WHEN asked if he would consider fighting again, Rendall “Two Tone” Munroe replies playfully: “Never say never.”
If he is going to fight any time soon, it would be at super-middleweight, eight divisions above the super-bantamweight category where he won Commonwealth and European honours. Munroe hasn’t let himself go since retiring from the ring a couple of years ago. Quite the opposite.
“It’s all muscle,” laughed the 36-year-old. “I’m still addicted to the gym. I train six days every week.”
These days, he’s training for natural bodybuilding championships, with his competitive debut pencilled in for November. “If I’m good enough to be in the top three, I will have a go,” said Munroe, “but if not, I will leave it a bit longer. I’m not going to enter competitions just to make the numbers up. I’m still Mr Competitive. I still want to win.”
Munroe does much of his training at his own gym, Rendall Munroe’s Boxing and Fitness Gym in Leicester, and as you would expect given that he’s the East Midlands city’s favourite fighter since Tony Sibson was left hooking his way into world title contention three decades ago, business is good. Sibson missed out on a world title – and so did Munroe.
He got his shot at WBC super-bantamweight champion Toshiaki Nishioka in Tokyo in October 2010.
“I wanted to prove I would fight anybody, anywhere,” said Munroe. “I was a southpaw, massive for 122lbs, had a good chin and was never intimidated. I always felt that if I did the work in the gym and lost, then it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Against Nishioka, it wasn’t meant to be.
“I came back after the fourth round and said: ‘We’ve got this,’” remembered Munroe. “I really felt I was getting on top. But after the next round, I felt my calves lock. When I got up, it felt as though my calves had shrunk and I was half a second slower after that.”
Nishioka, a slick, stiff-hitting southpaw making his fourth defence of the title, went on to win unanimously on the judges’ scorecards. Munroe knows what went wrong.
“I made the weight properly, but I didn’t rehydrate properly after the weigh-in,” he said. “When you look at the photos of the fight, you can see that I didn’t fill out the way I usually did. I don’t know why I made that mistake. Maybe it’s because I was in a different country, the atmosphere was different…”
As he doesn’t need reminding, Munroe holds wins over two fighters who went on to win world honours – Kiko Martinez and Victor Terrazas.
The first win over Martinez, for the European title in March 2008, was Munroe’s breakthrough, and he still remembers it as his best.
At ringside in Nottingham that night, the question wasn’t whether Munroe would win, but rather how long he would last against the Spaniard who had ripped the title from Bernard Dunne with a one-round blitz. That improved Martinez’s record to a formidable 17-0, 14 by KO.
“Everyone was saying he was a knockout artist,” said Munroe, who was stepping up after winning the English title, “but apart from Dunne, he had only been knocking out people who everyone knocks out. I was fresh, had a good chin and I felt I had beaten better opponents as well.”
The bookmakers didn’t see things that way, making Munroe a 7/1 underdog, but as he said in the build-up to the fight: “I don’t read scripts, I write them.”
Munroe said: “When I went to the bookmakers and put on £100, the guy behind the counter said: ‘Do you know something I don’t ?’ He ended up having £50 on me as well!”
It proved to be a good investment.
“I knew Martinez would try to bang me out early and then get tired,” he said. “He did hit me with a big shot around the fourth or fifth, and I laughed at him. He was expecting me to fall over. That broke his heart.
“I boxed and moved early on, then I pushed him back. If you’re big for the weight it makes sense to fight, but I could box as well.”
Munroe took a majority points decision and won the rematch more comprehensively.
“I wanted to do a better job,” he said. “People were saying the first fight was a fluke and because of that I wanted to give him a good hiding. I did. They wanted to throw the towel in. They should have stopped it.”
That unanimous points win sent his colourful – or should that be visible – fans home happy.
When he first turned professional in 2003, Munroe worked for a glass company, but when he swapped jobs, he gained a ring moniker.
“I needed a job where I could finish early and get to the gym,” he said. “The bins was perfect. It was a run-around job. I got paid for doing my strength and conditioning training!
“My friend, Pete [Hibbert], came up with the idea of calling myself ‘The Boxing Binman.’ He said I needed an image. I told him to shut up, but went along with it.
“Pete was selling tickets for me and was telling everyone who bought tickets they had to buy high-visibility jackets off the market for £1. I couldn’t believe how many were there when I fought Martinez the first time. They were everywhere. As soon as you saw the vest, you knew they were supporting Munroe!”
His supporters saw him make five defences of his European title, including a gruelling points win over Italian Simone Maludrottu that he remembers as his hardest fight.
“By rounds 10 and 11, I was usually running away with it,” said Munroe, “but he was still there, going toe-to-toe.”
Munroe’s hard-earned win led to an eliminator for the WBC title against Mexico’s Victor Terrazas that went ahead in Coventry in April 2010.
“I thought he was struggling at the weight,” said Munroe, “and if they’re struggling at the weight, they don’t have enough in the tank for a hard 12 rounds.
“He started sharp, but as soon as I put my foot down, he couldn’t handle it. He had his turn and once I had warmed up, I had mine.”
Terrazas couldn’t carry on after being punched to his knees in the ninth, but three years later, he won the vacant WBC title with a split points win over Cristian Mijares.
“Knowing fighters I beat won world titles does my head in sometimes,” said Munroe, “but if it wasn’t meant to be, then it wasn’t meant to be.”
That Munroe grew into a world-class fighter is a feel-good story that matches the Premier League triumph of his hometown football team, Leicester City.
As an amateur with Old Robin Hood, Munroe couldn’t decide if he wanted to be Sugar Ray Leonard or Mike Tyson – two of his favourite fighters – and though he won 30 of 40 bouts, he was only ever considered a solid club fighter on the Midlands circuit, who was forever in the shadow of Martin Concepcion, an ABA finalist in 2002 who fought out of Belgrave ABC in the city.
As professionals, Concepcion went with Frank Warren, stayed in Leicester and got too comfortable, while Munroe headed a few junctions up the M1 to the Shinfields’ gym in Somercotes, Derbyshire. The Shinfields ask every new professional the same question. “What do you want from boxing?”
“Some say they want to be British champion,” said Mike Shinfield, the father in the father-and-son team, “and others want to be journeymen and just box to earn some extra money. Rendall said he wanted to be world champion. We said: ‘We will do our best’.”
Sparring at the Shinfields’ gym with highly skilled, mischievous brothers Jason and Nicky Booth was a tough apprenticeship for Munroe.
“I would go home at night with my nose spread across my face!” he remembered. “The next day, I would go back determined they wouldn’t do it again, but they would do something different and I would still go home in a mess. I never gave up. I was so determined. They ended up asking me for sparring when they were fighting for titles and that made me think: ‘How good can I be? I must be good enough.’ That sparring helped me so much.”
The Shinfields always had belief in Munroe. They told Boxing News’ then-editor Claude Abrams that Munroe was a future British champion, but after watching him force a three-round retirement win over Joel Viney on his pro debut, Claude wasn’t so sure. He wrote in his report for BN: “Unless he tightens up his defence when attacking, his career is going to be a short one.”
Munroe instead fought on for more than a decade, winning 28 of his 34 fights (one draw) and bowing out after three losses in his last seven, to Scott Quigg, for the Interim WBA title, Lee Selby and Josh Warrington.
“I was never in boxing for the money,” he said, “and it’s a sport where if you carry on too long, you can get hurt. I’ve got a missus and kids. I wasn’t afraid to go out to work. I was good enough to be a world champion and it’s just a shame the record books won’t show that I was a world champion.”