Heading into Saturday’s WBO Middleweight title fight against Billy Joe Saunders, David Lemieux vowed to deliver “blood and big punches.”
The Montreal native was unable to deliver anything of the sort, as Saunders (26-0, 12 KOs) turned in a dominant performance throughout 12 rounds. Earning 120-108, 117-111, and 118-110 scorecards, the crafty southpaw simply wasn’t there to be hit against Lemieux (38-4, 33 KOs).
The bout headlined an HBO tripleheader in Quebec. The hometown fighter, Lemieux was unable to feed off the energy from a capacity crowd at Place Bell.
Saunders, the slick southpaw, landed consistently throughout an evenly matched first frame. Lemieux picked up steam entering Round 2, however, earning Saunders’ respect with heavy right hands.
Things began to turn south for Lemieux in this stage of the fight; Saunders connected with the fight’s most significant punch in Round 2, a left straight that appeared to stun the 42-fight veteran.
Saunders’ strategy of popping Lemieux with jabs and moving out of the pocket was more effective than crowd-pleasing. Lemieux’s contingent booed at times and accused Saunders of running, but he was in his comfort zone all night and easily avoided the type of power punches that knocked out former foes Curtis Stevens and Glen Tapia.
Saunders, who was fighting outside of the UK for the first time, seemed happy with his performance.
“I knew what sort of fighter David Lemieux is, and I knew what sort of coach he’s got,” said Saunders. “I knew what he was coming for. I look easy to hurt, but you can’t hit me. I like going to somebody’s backyard because I perform better. I’m a whole different animal now. When I hurt David, I wanted to put it on him. I really did, but that’s what I pay my trainer Dominic Ingle to do. I went to put it on him, but he told me to take my time, and that was the best advice.”
Lemieux, on the other hand, blamed his ineffective performance on a possible injury to his left hand. Lemieux was also critical of Saunders’ elusive style.
“I wasn’t at my best. Hats off to Billy Joe [Saunders],” said Lemieux. “From the second round on, I could not use my left hand the way I wanted, and he was on the run, so I had a hard time throwing my shots. It wasn’t my best night. A lot of this was because of me, because I couldn’t use my left hand the way I wanted to. He was running from the first round to the end, and I guess that’s his strategy to win. If this is the way you want to win, then congratulations.”
While Saunders’ victory was clear and decisive, what’s less certain is who the 28-year-old will face next. Saunders stumped for a showdown against Gennady Golovkin during his post-fight interview, but GGG‘s rematch with Canelo has yet to be signed. The two middleweight titans are reportedly in talks to fight in Las Vegas on May 5, leaving Saunders with a lengthy period on the shelf.
Fellow HBO competitor Daniel Jacobs seems within the realm of possibility, though a loss to “Miracle Man” would likely nix the possibility of a fight with GGG or Canelo. Neither Jermall Charlo nor Demetrius Andrade currently have fights booked, though each would be stiff tests for Saunders.
After Saturday’s rout, Saunders proclaimed “Did I not tell you it was going to be an easy fight?” We will see the true test of his mettle as the WBO champ goes into the division’s deeper water.
All photos by Ed Mulholland/HBO
Milo Taibi is a freelance journalist from Brooklyn, NY. His work has been featured in SLAM Magazine, Complex, Yahoo! Sports, and more. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @MiloTaibi.