Updated: 06/25/2014 6:01 PM
Created: 06/25/2014 4:42 PM WHEC.com
By: Justin Granit
Tuesday was officially "Willie Monroe Junior Day". The mayor and the city honored the world class boxer from Rochester but many people in the city are not familiar with the name.
The names Abby Wambach and Ryan Callahan carry heavy weight in Rochester. They are national stars in their respective sports. There’s a middle weight name that is just as impressive. Willie Monroe Junior, 27, is a top 10 boxer in the world and currently holds three belts. Monroe is a name worth remembering. “I was probably boxing before I was talking. It's part of the family heritage it's part of the lineage. I guess you could say I was born into it.”
The last name Monroe rings loudly in boxing circles. Willie "The Worm" Monroe was a title contender in the 1970s. His nephew, Willie Senior, a contender in the 1990s. Fast forward to present day, Willie Monroe Junior is making his own name. “Seeing my dad on TV fighting when I was four or five, I wanted to be so much like my dad.”
Junior’s TV debut would eventually come. With the guidance of his grandfather, Monroe raised their grandson Willie Junior in the 19th Ward of Rochester. “If you want to be ordinary, use ordinary methods. If you want to be extraordinary, use extraordinary methods. My grandparents used extraordinary methods in raising me and my grandfather used extraordinary methods in training me to be a fighter.”
Willie won his first 10 fights. Then in March 2011, he lost a decision. That's when things took a turn for the worst, people stopped believing. “It wasn't that I learned from the fight, I learned from the experience of what happen after the fight. A lot of people walked away from me, a lot of key people.”
Fights stopped coming, Willie started working two jobs in Rochester but continued training with the support of his family. “I was able to step back from that and still keep my fight and championship mentality.”
Finally, nearly a year and a half later during the summer of 2012, Willie landed a fight at Sahlen's Stadium. He won, then he won again and again. In early 2014, Monroe was invited to ESPN's Boxcino Tournament -- a field of eight boxers at Turning Stone Casino. Willie defeated the field, winning the event and putting the Monroe name back on the map. “They have this picture with all eight of us holding the belt and then, at the very end, you have me with all three belts and that's a super fairy tale ending.”
It's not the end for Willie Monroe Junior though. He wants a world title shot at Junior Middle or Middle Weight. He punches with a confidence and humility instilled in him by his family.
Rochester is family to Willie and like his grandfather, he wants to provide hope for others. “It makes it realistic to say, ‘Man I went to school with that guy, or man I grew up on the same street with that guy. Or the same house he grew up in, I'm growing up in now. If he can do it, I can do it’.”
Monroe's promoter is working on a fight scheduled for this fall. If he continues on this path, a major title shot could come.