By Keith Idec
Billy Joe Saunders wants to fight Gennady Golovkin.
For now, the unbeaten Brit will have to settle for facing one of Golovkin’s conquests on the same night Golovkin will battle Canelo Alvarez in one of the biggest boxing matches of the year. According to multiple reports Thursday afternoon, Saunders has agreed to defend his WBO middleweight title against Willie Monroe Jr. on September 16 at Copper Box Arena in London.
Saunders, of Manchester, England, was supposed to make a mandatory defense of his WBO 160-pound championship against Avtandil Khurtsidze this Saturday at Copper Box Arena. Their fight was canceled last month because Brooklyn’s Khurtsidze (33-2-2, 22 KOs) was arrested and charged with being part of a Russian crime syndicate (https://www.boxingscene.com/khurtsidze-arrested-saunders-fight-being-push-back--117342).
The WBO subsequently removed the 38-year-old Khurtsidze from its rankings and allowed Saunders to make an optional defense in this next fight. Monroe is ranked No. 5 by the WBO.
Saunders had hoped to face Golovkin on June 10 in Golovkin’s native Kazakhstan, but that much-discussed middleweight championship unification fight fell apart after Golovkin (37-0, 33 KOs) went 12 rounds for the first time in his career during a unanimous-decision victory over former champion Daniel Jacobs (32-2, 29 KOs) on March 18 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Oscar De La Hoya, whose company promotes Alvarez, did not want Golovkin to risk an injury or an upset defeat by boxing Saunders so close to when he would’ve needed to start promoting his HBO Pay-Per-View showdown with Mexico’s Alvarez (49-1-1, 34 KOs) on September 16 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The 27-year-old Saunders (24-0, 12 KOs) will end a nine-month layoff when he meets Monroe. In his last bout, Saunders beat Russia’s Artur Akavov (17-2, 7 KOs) by unanimous decision December 3 in Paisley, Scotland.
The 30-year-old Monroe (21-2, 6 KOs), of Rochester, New York, hasn’t fought since scoring a 12-round, unanimous-decision win against Philadelphia’s Gabe Rosado (23-11, 13 KOs) on September 17 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Golovkin stopped Monroe in the sixth round of their May 2015 fight at The Forum in Inglewood, California.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.