By Thomas Gerbasi
Seanie Monaghan isn’t smiling yet. Sure, he managed a slight grin when meeting Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana during a press stop earlier this week, but as far as an ear to ear, blinding smile of happiness, that won’t happen until after Saturday’s fight with Marcus Browne.
It’s the fight Monaghan has been waiting for, a nationally televised bout in his home city of Long Island, one where he can make his case for a world title shot and let that world know that he’s more than a local hero with a stellar record.
Of course, the 35-year-old didn’t think it would take this long – no one does – but even the harshest critics had to admit that he deserved a big fight after running his record to 28-0 with 17 stops. Monaghan wasn’t seeking moral victories, even though several big names’ refusal to fight him was a backhanded compliment of sorts.
“I guess you could look at it that way,” he said. “I don’t think of it as a compliment when my bank account is suffering. But you have to look at it in some kind of positive light. Recently, some people have started to catch on. Maybe I’m too much of a risk to take. The risk and the reward don’t match up. I’m still a relatively unknown guy outside of New York, and if they’re gonna give someone the same money to fight an undefeated, hungry guy or Andrzej Fonfara, who (Adonis) Stevenson beat already and Joe Smith knocked out in one round, I guess his management said we’ll take Fonfara again.”
It was when WBC light heavyweight champion Stevenson opted for a June fight with Fonfara over a bout with the Long Islander that Monaghan hit rock bottom when it came to a business that hasn’t treated him too fairly.
“It really perplexes you, and you start thinking to yourself, if I lost would they give me a big fight? Is that what they’re waiting for, are they waiting to see me slow down? But one of the best things that happened to me was having a lackluster performance in my last fight, because the phone started ringing right away.”
In that last fight, Monaghan returned from a 10-month layoff to decision journeyman Fernando Castaneda in December of last year. It was a clear victory, but not an impressive one for the seven-year pro, who admits that despite a solid training camp, his mind was anywhere but in Omaha that night.
“I just couldn’t take this guy seriously,” he said. “I had no fear at all, I kind of went strolling into the ring and went through the motions like a sparring session and then the fight was over. It dawned on me, what did I just do, how did that happen? Because everything was going great and I had a great training camp. I just couldn’t comprehend that this guy was even going to last a round with me. I had no pep in my step, there was no urgency, and I was just flat. Joe Smith was fighting Bernard Hopkins the next week and I was fighting this guy in Nebraska. I didn’t even want to be there.”
Fellow Long Islander Smith won his fight with Hopkins, and while fans and the two fighters wanted to see a local showdown between Smith and Monaghan, it never materialized, with Smith fighting Sullivan Barrera in California on the same night Monaghan takes on Browne.
As for Stevenson, he blasted out Fonfara in two rounds.
“Stuff like that really hurts boxing,” Monaghan said. “I’d like to see a guy who wants to be the best in the world take a stand and say, ‘Listen, nobody wants to see this fight with Fonfara, it proves nothing.’ And in reality, Joe Smith was more in line than anyone to get that fight. Now Joe and I are both taking separate fights that are both dangerous fights because HBO didn’t want to pay for me and Joe, which boggles my mind.”
It boggles the mind of a lot of people, but that doesn’t matter anymore. For Monaghan, his career has led him to this point against the unbeaten former Olympian. And while they’ve sparred together and are friendly with each other, there’s business to be taken care of, and Monaghan is expecting to deliver the type of performance that won’t allow the judges to a) get involved or b) render anything but a decision for him.
“Even though he’s coming to fight me in Long Island and he’s gonna have the whole place screaming for his head, I know that the powers that be behind it are gonna be with him,” he said. “So I’ve got to make it super duper crystal clear, and I don’t spend much time thinking about losing, but if I win this fight and they don’t give it to me, it won’t hurt my stock too much because I feel that the boxing fans will rally behind me even more. The whole world will see it and I’m completely ready to get in there and get busy. This is a chance for me to raise my stock in the eyes of boxing fans and I’m looking forward to it.”
Then he can smile again.