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Saunders needs win over Lemieux to get Canelo-GGG winner

By Jeff Aranow: WBO World middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders (25-0, 12 KOs) has been talking nonstop about him beating David Lemieux and then facing the Saul Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin winner in 2018. Saunders is finally about to fight Lemieux tonight, and he’ll be finding out whether he can punch his ticket to fight the GGG-Canelo winner or not.

Saunders won the WBO title 2 years ago, but he’s failed to cash in on a big money fight during his 8-year pro career. The money has never been there for Saunders. Lemieux stands in the way of Saunders making life-changing money fighting the Canelo vs. Golovkin winner.

This is a big test for Saunders, because Lemieux is a good fighter with major power. There’s so much on the line in this fight for Saunders. If he wins, he’ll be in the position to set himself up for life fighting the Canelo vs. Gennady winner in 2018. If Saunders loses the fight to Lemieux, he’ll need to his the reset button with his boxing career to get back to where he is now. It could take years for Saunders to claw his way back, and he may not make it because there won’t be a weak link holding any of the belts at middleweight like there was when Saunders fought the vulnerable Andy Lee for his WBO title in 2015.

Saunders is confident he’ll send the 28-year-old Lemieux (38-3, 33 KOs) down to his fourth career defeat tonight, but a lot of boxing fans aren’t entirely convinced as of yet. They still remember how beatable Saunders looked in his last 3 fights against Willie Monroe Jr., Artur Akavov and Andy Lee. Out of those 3 fights, Saunders only looked good in round 3 of the Lee fight. The rest of the time, Saunders failed to establish him as an impressive fighter.

“I want the winner of the rematch of Golovkin v Canelo,” Saunders said. ”Or if it doesn’t happen even just Canelo. My management team, promoter and trainer are all here so hopefully after I’ve David Lemieux on Saturday, I will be happy to sit down with Oscar De La Hoya and sign that fight before I leave the country.”

Canelo is the wrong one for Saunders to be going after. Canelo doesn’t seem interested in wasting one of his fights as a pro in facing Saunders for little money. Saunders isn’t a big star, and Canelo would likely be stuck with a low amount of PPV buys on HBO if he fights him. Canelo vs. Liam Smith last year in September brought in only 300,000 buys.

Saunders is a Liam Smith type of fighter in terms of ability and popularity. Smith wasn’t well-known in the U.S, so Canelo failed to attract attention fighting him. It would be the same thing if Canelo fought Saunders, which is why there’s little interest in that fight from the popular Mexican fighter.

The guy that wants to fight Saunders is Golovkin, and that’s only because he values winning all the titles at middleweight so he can prove his worth as a fighter. I don’t think it’s worth it for Golovkin to fight Saunders, but that what he wants.

Saunders has mentioned Lemieux being potentially suffering an injury during their fight from missing shots. Saunders even believes that Lemieux might still have an injury problem from his last fight against Marcos Reyes from last May. Lemieux says he’s 100 percent healthy for tonight’s fight.

”He is kind of hoping that I’m injured,” said Lemieux. ”But I am in top shape, with perfect conditioning, he is in for a big surprise. On Saturday he’s going to get knocked out, that’s the end of it.”

If Saunders is banking on Lemieux being injured tonight, he’s going to be in for a negative surprise if that doesn’t turn out to be the case. Lemieux wouldn’t have talent the fight if he was injured in any way. He would have stayed out of the ring until he was healthy.

Saunders has these strategies that he’ll likely use tonight to win a decision over Lemieux:

• Using constant movement for 12 rounds

• Holding to keep Lemieux from throwing punches

• Jabbing

• Using lots of head movement

• Pushing off

We could see a little bit of all of those things from Saunders tonight against Lemieux. Saunders’ goal is to go the full 12 rounds and try and win a decision. The judges for tonight’s Lemieux vs. Saunders fight are the following:

• Gerardo Martinez (Puerto Rico)

• Phil Edwards (UK)

• Benoit Roussel (Canada)

There’s only 1 Canadian judge out of the 3 judges, and that judge is canceled out by Phil Edwards from the UK. Gerardo Martinez from Puerto Rico is the guy that could make or break it for Saunders in tonight’s fight if the fight goes to the scorecards. If Martinez sides with Edwards from the UK, then we could see Saunders winning the fight. Having Edwards working the fight could be a benefit to Saunders if the fight is close. If Edwards scores it to Saunders, it’ll just need one other just, possibly Martinez, to side with him to give him Billy Joe the victory.

Saunders vs. Lemieux will be taking place tonight at the Place Bell in Laval, Quebec, Canada. The fight will be televised on HBO World Championship Boxing.

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