Rendall Munroe

Rendall Munroe
"Rendall Munroe is Rendall Munroe.  He's a boxer, a comedian.  Am I done?  Never say Never.  I have a good life, two kids and all my marbles."
 
That's Rendall Munroe.  Retired boxer, former European, Commonwealth and British champion as well as world title challenger.  But that doesn't tell the full story.  This is a man who balanced his life, a man who retired and came back to the sport and a man who has not just passed on the torch of British boxing to a new generation but has done so with a passion and love that means there may well be chapters left to write in the future.
 
Born and raised in Leicester in the 1980's Rendall admits that his early years were not always as productive as they may have been.  "I was a tearaway at school" he tells me.  "I always did minimal effort.  I work with excluded kids these days and I tell them the truth."  The way that he has come to work with the more disruptive children is a long story.  This is a man who reached the peak of boxing in the UK and almost the world, while at the same time holding down a full time job as a binman in his home town.  The recital of his past sounds like the fables of footballers before the sport exploded - followed by thousands at a weekend and then back to the workhouse on a Monday.  In reality that is what Munroe did - although not quite to those specifics:
 
"I would fight on the Saturday night, then be back working the bins on a Tuesday.  Monday was always my day off.  Boxing was never about the money to me - it was about representing myself and where I had come from.  But I planned my life around my work  as a binman.  Once I retired from boxing though I went back to my job on the bins and it wasn't there for me, I was gutted.  That was when things went downhill.  But the man upstairs does everything for a reason - I'm in a good place now."
 
Munroe has retired twice from the sport that he loves.  His first retirement came in 2012 after his sixth round loss to Scott Quigg, current WBA super bantamweight champion.  It was the second time that him and Quigg had stepped in the ring together - the first had resulted in a technical draw after a clash of heads in the third round left Munroe with a nasty head injury that required nine stitches to put right.  "I believe Quigg headbutted me in that fight - watch it back, his head went in.  That second time I boxed him my head wasn't in the right place, no disrespect to him."  Two fights after his victory over Munroe, Quigg went on to claim his world championship.  Munroe however was denied the same opportunities, something that still rankles with him to this day.  This weekend sees Quigg defend his title against a fighter Munroe defeated back in 2009 for the European super bantamweight championship, Kiko Martinez.
 
"That fight is a joke.  How is that a step up for Quigg?  They wave around a cheque for £1.5 million (reference to the offer made to Carl Frampton) then end up with Martinez.  How is that a step up?  Quigg wins for me.  How do these fighters get the opportunities?  I don't really watch all that much boxing, because there are people there that I have beaten and could still beat today."
 
Munroe ranks his victory over Martinez as his career highlight.  "Beating Martinez for the European title - nobody knew who I was.  At the time me and Martin Conception were both professionals out of Leicester and he got the headlines.  It was only thanks to Frank (Kellie) Maloney that I got that opportunity."  Munroe grabbed the opportunity with both hands.  His unanimous points victory over Martinez boosted him up the world rankings, and four fights later he was in a position to be fighting for a world title.  He travelled to Japan in October 2010 to fight one of the worlds pound for pound superstars Toshiaki Nishioka.  The fight will be remembered for the efforts of the man from Leicester with the odds stacked against him, and his ever loyal support who made the journey fight night to wear the familiar sight for Munroe - the yellow high visibility jackets donned during his bin round.  It may have been a peculiar sight to Japanese fight fans, but that element of fun was something that Munroe thrived on.  However his ability to take Nishioka the full distance and almost come home with the WBC belt was also part of the downfall for Munroe.
 
"Only when I got too good for my own good did it come apart.  After the world title fight people started to realise how good I was.  Straight after the decision was announced I asked his manager for the rematch, and he told me 'No Way!'.  At that point nobody wanted to fight me." 
 
Munroe is philosophical about the challenges he faced in his career - he was never given the easy route to achieve his goals.  "I'm a respectful fighter, we're all in the sport for the same thing - to win world titles.  Some get an easier path, some get it harder.  I had two world title eliminators and I beat everyone who I was supposed to beat."  The fact that Munroe cites world titles, and not money, as the end goal for all fighters says a lot about how he managed his career and the issues that he faced after the world title defeat.  "I was in it for the love of the sport.  After that fight I started to feel the pressure.  I turned professional without ambition, just to earn a bit of extra money.  It was my uncle who told me to go pro.  I was sparring Jason and Nicky (Booth, both highly decorated fighters) when I realised I could actually be good.  Both of these guys were fighting for world titles and I was holding my own, it was then that I realised I could actually be a good fighter."
 
 
After the Nishioka loss Munroe came back to fight in the UK, and picked up three victories prior to his first fight with Quigg.  The loss to Quigg in their second fight prompted his early retirement, which was then reversed six months later in May of 2013.  In September of the same year he took his first big fight back against Andy Townend, a fight that many picked Munroe to lose.  "When I fought Townend everyone favoured him.  He won one out of the ten rounds.  I then went down to featherweight to fight Lee Selby (he picked up a victory over Pavels Senkov before this) and that was a four pound difference.  That fight with Selby was the biggest fix in boxing history.  I got stopped in the sixth round, but trust me, I got more marks on me in sparring than I did in that fight."

The passion with which Munroe speaks about his career makes it clear that there is fight in the old dog yet.  He harbours ambitions still, whether they be in or out of the ring.  He is proud to have helped nurture a number of todays best fighters.  Terry Flanagan, who won his own world title at the weekend, is someone who Munroe highlights as having been a part of his past.  "We had Terry in for sparring when he was young.  He was a southpaw so it made for good sessions.  It's great to see the young lads coming through - good for them and for me.  Jamie Mcdonnell (current WBA world bantamweight title holder) - we used to spar every time he had fights coming up.  There was one time they didn't get me in for camp and he lost - that gives me a lot of credit."

So how did Munroe know that it was time to hang the gloves up for good?  "I sat in the hotel room, the night before the Josh Warrington fight (his final match) and I was wondering whether I was doing it for the right reasons.  I didn't know if I was there to win, or there for them to take my name.  I could have stayed around for the money but it wouldn't be worth it.  There was so much more left for me, but I wasn't allowed to do it, I didn't get the opportunities and I was struggling to make nine stones.  I feel better now for getting out of it.  I could get in the ring right now and do 12 rounds, I'm 11 stones now.  People say that I look better than ever, I'm still in the gym and have my head guard on and am ready for sparring.  That will never go away."

The gym is something that has taken up Munroe's time in his retirement.  Since walking away from boxing he has got his own gym in Leicester, attached to Sugar's Gym in the town.  "We offer a bit of boxing training, there's the weight room.  It has a bit of everything.  It's a bit of fun, I didn't want to look to just one thing.  I'm training fighters myself and people keep asking if I'm going to bring prospects through."  Part of his motivation for being in the gym is his new focus - bodybuilding.  He is making sure that as with his boxing, he achieves all that he can in his new pastime.  "I want to compete next year, I'm not just making up the numbers.  I'm working with Sugar on it - he will tell me when I'm ready to compete.  I want people to say 'shit, look at Rendall, he looks great.'  I'm 11 stone now and hitting hard in the gym!"

At 35 years of age you can tell that there is more to come from Rendall, no matter which path he takes.  Will we ever see him back in the ring?  "Never say never!  But I go to shows and sit in the stands with the fans and people remember me as the boxing binman, that just feels great.  I want people to remember me as Rendall Munroe, than binman from Leicester."  Whether we see him back in the ring is debatable.  As a fan, you would love to see his type back fighting and given one last set of opportunities that were deprived when he was in his prime.  But equally, with his sharp wit still in place and his marbles in tact, it is easy to wish him the best with his work with the troubled children of Leicester and provide a role model who can prove what can be achieved with dedication and true grit.  Body building, gym owner, potential fighter.  The bins may not be an option but Rendall has many doors open for his future.