Prior to the start of the Boxcino middleweight tournament, Willie Monroe Jr. was looked upon as just another familiar offspring who would ultimately get lost in the shuffle in the pro ranks.
Three wins packed into a 12-week span have now propelled the 27-year old to middleweight contention.
Monroe Jr. claimed top honors in the eight-man single elimination Boxcino middleweight tournament, scoring a 10-round decsion over Brandon Adams in the ESPN2-televised opener Friday evening at Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York.
Scores were 99-91 across the board in favor of Monroe Jr., who dating back to late February has now delivered the best three performances of his career.
The bout preceded the Boxcino lightweight finals between Petr Petrov and Fernando Carcamo.
As spectacular as Monroe Jr. has looked throughout the tournament, the well-schooled southpaw boxer saved his best for last. The great nephew of former middleweight contender Willie 'The Worm' Monroe and whose father was also a pro boxer, Monroe Jr. was as sharp in his boxing skills as he was aggressive over the course of the ten-round affair.
Adams charged forward early in the night, of the belief that he could bully his opponent, whose modest knockout-to-win ratio suggested a power advantage in favor of the unbeaten Los Angeleno. The strategy proved accurate only in pockets, as Monroe was able to create space and the pace of the bout on the strength of a purposeful jab.
The Rochester (NY)-born southpaw mixed in uppercuts and sraight left hands in nearly every exchange. Adams's best moments came on the inside, when he was able to pin Monroe Jr. on the ropes and target the body.
Adams had Monroe Jr. briefly hurt in round three, but never to the point of threatening a knockout ending. Monroe Jr. kept a cool head, surviving the flurry and regaining control, even enjoying a power punching surge in a round five that saw Adams in a rare moment of retreat.
A solid mix of boxing and banging was produced over the course of the second half of the contest. Monroe Jr. took just enough off of his fastball to concentrate more on punching in bunches while offering lateral movement. Adams struggled to adjust, often forced to go on the hunt, catching plenty of leather any time he attempted to work his way inside.
Heading down the stretch, Monroe Jr. gained more confidence, even offering a soggy knockoff of the Ali shuffle late in round nine. He had every right to be confident; even Adams' corner knew heading into the 10th and final round that something dramatic was required in order to remain an unbeaten prospect-turned-contender.
It would never happen, as Monroe Jr. played to perfection his own corner's advice to simply box his way to winning the round, and thus the fight.
Monroe Jr. advances to 18-1 (6KO) with the biggest win of his career, one that figures to play favorably in the alphabet rankings as two regional titles were at stake.
Adams suffers his first defeat, falling to 14-1 (9KO). The 24-year old stopped faded Daniel Eduoard in the 4th round of their quarterfinals matchup in February, then gutted out an eight-round split decision win over Raymond Gatica this past April, just five weeks ago to advance to Friday's finals.
The run enjoyed by Monroe Jr. becomes the type of underdog storyline that makes any tournament that much better. Wins over Donatas Bondorovas and unbeaten Vitaly Kopylenko were clear-cut and featured a more aggressive version of a fighter who'd previously drew scorn for his defensive-first style.
Friday's winning performance sheds that label, as well as the notion that he's merely here to cash in on his name. No matter what happens from here on out, Willie Monroe Jr. has established himself as a middleweight to be noticed.