By Jake Donovan

A drug testing anomaly forced Willie Monroe Jr. out of an interim title fight last December and from the ring the for more than nine months as a result. 

Saturday’s fight with Hugo Centeno didn’t create any demand for the second-generation boxer to return to the ring any sooner.

The middleweight southpaw rode boxed his way to a unanimous decision win over Centeno in their FS1-televised 10-round contest Saturday evening at Saturday evening at Soboba Casino in San Jacinto, California.

Scores were 98-92, 97-93 and 96-94 for Monroe in a slow moving affair which featured more drama than action.

Monroe Jr. was fighting for the first time since last August, the extended break stemming from his testing positive for accelerated levels of testosterone ahead of his canceled interim title fight showdown versus Jermall Charlo last December. The Rochester, N.Y.-bred boxer didn’t show any ring rust, his slick style effectively winning rounds early on as Centeno struggled to adapt.

The bad clash of styles produced a largely ugly affair, along with the southpaw versus conventional matchup coming with its share of headbutts. Centeno was forced to contend with a busted nose for much of the contest, but his corner did a good job of controlling the wound, thus keeping him in the fight.

Centeno rewarded his team’s hard work with a strong surge in the middle rounds. After being held to single digit punches landed in each of the first four rounds, Centeno outlanded Monroe in rounds five through eight.

Monroe regained his bearings down the stretch, with the action picking up as both boxers sensed the fight was on the table. Centeno’s specific instructions were to go for the knockout, which proved sage advice once the final cards were read.

The win is Monroe’s third straight since a 12-round points loss to then-unbeaten middleweight titlist Billy Joe Saunders in Sept. 2017. He’d also suffered a title fight loss when he was stopped in six rounds by Gennady Golovkin in May 2016.

Centeno falls to 27-3 (14KOs), having now lost two of his last three starts.

The bout aired live on FS2 as the chief support to an intended PBC on FS1 telecast headlined by a welterweight crossroads bout between Devon Alexander and Ivan Redkach,

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox