Rendall Munroe: Boxing binman is ready to clean up

The Leicester litter machine has the biggest fight of his life in Tokyo today. He refuses to talk trash so, if he wins, we should all hail a 'rubbish' world champion. Alan Hubbard speaks to Rendall Munroe
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The Independent Online

Traditionally inscrutable they may be, but the faces of the Japanese crowd in Tokyo's Sumo Hall should be a sight to behold today when Rendall Munroe walks into the ring to a rousing refrain of "My Old Man's A Dustman", flanked by an army of cornermen and supporters decked out in luminous green-and-yellow hi-vis jackets. Boxing's binman has taken time out from his early-morning day job emptying the wheelies in his home town of Leicester and vows the only thing he will be collecting will be the World Boxing Council super-bantamweight title.

While the fight game's bigger noises, David Haye and Audley Harrison, Wladimir Klitschko and his latest squeeze, Dereck Chisora, have been filling the sports pages in an attempt to fill the arenas, Munroe, who likes to be known as the working man's champion, has been quietly preparing in Tokyo for the past fortnight for the biggest night of his life against the big-punching Toshiaki Nishioka. No fuss, no fanfare.

One of the most successful, yet least acclaimed, fighters in the land is 45 minutes or less away from joining Haye, Amir Khan and Ricky Burns as a British world champion. "He's one of the old-school fighters, a bit of a throwback," says his promoter, Frank Maloney, of a blue-collar scrapper who has been on the bins for five years, working out of a depot aptly named Biffa.

Collecting rubbish runs in the family, although his old man actually isn't a dustman; Munroe's Jamaican-born dad Alan is a road sweeper. "He always said to me as a kid: 'You're not going out to hang out on the streets, do something constructive', says Munroe. "And here I am now cleaningup the town just like him!"

Unlike some of his superstar contemporaries, Munroe has never talked trash. He simply clears it up. "I don't get tired of the attention and the boxing binman thing because I'm a down-to-earth guy," he tells us.

"I've seen the film Cinderella Man and there's something out there for everyone. It can be achieved. I've come from nothing to fighting for the world championship. I'm a role model for people because I came up without any backing. I worked my way up on my own until I hooked up with Frank [Maloney] and financially it was a difficult time early on.

"I had to ask mates to borrow petrol money just so that I could get to the gym to train for fights. Once my car broke down on the motorway coming back from a fight and I had to be towed home. Then I had to borrow other people's cars just so I could get to the gym.

"Those were the early days but I still work and as long as they are happy to give me time off to train for fights I will carry on doing the bins. I'm just enjoying the moment because it won't last forever." His preparation for this fight included a spell at Maloney's training camp in Portugal.

His mate Peter Hibbert, who rides with him in the dustcart, is in Tokyo to cheerlead. "But the other lad James Holmes can't... someone's got to work, otherwise the bins will still be there when I get back!"

The 30-year-old Munroe was a late starter, turning pro only six years ago. He has lost only once in 23 fights. "Whatever the result, I've always been back in the gym the next day having a laugh. But here I am, number one in Britain, the Commonwealth and Europe and fighting for the world title. But it hasn't gone to my head. I am still Rendall the binman and I always will be."

He's a good defensive boxer, rarely getting hit. "That's why I still look 21," he laughs. While he expects to win, he admits he has never seen the fellow southpaw Nishioka fight. "But when I saw him in the flesh I was surprised as he looks much smaller than me. No disrespect, but I think I'll be too big and strong for him."

Not that he underestimates a big-hitting champion who has lost four of his 43 bouts but is on a roll with three impressive defences. "I respect every boxer in there. He ain't a world champion for nothing, is he? The game- plan is to go out there and do what I normally do, keep tight defensively and box the way I'm asked to box."

Japanese fight crowds have a reputation for keeping a respectful silence while the combatants are slugging it out, then applauding politely between rounds. Visiting fighters are usually treated fairly by the judges, though it is rare for a Briton to return victorious. But this is the place where Buster Douglas caused one of boxing's biggest upsets when he toppled Mike Tyson 20 years ago. A Munroe victory would hardly be quite as seismic, because he has a decent fighting chance, but he knows it will be tough to get a decision against a top-quality champ at the peak of his form.

A notoriously slow starter but a strong finisher, Munroe relies on his non-stop aggression and high volume of punches to wear down opponents, as he did when stopping the highly regarded Victor Terrazas in a world championship final eliminator.

It will be breakfast-time here and tea-time in Tokyo when Munroe enters the ring today in his bespoke binman clobber. His reward for stepping out of his Midlands comfort zone into Tokyo's passion pit to confront such a formidable champion is around £100,000, half of what Chisora is getting for challenging Klitschko on 11 December and a fraction of the £10 million purse expected to be generated by Haye and Harrison next month. But for him it represents some eight years' wages. And it will go straight into the bank. "The boxing cheques are for my family's future," he says. "We live off my regular job.

"Whatever happens, I will carry on doing the morning shift. I'm proud to be an honest working man. Besides, I would miss my mates too much. Win or lose, I'll be back picking up those bins on Tuesday morning." Hopefully the WBC belt will be adorning the bonnet of his dustcart.

Nishioka v Munroe is live on Sky Sports 2 today at 10am