SAN DIEGO, Calif., December 15, 2017 – ‘Peace on earth, goodwill toward men’ rests in our thoughts during the holiday season. Unless you’re David Lemieux and Billy Jo Saunders.
There is little love lost between these top middleweights, and they haven’t hid their feelings in the lead-up to their title fight on Saturday from Laval, Quebec. Consider it a gift to boxing fans at the end of what’s been a good year in boxing. The action will be televised by HBO World Championship Boxing beginning at 9:40 p.m. ET/PT.
Lemieux (38-3, 33 KOs), the former IBF world champion, scored a Knockout of the Year candidate over Curtis Stevens in March. He got right back in the ring on the Canelo vs. Chavez undercard in May, and worked over Marco Reyes in 12 tough rounds.
Saunders, the WBO world middleweight champion (25-0, 12 KOs), won his belt from Andy Lee in 2015. His two defenses since were against Artur Akavov and Willie Monroe Jr. Recall Monroe had his hat handed to him with three knockdowns in six rounds by Gennady Golovkin. Two 12 round decisions don’t particularly inspire fans.
Saunders did agree to face Golovkin, who were talking about staging the bout in Kazakhstan, but the date was a little too close to the September date with Canelo Alvarez, and Saunders fought Monroe the same night instead.
Saunders doesn’t lack for confidence, and neither does Lemieux. It’s made for a fun run-up to the fight on social media, at news conferences and in multiple interviews, including in response to our questions. Listen to one of those media interviews here, and then read just a sample of their remarks fit for a family readership.
“David has to come from round one and try to knock me out,” declared Saunders. “But what I don’t want from David’s team are excuses. David is a good fighter, he’s mixed it with (unified middleweight champion Gennady) Golovkin at a very elite level. But some boxers are not quite enough to be at that elite level. And David, you’re not quite good enough.
“Am I good enough? We’ll soon see. In my own mind, I know I can deal with it, and then with Golovkin or Canelo, we’ll see where I really am,” said Saunders, who then referred to Lemieux as “the last bit of dog meat for me.”
Lemieux offers more of the Canadian slow burn approach. “I’m going to make him pay in the ring. All this animosity is going to come out in the ring. If he thinks he can run away for 12 rounds, he’s in a lot of trouble.
“I’m really excited for this fight. I’m more excited, actually, just to lay my hands on Billy Joe Saunders more than anything else. He’s got a big mouth. It’s rare I see fighters with such a big mouth. I just hope his fighting is going to come as close as his mouth on Saturday night. He has a very, very aggressive Lemieux on his back, and I’m going to be ready. I’m extremely prepared for this fight. So, it’s not going to be easy for him. It’s actually going to be hell for him,” promised Lemieux.
Saunders says he relishes the repartee between them. “I perform under pressure … I think David is very weak in the mind. I’m quite happy to know I’m under his skin because, if he wants to play a boxing match, then bring a blindfold, and I’ll put it on, and I’ll beat him. That’s how confident I am.”
Lemieux says he plans to knock out Saunders, and he’s got the firepower to do it. But Lemieux says he isn’t merely a one-dimensional puncher, and will bring boxing skills into the ring as well. Saunders says, “Listen, David’s already said that he’s going to knock me out. So we don’t need judges, do we? He’s already put that pressure on himself. He has to come and knock me out, and if he doesn’t knock me out, there’s no way in God’s name that he’s going to win this fight because, to me, he will be a walking punch bag.”
Lemieux, who will be fighting in front of his hometown fans in a brand new arena in Laval, Quebec, said “I’m excited for this fight to give the fans their money’s worth and finish the year with a new WBO title. The time to talk is over and now it’s time to let the fists do the talk and show you who the real World Champion is. A lot of things are going to happen on Saturday, but my promise to you is that by the time I will leave Place Bell, I will have the WBO belt on me.”
Boxing may be the only sport where a single moment and a single punch can change the course of an athlete’s career. Lemieux and Stevens didn’t much like each other, and Lemieux made Stevens pay for it. Sometimes the bout itself doesn’t live up to the trash talk, but if Lemieux connects on Saunders like he did on Stevens, he may force reconsideration with another nominee for the Knockout of the Year.
Golovkin wants to unify the titles in the middleweight division. If Lemieux takes Saunders’ belt from him, he’s got that last prize to dangle in front of Triple G. But first, Lemieux and Canelo Alvarez might decide to dance on Cinco de Mayo, with the winner fighting a true unification for all the belts in September. Boxing Santa, make my wish come true.
“People like to see blood and big punches, and that’s what they’ll see on Saturday,” said Lemieux. Saunders is far more mobile than Stevens, and has superior defensive skills. Lemieux will have to pin Saunders down, work him to the body and set up his shot. If Lemieux gets Saunders to engage, it might not matter if the knockout comes. Fans would be just as happy with the 12 action rounds of Christmas, no partridge or pear tree needed.
The co-main attraction is a 10-round middleweight bout between Americans Antoine “Action” Douglas (22-1-1, 16 KOs) and Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan (26-2, 18 KOs). They’re well matched in skill and aggression. You won’t see a lot of finesse here, but you shouldn’t care This will be to be a fun fight to watch.
Also on the televised card will be breakout fan favorite, Brooklyn native Cletus “The Hebrew Hammer” Seldin (21-0, 17 KOs). Seldin follows his impressive third round TKO win barely one month ago with a 10-round super lightweight bout against Montreal native Yves Ulysse Jr. (14-1, 9 KOs) in a 10-round super lightweight bout. It’s his third fight in four months, his first outside New York since his first year as a pro in 2011, and with another entertaining performance, Seldin can count on plenty of TV time in 2018.
Get to know the Hebrew Hammer here.
Also worth noting is the appearance of 19-year-old super featherweight sensation Ryan “Kingry” Garcia (12-0, 11 KOs) of Victorville, California on the non-televised undercard, facing Noe Martinez Raygoza (23-9-2, 10 KOs) of Mexico. Garcia scored a knockout on his second punch in his last bout, one second into the fight. This is an eight-round fight, but who are we kidding. Garcia has only gone past three rounds in his single four-round decision. Garcia is quickly making a name for himself as a highlight reel fighter and is a serious Prospect of the Year contender.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
Copyright © 2017 by Falcon Valley Group