By Lem Satterfield
Willie Monroe was scheduled for an appearance in the 2015 boxing movie, “Southpaw,” but his role didn’t make the final cut.
“A lot of people don’t know I was also originally in the movie, but my parts were taken out because they were all connected to [an actor who] was cut from the movie. But my name is still in the credits,” said Monroe, a 31-year-old graduate of The Rochester [New York] School of The Arts with backgrounds in music, singing and acting.
“I still get a residual check every time they send them out from the movie, so I’m officially an actor, I guess, for all intents and purposes. In high school, I was in three major plays. I backed out of ‘The Whiz’ because I lost an all-out battle for the part of Scarecrow and didn’t do the play. But I was part of the ensemble in ‘The Temptations Review’and we did ‘Rag Time.’”
Don’t assume that 160-pound Monroe isn’t a real-life pugilist due to his thespian past or a 23-3 record that includes only six knockouts, for “El Mongoose” has boxing in his DNA.
The Rochester, New York-born Monroe's late grandfather, Lee Monroe, was an accomplished amateur who survived being shot in various street fights.
Monroe’s great uncle, Willie “The Worm” Monroe (39-10-1,26 KOs) went 1-2 against Hall of Fame former undisputed 160-pound champion Marvellous Marvin Hagler, and Monroe’s father, Willie Lee “The Body Rock” (24-4-2, 17 KOs) was 19-1-2 before going 5-3 with three knockouts over his final eight bouts.
Trained by Tim Nolan, Monroe is 4-2 in his past six fights entering a third title shot against two-division and WBC interim champion Jermall Charlo (27-0, 21 KOs), a 28-year-old in pursuit of his initial defense and fourth straight stoppage victory at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, on December 22.
Charlo-Monroe is the main event to “The Hit Man’s” 154-pound twin brother, Jermell (31-0, 15 KOs), in his fourth WBC title defense against repeat challenger Tony Harrison (27-2, 21 KOs).
Monroe sandwiched unanimous decisions over John Thompson and title challenger Gabriel Rosado in June and September 2016 between losses to unbeaten champions Gennady Golovkin (sixth-round TKO) and Billy Joe Saunders (unanimous decision) of England in May 2015 and September.
Having rebounded from his loss to Saunders with a consecutive unanimous decisions over Carlos Galvan and Javier Franciso Maciel in March and August, Monroe enters his third fight under Al Haymon, who also advised left-handed 130- and 147-pound champions Gervonta Davis and Errol Spence Jr. when they traveled to England in May for third- and 11th-round knockouts of Liam Walsh and Kell Brook.
“I’m happy to be under the PBC side because there’s full communication, the situation’s fair, they treat fighters right, the money is right, and I’m battle-tested,” said Monroe, a married father of three.
“Jermall Charlo’s strong, undefeated and skillful, right up there with Golovkin and Saunders. It’s another tough outing, but definitely a challenge I’m up for and know I can conquer. Plus it’s great fighting in New York, because even though Charlo's the champion, it’s happening in my back yard so I’ll have some fans there.”
Monroe balanced the early portion of his boxing career with his musical and acting endeavors after graduating from the school of arts.
“I majored in vocal and piano and minored in theater. I got a chance to sing background for Barry Manilow. We had a program for advance vocalists. As a 15-year-old in the summer of 2003, we did backup for Barry Manilo in front of 20,000 people. We did Mandy and three other songs,” said Monroe.
“I started an R&B group, ‘Sing-nature,’ with my brother, Trent, in my junior year. Trent’s is in Los Angeles, now. We were together for seven years. We opened up for Trey Songz twice, Tank two times, and for Ginuwine, J. Holiday, T-Pain and Mario. We were doing great for a while with four songs in a regular rotation on a couple of radio stations.”
But conflicts arose when Monroe was 8-0 (two KOs) following a unanimous decision over Ibahiem King on the April, 2010 undercard of Andre Berto’s eighth-round TKO of Carlos Quintana.
“When we opened for Trey Songz the second time, I had just come off of winning my eighth fight over Ibahiem King on the undercard of Andre Berto’s knockout of Carlos Quintana. Another time earlier I was fighting in Rochester and we had opened for Tank two days after I had won my fifth professional fight,” said Monroe.
“I broke my hand in that fight, so Tank was joking, ‘This is a bad dude, just breaking his hand in a fight,’ and he was giving me my props,”But it was tough doing both, and my brother is a much better singer than I am. So once the group broke up and my brother went solo, I said, ‘I’m gonna stick to boxing.’ I decided it was best to devote my time completely on my fighting career.”
So Monroe's under the spotlight, auditioning for the starring role as the first world champion from his bloodline.
“It was tough performing and fighting, but I get into the studio with my brother every now and then,” said Monroe. “As far as going back to the music, I don’t know. Right now, though, I have a title fight to prepare for. Victory isn’t just going to fall into my lap.”