LAS VEGAS, Nevada, Sept. 14, 2018 – UFC president Dana White has frequently criticized the boring nature of boxing news conferences. At the risk of biting the hand that feeds the boxing media, he isn’t entirely wrong.
David Lemieux (39-4. 33 KOs) and Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan (28-2, 20 KOs) provided a rebuttal Thursday. The two middleweights fighting in the co-main event on the CaneloGGG2 pay-pay-view haven’t been afraid to get into it. After some sharp words, the pair got physical with each other until former unified middleweight champion and Golden Boy Boxing executive Bernard Hopkins broke up the party. Finally, a little quality hate.
For whatever reason they can’t even explain, the pair have taken a dislike to each other and make no secret of it. Their fight Saturday determines the fate of their careers. The winner will move forward and becomes the WBA mandatory challenger to the winner of the main event between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin. The loser may keep fighting as a gatekeeper for the rising stars, fading into retirement and not likely to be seen on a major broadcast again.
Striding to the podium and sniffing the air, O’Sullivan said, “What is that? Smell that? I think I smell fear. It’s that greaseball here,” then proceeded to rip into Lemieux using language slightly too profane for this publication. “Saturday night, we’re gonna fight. The talking will be done. The fight will be like our careers. He’s on the way down. I’m on the way up. Be ready, you greasy little … ”
Former world champion Lemieux followed. “What can I say? The talk is done, now it’s time to walk the walk. My opponent has done so much yapping, his chin will be warmed up for the fight. He’s going to need it … I’m ready for 12 rounds, I’m going to move beautifully. If he passes the eighth round, respect to him. But all that blah blah blah is done. He’s just scared, that’s why he’s talking so much. You don’t need to talk, the fight’s Saturday. Relax, and you’re gonna get knocked out.”
This bout will rile fans up nicely for the main event. Forget any demonstration of The Sweet Science. There will be no art or finesse involved. These two will engage in an all-out brawl, for as long as they hold up. Lemieux won his IBF title in 2015 in a barnburner of a fight against Hassan N’Dam. The fight wasn’t widely seen as it was the same night as the Adrien Broner vs. Shawn Porter and Andre Ward vs. Paul Smith bouts. The few lucky enough to watch won’t ever forget it, and fans watching on Saturday can only hope for the same, no matter who wins.
Lemieux is the younger man, still only 29 years old. O’Sullivan is 34, and perhaps feels more of a sense of urgency. If Lemieux can deploy his best quality jab and create some openings, he’s got the power to take out O’Sullivan the same way he crushed Curtis Stevens. O’Sullivan has losses to Chris Eubank Jr. and Billy Joe Saunders; Saunders also took Lemieux apart a year ago. If the version of Lemieux who crushed Stevens shows up, and it should, he’ll win the fight and becomes a likely opponent for Alvarez in December.
Jaime Munguia and Brandon Cook are living the dream
Just a few months ago, the Nevada State Athletic Commission refused to approve Jaime Munguia of Mexico as a replacement opponent for Gennady Golovkin after the suspension of Canelo Alvarez. NSAC felt Munguia was too young and inexperienced. Instead, he stepped in as a last-minute opponent for super welterweight champion Sadam Ali, who had defeated Miguel Cotto in Cotto’s final career fight. Munguia can thank the commissioners, as he scored a shocking third-round upset to win Ali’s WBO title. Munguia defended his title with a unanimous decision victory over Liam Smith of Great Britain.
Munguia now faces Canadian Brandon Cook in front of the largest worldwide audience either fighter has ever experienced. Munguia (30-0. 25 KOs) is still just 21 years old. He only started fighting in the U.S. a year ago. Munguia is still rough around the edges, and admits himself he makes mistakes he’s learning to correct. He has enough power to cover up for it most of the time.
Cook (20-1, 13 KOs) was still working a full-time job installing windows until six months ago when he was offered the chance to face Kell Brook. That fight fell through due to injury, and so did his next scheduled fight with Sam Eggington. Like Munguia, the misfortune was a blessing in disguise leading to the offer to fight Munguia. Cook only had five weeks to prepare, but he had been training and didn’t miss a step. Cook is a decade older than Munguia at 32, but he’s only fought 90 rounds to 101 for Munguia. Cook has the opportunity of a lifetime, and he vows he isn’t going to let it get away from him.
“I think there will be a ton of people watching this and they will be getting ready for that main event, and Jamie and me are going to give the people what they want to see,” said Cook.
“This stylistic match is going to be a great fight, and it’s just going to open a lot of doors, whoever wins, obviously. He’s the next up-and-coming kid. He’s tough. He’s strong. He’s young. But I don’t care. I’m just coming to do what I got to do, and I can’t wait to get in there. I’m ready. I had two fights fall on me this year and this whole summer I’ve been training. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted. I can’t wait to get out there and do my thing.”
“I learned a lot in the last fight,” said Munguia. “I learned not to get desperate, and in training camp, and what I trained in, and I’m basically with the mind-set to go in and do my job, and that’s it. There is nothing extra. There is no pressure, just do my job, what I do every day in the gym, and I always feel relaxed. This is nothing new for me.”
Munguia may be rough around the edges, but he’s got enough power to make any opponent fearful. Cook has been knocked out, and if he makes any mistakes or loses focus. Munguia knows how to take advantage. Munguia came out strong against Ali. He would be wise to do the same in this fight. All Munguia needs to do is find the target against Cook, and he can make it a quick night. Cook’s determination could give him wings, so it’s a fun matchup for fans.
Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez returns to the ring
After his devastating knockout loss to Srisikat Sor Rungvisai one year ago, no one would have been surprised if former pound for pound champion Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez of Nicaragua had retired. Gonzalez says he considered it, but his family encouraged him, and he decided it wasn’t his time. He starts the long journey back to the top as the opening fight on the pay-per-view undercard on Saturday. Gonzalez (46-2, 38 KOs) fights Moises Fuentes (25-5-1, 14 KOs) of Mexico. Fuentes, who has never fought in the U.S., lost by knockout to Daigo Higa of Japan in February. He presents little danger to Gonzalez.
Gonzalez hopes to win another super flyweight title. A fight with Juan Francisco Estrada of Mexico on the next “Superfly 4” card in the spring could be in play with a solid win. Estrada still believes he was robbed against Gonzalez when they fought for the WBA world light flyweight title, and he’d like to avenge that loss.
Gonzalez’s legacy is not at risk. He will always be remembered as one of the most powerful small fighters who ever lived, a certain Hall of Fame candidate. He is soft-spoken and God-fearing outside the ring, and speaks earnestly of his relationship with God.
“I’m so thankful to God,” said Gonzalez. “I believe God keeps being my guide and always will be my God and I pray to God for everything, and I thank God for all the blessings I’ve got through boxing and for being healthy. I ask God to take care of me in the ring, and I believe that I will succumb to whatever God’s will is on September 15. I believe everything that you put this God’s hand, that will come true.
Whether this is Gonzalez’s redemption or the end to his career, he says he wants people to see him as “somebody to give them hope,” that it is possible to come from nothing and become successful.
The televised undercard bouts included as part of the HBO Pay-Per-View broadcast begin early, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT. Get your full money’s worth and be in your seat on time.
READ MORE: Jaime Munguia stops Sadam Ali with ease
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is an award-winning boxing journalist covering the Sweet Science for Communities and for boxing fans worldwide. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News.
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