fighter who has looked elite at times. He’s also the only man who has defeated WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson. Boone lost a split decision against Sergey Kovalev and scored a knockdown on Andre Ward.
Of course only a fool would bet against Triple G at this point. Monroe will have absolutely no margin for error in this fight and cannot afford to camp on the ropes for even a few seconds. Golovkin fights a lot like Mexican legend Julio Cesar Chavez. Monroe is going to have to execute a blueprint similar to what fellow southpaw Pernell Whitaker deployed against JC Superstar in 1993.
That’s a very tough order to fill, no doubt about it. Still, at 28, Monroe is at the point in his career where there’s nowhere left for him to go but into the toughest, most high-profile fights he can find. It’s a bold, but necessary, step for him to take.
It will be one of the biggest upsets in a generation if Monroe pulls this out. And I’m definitely not predicting it. But don’t be shocked if the fight ends up being more interesting than expected.