Willie Monroe, Jr. and Javier Maciel battle for leg up in 160-pound division

Pair of middleweight contenders need a win over one another tomorrow night in the co-main event of PBC on FS1 to propel them back down championship path.

Willie Monroe Jr. and Javier Francisco Maciel weigh-in for their PBC on FS1 co-main event at The Armory in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Thursday, August 24, 2018. (Brian Schroeder / Premier Boxing Champions)

One fighter is determined to remain a legitimate middleweight contender. The other wants to get back there. One of them will be disappointed on Saturday.

Willie Monroe Jr. and Javier Francisco Maciel meet tomorrow night in the co-main event of a PBC on FS1 show (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT) from The Armory in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with the winner remaining on track to realize his goal. A special 90-minute prelims telecast kicks off the show at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT.

Monroe, 31, has fallen short in two title fights — losing to Gennady Golovkin in 2015 (TKO 6) and Billy Joe Saunders this past September (UD 12) — but he remains as committed as ever to having a belt wrapped around his waist.

“I just want to stay on track toward completing my mission, which is to become a world champion,” said Monroe, the son of former fighter Willie Monroe and great nephew of Marvin Hagler conqueror Willie “The Worm” Monroe.

The Saunders event in London went poorly for him from beginning to end, the lowlights being poor pre-fight treatment of Monroe and his team, an infamous punch to the groin by Saunders’ 8-year-old son during the weigh-in and a clear victory for the WBO titleholder.

Of course, Monroe was disappointed – two title fights, two losses is hard to swallow – but he enters the Maciel fight feeling good about his career after signing with Premier Boxing Champions this past September.

Monroe illustrated his contentment with a story. The one-time amateur star said his former team gave up on him after he lost a split decision to the more-experienced Darnell Boone in 2011, after which he didn’t fight for 16-plus months and then trained “out of a friend’s garage” for several fights.

He has had some good opportunities the past few years but has been frustrated by long periods between fights and, he said, he hasn’t had the stability that foments success—until now.

“I signed with Al in September, I fought in March (easily outpointed Carlos Galvan) and in five months I’m fighting again, and I’m back on TV,” Monroe said. “That’s how a fighter stays prepared. You stay busy, you stay active, you stay sharp.”

Maciel was a contender in 2013, when he lost a split decision to capable Brian Rose in a WBO title eliminator in England.

The rugged Argentine rebounded by winning his next three fights — two in the U.S. — before enduring a year and half of crushing disappointment: He lost two more split decisions (to Norberto Gonzalez and Mateo Damian Veron) and then was stopped for the only time in his career (by talented Michel Soro).

“Javier was very frustrated,” said Sebastian Contursi, his longtime manager. “He felt he lost one fight he should never have lost (against Gonzalez), the last time he fought in the U.S. I think part of the problem was that his mother had some health issues at that time, which distracted him.”

Maciel regrouped in his native country, winning three consecutive fights there. That includes a one-sided 10-round decision over Davi Eliasquevici less than a month ago, after which Maciel returned directly to the gym and resumed training.

He was offered the Monroe fight on Sunday after Monroe’s original opponent, Immanuwel Aleem, pulled out (injured ribs), and he jumped at the chance. He boarded a plane to the U.S. within hours.

A victory over an opponent of Monroe’s stature would instantly make him a major player at 160 pounds, particularly because the fight is taking place in front of a U.S. audience.

“I’m thrilled to have a new chance to fight back in America,” Maciel said. “I’ve wanted to come back for some time. I know the best are here and I always want to fight the best, especially after the bad streak I had a few years back.”

Of course, Maciel faces a significant challenge.

Monroe (22-3, 6 knockouts) is a clever, athletic southpaw who is perfectly happy to outbox his opponents and generally does. He doesn’t have special punching power but that hasn’t held him back, as lopsided decisions over Brian Vera and Gabriel Rosado indicate.

And Monroe had been preparing for an aggressive opponent in Aleem, which could make the adjustment to Maciel seamless. Bottom line: Monroe is always prepared when he steps into the ring. This fight will be no exception.

“I take no one for granted,” he said.

Maciel (33-6, 23 KOs) doesn’t have the skill set of Monroe but he’s a typically tough Argentine who makes his foes work for whatever they get.

“The only way to beat an elusive and skillful fighter is by putting a lot of pressure on him, which is usually my style,” said the 33-year-old from Buenos Aires, who is of the same generation of Argentine stars Marcos Maidana and Lucas Matthysse.

Will the slick Monroe have his way with an inferior technician? Will Monroe have the punching power to keep an aggressive Maciel off of him for 12 rounds? Will Maciel have enough in his tank after fighting so recently? And how well will Maciel handle fighting on a big stage?

The only thing we know for sure is this: Both fighters are aware of what’s at stake. They are motivated.

For a complete look at the PBC on FS1 card, check out our fight page.

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