By Ian S Palmer
There’s a middleweight title fight at the Place Bell in Laval, Quebec this Saturday December 16th when David Lemieux of nearby Montreal challenges unbeaten WBO World Champion Billy Joe Saunders of England. The 12-round bout can be seen live on HBO in the USA while British fans can catch the action on BoxNation. However, those in Canada will have to fork over the cash for pay-per-view. Saunders was last in the ring in September when he beat Willie Monroe Jr. By a close unanimous decision. Lemieux’s last bout was a 10-round unanimous decision over Marcos Reyes. This is Saunders’ third defence of the title which the southpaw won by beating Andy Lee by majority decision in December of 2015.
The 28-year-old Saunders enters the bout with a perfect record of 25-0 along with 12 Kos. He’s hoping to earn possible big-money fights down the road with the likes of Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and/or Gennady Golovkin, the other middleweight champion. However, he needs to get past the hard-hitting Canadian Lemieux first. Saunders is a former Commonwealth Middleweight Champion with his biggest wins being against Lee, Monroe and a 12-round split decision victory over fellow Englishman Chris Eubank Jr. In 2014.
Saunders competed in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China and has fought 163 rounds since turning pro the same year. Other notable opponents include Gary O’Sullivan and Jarrod Fletcher. The champion stands 5-feet-11-inches tall, but Box Rec doesn’t list his reach. He’s not known as a KO artist with his knockout ratio currently standing at 48 per cent. He does have decent power though and Lemieux shouldn’t underrate it or his boxing ability. Saunders’ biggest problem is that he usually fights to the level of his opposition and does just enough to win.
Lemieux is a former IBF Middleweight Champion and the 28-year-old enters the ring with a record of 38-3 along with 33 big Kos. Lemieux has had problems making weight in the past, but he’s hard-hitting brawler with a lot of power and somewhat questionable chin. He usually blasts most of his opponents out, but he’s also been stopped himself a couple of times as Marco Antonio Rubio of Mexico stopped him in the seventh round in 2011 and Gennady Golovkin stopped him in the eighth round in 2015. His other loss came also came in 2011 when Joachim Alcine beat him by a 12-round majority decision.
Lemieux is just over 5-feet-9- inches with a 70-inch reach, so he gives up 1.5-inches in height to Saunders. He turned pro in 2007 and has fought 155 rounds since then. Lemieux’s current knockout ratio stands at 80 per cent. He’s beaten some journeymen along the way and lost when stepping up in class against Rubio, Alcine and Golovkin. However he stopped Curtis Stevens by a sensational knockout earlier this year, stopped Gabriel Rosado in 10 rounds in 2014, beat Hassan N’Dam by unanimous decision for the vacant IBF crown in 2015 and stopped Glen Tapia in four last year.
Lemieux isn’t a naturally-gifted boxer, but he works hard for everything he has, possesses heart and power and is entertaining. His chin is questionable though and that’s one of the reasons he’s so exciting. He isn’t interested in going to the scorecards and will be looking to stop Saunders. As for the champion, he’s looked quite lacklustre lately and appears to be taking a big risk by meeting Lemieux on the challenger’s home soil. If he hopes to retain his belt Saunders will need to work a lot harder than he has done in his past couple of fights.
This is a hard fight to predict. Lemieux has much more power than Saunders, but a weaker chin. On the other hand, Saunders has the better boxing skills, but hasn’t been impressive lately. I can’t see Lemieux outboxing the champion and if he does win, it’s likely going to be by stoppage. And for some reason I have a funny feeling Lemieux will do just that.