Willie “The Worm” Monroe, a Philadelphia boxing legend, died on Sunday, June 22, 2019. He was 73.
He was born on June 5, 1946 in Alabama to the late John and Plessie Monroe. He was the 13th of 17 children. His childhood and teen years were spent in Crestview, Florida where he attended Crestview High School.
His father encouraged him to pursue his dream of becoming a fighter. Following the great careers of Ray Robinson, Kid Gavilan, Harold Johnson, Bob Foster, Gil Turner and Joe Lewis, he made the decision to become just as masterful as his heroes.
Monroe moved to Rochester, New York in 1963 where he began his amateur career. The road to a successful pro career began with a strong amateur foundation. As an amateur boxer, Monroe compiled a fantastic record. He had 43 wins, zero losses with 37 knockouts. He won three golden glove titles.
In 1969, Monroe moved to Philadelphia to meet with Yank Durham, who at the time was cultivating the talent of a future champion by the name of Joe Frazier. At the time, his movements were sleek, sly and slippery, thus motivating Durham to call him “Worm.”
Monroe had a successful professional debut. He was undefeated with 21 wins and zero losses, before losing his first fight by decision in Paris. Monroe became the fighter of the year in 1974. He defeated Cyclone Hart, Kitten Hayward and Billy “Dynamite” Douglas, the father of heavyweight king James Douglas.
In 1976 he sharpened his skills and attained a 10-round defeat in Philadelphia over Marvelous Marvin Hagler. He was the first to beat Hagler at the time. Monroe retired in 1983 with 51 fights, 40 wins, 10 losses, one draw and 27 knockouts. Years later he decided to get back in the ring, but as a professional referee.
He is survived by: his wife of 51 years, Barbara; daughters, Monica and April; grandchildren, Amber, Jada, Skye and Shawn; sisters, Shirley Jones, Imma J. Huggins and Minnie Leahing; brothers, Robert, John and Jake Monroe and other relatives and friends.
Services will be held June 29 at Monumental Baptist Church, 4948 Locust St. Viewing is at 9 a.m. Services will follow at 11 a.m. Burial is private.
Terry Funeral Home handled the arrangements.