Tia North meets Rendall Munroe
It’s just after 5 o’clock on a Tuesday morning in the noughties and Rendall Munroe is finishing his morning jog. He’s on his way to an early shift on the bins in Leicester, shifting the city’s waste like he does on a daily basis. He’s just the kind of happy chap you’d want to come and empty your bins, getting a laugh and a smile from the locals on their way to their early hour commutes. When the weekend comes around, he might go out and win an English boxing title. By Tuesday, he’ll be back on the bins.
I catch up with Rendall over the phone on an evening in November. He’s asked me to hold off calling until after he’s finished the school run – a dedicated dad to his two teenage boys and five-year-old daughter. He phones me back after missing my first call, telling me that he’s got this dodgy phone that just will not let him answer. He laughs and it’s a laugh that carries through the rest of our chat, he’s got this knack of making you feel comfortable and as if you’re one of his friends.
I’ve heard Rendall being referred to by two names – famously ‘The Boxing Binman,’ Rendall started out in his pro career with the alias ‘2 Tone’, a nod to his dual heritage. He says: “The bloke who was driving my bin lorry at the time came out and said nah you can’t be ‘Rendall ‘2 Tone’ Munroe’, we’ve got something better. You’re gonna be the Boxing Binman. People don’t even know my real name now; they just know me as the Binman.” This is the first piece of evidence that lets me piece together just how much of a laidback man Rendall is. He took the name and worked with it; his corner men even adopted fluorescent binman jackets to really add to the image.
You might think that a Leicester binman showing up in the ring, with his corner men decorated in neon yellow, might seem somewhat of a laugh. It’s true, Rendall is widely known as a laugh. But the former WBC Super bantamweight challenger and European champion holds an impressive record of 28-5 with 11 KO’s. Not something to be laughed at. It’s the over-achieving record that had me thinking that boxing must have been a lifelong dream and working progress for the Boxing Binman – turns out he just wanted to get his mum off his back. “Growing up with my dad coming from the Caribbean without an education, it was all about education for me. I needed to find something constructive to do after school – it weren’t about going out with you mates to chill at the park. I remember one day I was kinda at that age where I thought I could tell my parents what I want, and I remember saying to my mum ‘look mum, I’m off to the park’ and she said: “you aint.” I told her, I said I am, and I went out the door. I always remember something came over me and I thought this aint good, I shouldn’t have done that, and I thought - how can I get away with this? I remembered my uncle owned a boxing gym down the road and I thought right, I’ll go down there, and I’ll pretend I wanna be a boxer.”
It was on the back of this that around four weeks later, aged around 15 or 16, Rendall’s uncle sent him out for his first bout. After that, boxing occupied Rendall’s free time until his uncle pushed him to go pro. “My uncle at the time was my trainer and he said ‘Rendall, why don’t you go professional? You can make yourself a couple of hundred quid a fight and you aint got a good job (he was making Dr.Marten boots at the time), you got a little boy… So, I just went from there. I just thought, yeah – why not?” Rendall says. A running theme in his story, Rendall just seems to throw caution to the wind and grab at an opportunity if there is one. Never dramatic, just saying yes in the right places. In September 2003, he fought his first pro fight against journeyman Joel Vinney and stopped him in the third round at the Harvey Hadden Leisure Centre in Nottingham. All the time, he kept working the bins.
Rendall was out winning coveted titles in his boxing career and working his day job without so much of a whisper as to what he did in his free time. He’s a family man with people to take care of and was dedicated to keeping food on the table. He says: “I didn’t tell my boss about the boxing, it wasn’t until I won an English title, and it was in the papers, that he was like ‘oh, Rendall, I didn’t know you were doing this’ and it was because I didn’t want him to think I was concentrating too much on the boxing rather than the bins. The bins were my job, I’ve got a family, so it was important that I worked, I had to work. I had no choice.” After that, his boss would allow him some time off to train for upcoming fights, but Rendall would always be back at work the following week, no matter how decorated he became that weekend.
In December 2012, Rendall announced his retirement from professional boxing. His laidback attitude and pursuit for the love of life didn’t keep him long in something he wasn’t enjoying. “I fell out of love with boxing after a while and thought you know what, I just wanna go back to the bins, being a normal guy and enjoying myself.” Rendall said. It’s a decision many would label as crazy – a champion of his sport walking away to go back to his day job that had become somewhat of a novelty within the community. But I can respect a man who makes choices based on his happiness and not the fame and notoriety that came with his boxing career. Sadly, there wasn’t a job on the bins for him when he returned. These days, he’s got his training license and dedicates his time to the children in his community. He says: “Now I run my own school where I work with kids who are excluded from mainstream. That’s my job now – role model, teacher, sports advisor. You name it.”