Willie Monroe Jr. was born to be a boxer. Having come from a line of boxers streaming down from his grandfather, his grandfather’s brother, his great uncle and then his very own father… there was no way Willie was going to pass up on the family tradition. Having started at an early age being trained by his grandfather, Willie has now been a boxer for the majority of his life and we dug into his massive wisdom learning more about him, what made him who he is and what brought him to where he stands now.
Willie will be back in the ring on September 16th, 2017 against Billy Joe Saunders at the Copper Box Arena in London fighting for the Middleweight World Title. We’re #TeamMonroe all the way and can’t wait to see the event, make sure you don’t miss it. You’ll find Willie’s video interview with us up top or read the written version down below. Stay tuned for his upcoming fight and keep up with Willie on his site and Instagram, links at the end of the article. Enjoy!
We know you grew up in a family of boxers and began training at a very early age which was unquestionably influential in your own pursuit of becoming a boxer yourself. Was there however a specific point in time when you knew that boxing was without a doubt what you wanted to pursue professionally? What bridged the gap between a childhood sport and a professional career?
I have been doing it all my life thanks to my grandfather but, when I noticed I would be something special, that I could do this as a professional I was about seventeen years old. Once you turn seventeen in the amateur ranks you fight what they call open class and in the open class you fight anyone from seventeen to thirty-two years old. So, at that point there’s no more age, it’s just about the weight. I went to an open tournament, it was a four day tournament, and I knocked everybody out. I knocked out three guys and then beat another one by a decision to win the fourth tournament. When I won the finals they kept asking me, where did I get the power from, where did I get the skill from, and I was just like, “my grandfather”, all I could say was my grandfather, my grandfather gave me this, my grandfather showed me. So, it was at that age where I said that all of these years, mind you I had been doing it for about eleven years by the time I was seventeen so, by that time I really like said, OK this is something I can do as a professional because I was good at it and I was only seventeen knocking out grown men.
You had a rough time in 2011 and bounced back like a champ. When the going gets rough and it all starts taking a toll physically and mentally, both in the ring and off the spotlight, what keeps you going?
My family, my family keeps me going. 2011 was a tough time and a huge setback but my belief in God, my family, my grandparents… I had to move back home and work two jobs and being close to my grandparents allowed them to once again keep motivating me. Also, my girlfriend at the time who’s my wife now was pregnant with my son and we already had a four year old daughter so we just worked hard and that became my motivation to get back on my feet and start moving again. And now here we are a couple years later, top of the world, world champion.
It’s the 10th round, your nearly tied with your opponent, and he lands a hard blow knocking the wind out of you… gathering your composure getting ready to get back at it, what’s running through your mind?
Be smart. There are such high emotions in boxing and a lot of guys panic with the pressure and I’ve been one, I have panicked but through my experience and with everything I’ve dealt with,but when that happens just be calm, be smart, and get yours back the most intelligent way. Which, is actually the better way and the easier way because nine times out of ten someone will fight off of emotions in that moment. So when you can get out of your emotions and jump back into your mind and strategically put things together under that type of pressure that’s what separates champions with the rest. If I get caught with a blow and we’re nearly tied and I gotta get it back I go straight back to my mental game, my intellect, I go straight to my brain bank, dig up something up and get it back.
From Monday to Sunday, what does a week of training look like for you?
It depends on how close we are to a fight. If we’re about six weeks out from a fight we do three sessions a day, if we’re about two weeks away from a fight it’s more like two sessions a day. That would consist of running anywhere between four to six miles in the morning, strength and conditioning, then back to the gym at night for boxing training such as pad work, sparring, bag work. If we’re doing three-a-days we’re up at 5, running, strength and conditioning, back in the gym around noon for sparring and then later that night we’ll go swimming or go for another run around nine to end the night with either a five mile run or five to ten laps in the pool.
Is there something outside of your training and diet regime completely unrelated to boxing that you feel contributes to you being a better boxer?
The thing that contributes to me being a better boxer is my dance. It allows me to keep my feet right, sync my coordination and timing. You don’t realize just how much dance can influence what you do in the ring as far as accuracy, timing, and finesse is concerned. I’m part Cuban on my grandfather’s side and one thing they learn first in Cuba is footwork. They learn footwork and they start off dancing before they learn to throw punches. In the Cuban style of boxing or what we call “la escuela Cubana” or the Cuban school of boxing you learn that your feet work with your hands and your hands work from your feet. Everything is from the ground up. So you start with the feet up to the hands and if your feet can get right the hands just follow. Those are your extremities, your hands work with your feet and your feet work with your hands.
What’s one thing that you can’t live without in the gym?
I gotta have a double end bag. We don’t gotta have any heavy bags, we don’t have to have a speed bag, we don’t have to have a ring. But a double end bag is what I really love. You could put me in the middle of a room with a double end bag and I could make that my whole training session. I love speed, I love accuracy, I love timing and agility… these are all attributes that made me who I am, the base of who I am. And a double end bag, oh my goodness, not everybody knows how to hit a double end bag. It’s very tricky, very difficult to hit, and if you’re not careful a double end bag will smack you back and it can hurt. But, that’s my baby, I love that bag.
When you’re not in the ring training or the gym exercising, where would we find you having a good time?
With my family. I have a beautiful wife, a ten year old daughter, a five year old son, and a beautiful baby girl named Riley on the way. Man, those three, oh my goodness, I could be in the house with them all day and just have fun. Whether it’s from yelling at my son to then being happy with him to then having a crazy intellectual conversation with my daughter because she is mature beyond her years.
Or whether it’s just loving my wife and goofing around and making her laugh. We’re both very comical individuals man and we just love each other. We’ll sit around and crack jokes all day, mess with the kids, video games, music videos, and my son is the biggest Michael Jackson fan. I could sit and watch him all day just moonwalk my whole house.
Do you have a pre-training or pre-fight ritual that gets you focused and in the zone that you’re willing to share?
Really no pre-fight ritual but there are some things I like to do in camp since I figured myself out like have break days where we may work out but it’s not necessarily boxing. I’ll throw on my whole neoprene and sauna top on and we’ll all go to Lasertron and we’re running around trying to catch each other with lasers and it’s competitive and I’ll do three or four twenty minute sessions of that and I’m drenched in sweat and we’ll be doing pushups in between each game. I’ll still get the same workout but I’ll break the monotony of being in the ring and that’s one thing I love to do whether it’s basketball, Lasertron, sometimes I’ll take the kids skating. It’s something where we can still break a little sweat and stay active but it’s offline from boxing so it gives you that brief pause to refresh your thoughts and look forward to going to the gym. Because being in the gym everyday can be a bit mentally taxing. So sometimes you gotta get that physical work in without it actually being boxing or geared towards boxing.
Having started at such an early age, you’ve been boxing pretty much all of your life at this point. In all of those years of training and boxing, what well-learned lesson sticks out most to you that still speaks to you to this day?
There’s actually a couple that my grandfather told me. My grandfather had these special little sayings. He would say, “It’s hard but it’s fair” or “if you want something you’ve never had you gotta do something you’ve never done” or “God gives his hardest battles to his strongest warriors”. These were little nuggets my grandfather had been dropping on me since I was a kid. And they stuck with me and when the going gets tough, I just say maybe it’s this tough because God thinks I’m strong enough to handle it. Or, if I want to prove that I’m going to that next level I have to endure something that I haven’t had to endure before. That’s when the whole, “if you want something you’ve never had you gotta do something you’ve never done” comes in. When my grandfather says “it’s hard but it’s fair”, it means it’s hard to be extraordinary but you need those extraordinary methods to make you extraordinary and it’s very, very hard but it’s only fair being that you want to be extraordinary. He would say, “If you want to be ordinary, use ordinary methods… if you want to be extraordinary, use extraordinary methods”. You only get out of life what you put into it. And in those low moments when things aren’t looking so good, understand that it’s more or less the power of the pull. It’s just like a bow and arrow, the further you pull it back, the further it’s going to go when you release it. So if I’m being pulled back and things are very hard with all that weight, once God releases me, once the universe releases me I’m going to go a lot further than I even imagined. And that’s what keeps me on kilt when things get hard.
It’s undeniable that boxing is dynamic in that it requires a high level of skill in many different aspects. However, if there were one skill in particular that were to hold more weight than the rest, which would it be?
It would be my mental capacity. Knowing what to do and when to do it. The body works with the mind. Thought comes first, everything physical comes next. If your thought pattern is on and your mental game is on, your physical world reacts. So if it were one aspect that I would definitely need to keep close and hold on to it would definitely be my mental ability.
Over the past five years, would you say your fighting style has changed and if it has, how so?
I wouldn’t say it’s changed I’ve just added some things to it, slowed some things down, made some adjustments. Nothing has changed, it’s just some things I don’t do as much and some things I do more of just trying to be on a more even kilt with everything. Some things I’ve enhanced and some things I’ve pulled back on just to make myself a better fighter.
Setting aside what happened in 2011, if you could go back a couple of years in time and give your younger self some advice, what would you say?
I would tell myself to keep going. Endure the hard times because it gets greater later. I’ve always been a focused individual because of the disciplinary actions my grandfather laid on me as a young child. But sometimes I would be so disciplined and focused and I didn’t understand it, couldn’t comprehend why my level of focus was where it was. I would just sometimes feel “ey I’m focused” but I was too young to comprehend why I was focused. If I could go back in time and tell myself something I would just tell myself to remain focused, remain disciplined, keep the work ethic because it’s going to take you a lot further than you can believe or comprehend right now. So stay focused, stay disciplined, and keep the work ethic.
To close things out, what’s on the horizon for the remainder of 2017 and 2018? Anything else we should be on the lookout for from Team Monroe?
It’s just about getting mines. We have a hashtag and a slogan called “Give me mine”. I’ve been very humble, I am very humble and I’ve taken low pay days and I’ve taken having to sit out of the ring for months at a time to be able to get somewhere. We’re going to beat Billy Joe Saunders, September 16th, I’m calling a ninth round knockout! Whichever way it goes we’re going to beat Billy Joe Saunders and we’re gonna be WBO Middleweight Champion by the time this year is over. So 2018 I’m just looking to really go get what’s mines. I’m 30, I’m in my prime, once I win that belt no-one can run anymore so I’m just going to get mines. Just give me mines, that’s the season we’re in right now and that might last for the rest of my life not just 2018! So yea my whole attitude from here on out is give me mine, I’m going to get what’s rightfully mine as a fighter and as a human and it starts on September 16th when I go beat Billy Joe Saunders for the WBO Middleweight Title.