By Terence Dooley
Copper Box Arena, London - Billy Joe Saunders (25-0, 12 KOs) retained the WBO middleweight title with a twelve round unanimous decision over Willie Monroe Jr. (21-3, 6 KOs). The scores were 117-111, 115-114 and 117-112.
It was Saunders' first bout since retaining his belt for the first time last December in a tough fight with Artur Akavov.
Monroe was coming off a September 2016 decision win over Gabriel Rosado on the Canelo Alvarez-Liam Smith undercard in Texas.
In the end, the pre-fight shenanigans were more interesting than the fight itself as Saunders cantered to a dominant, if tepid, win. The WBO titlist suffered a cut over the right eye after a clash of heads in the fourth round, courtesy of an accidental clash of heads, but maintained control throughout to retain his title.
The American challenger was struck in the groin and kicked at by Saunders's son at the weigh-in, and later claimed that he was the victim of threats and abuse throughout fight week. "The Mongoose", 30, has threatened to take action against Saunders by complaining to the BBBoC yet had the perfect opportunity to get revenge on the 28-year-old on the night only to fail to make his mark on the fight.
Saunders failed to shine against Artur Akavov in December of last year and is fighting for relevance in a division dominated by Gennady Golovkin and Saul Alvarez, his last major statement came against Chris Eubank Jnr. in November 2014 and time is not on his side. There has been talk of an outing in December as he seeks to further his development under new trainer Dominic Ingle, and the former Olympian should take anything he can get in the festive period as he bids to keep himself relevant enough to net a major contest in 2017.
"You can't discredit the man, thanks to him for coming over," said Saunders, before his son apologised for "Punching you (Monroe) in the nuts" at the weigh-in.
"I've got the hunger again working with Dominic," said Saunders. "The main thing in my head tonight was to get through this fight to get to what is next. There was more pressure than this than there would be for Golovkin or Canelo. I beat him on pure boxing, it was a bit boring for the fans but I got the win."
He added: "I'd like to thank Dominic, if it wasn't for Dominic and the Ingle gym I probably wouldn't have been here tonight."
"We need to move on to December, get him out again—hopefully if Golovkin wins and doesn't get banged up we can have that in December," was Frank Warren's take, confirming a December outing. "If Alvarez wins then that is next year, but even if Alvarez loses that is a good fight for Billy."