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David Lemieux vs. Billy Joe Saunders being finalized for Dec.16

By Scott Gilfoid: Knockout artist David Lemieux and WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders are in negotiations for a fight on HBO Boxing for December 16 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada.

The negotiations are finalizing, and they could be done shortly, perhaps even today. Lemieux’s promoter and Saunders’ management are working quickly to put the Saunders-Lemieux fight together for December 16.

This would be a big move on the part of the 28-year-old Saunders (25-0, 12 KOs), since he would be leaving the safe confines of the UK, where he always fights, to defend his WBO title in hard hitting Lemieux’s home country of Canada. It probably wouldn’t matter if the fight did take place in the UK, as Lemieux, 28, is quite good at taking the judges out of the equation in his fights by knocking out his opponents. Saunders has looked pretty haggard in his last 2 fights, and he doesn’t appear to have the stamina to fight hard for more than 5 rounds without gassing. It’ll be sad news for Saunders if he gasses against Lemieux in the 5th.

“The negotiations are going well,” said Lemieux’s co-promoter Camille Estephan to Radio-Canada Sports. ”Curiously, we are more advanced than we thought to be at that moment. We hope to be able to finalize, in the next few hours, an agreement for a world championship bout between Billy Joe Saunders and David Lemieux, on December 16 at Bell Place.”

So there it is. Lemieux is on the verge of signing to fight Saunders on December 16 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada. I must admit I’m surprised that Saunders is willing to risk his neck facing Lemieux. But for Saunders to fight Lemieux in his own country, that takes some real courage. I’m impressed by Saunders. I don’t think he’s going to win though. Maybe if this was the 2014 version of Saunders, the one that edged Chris Eubank Jr. That version of Saunders would give Lemieux serious problems, but I don’t think Saunders can regain the form that he had back then.

It’s not that Saunders has gotten old. It’s more of a case of him gaining so much weight in between fights, and then him having to burn all the fat off in his training camps. Saunders looked stringy thin for his recent fight against Willie Monroe Jr. on September 16 at the Copper Box Arena in London, England. Saunders bragged about how well-trained he was, but it was clear from the 1st round that he didn’t have the strength and energy that he once had.

Saunders looked like he’d lost a lot of muscle on top of the flab that he burned off to make the 160 lb. weight limit for the fight. Saunders still won the fight by a 12 round unanimous decision, but only because Monroe Jr. was so dreadfully bad. Had that been Lemieux in the ring with Saunders on the night, it would have been easy work for the Canadian talent in my view. Lemieux would have absolutely wrecked Saunders, and it wouldn’t have been pretty.

Lemieux’s promoter was in negotiations for a fight against WBO junior middleweight champion Miguel Cotto for December 2 on HBO Boxing, but the negotiations fell apart at the last moment. It’s unclear what the sticking point is. Cotto simply didn’t want the fight. Estephan doesn’t blame Cotto for not taking on Lemieux, considering that he feels that it would have been a really tough fight for the Puerto Rican star to try and win.

“Unfortunately, Cotto’s trainer said no in the final stretch of the negotiations,” said Estephan. ”I do not blame him. David Lemieux’s chances were very good against Cotto.”

It’s too bad for Cotto not to get the fight against Lemieux, because this is supposed to be his final fight of his career. Cotto ending his career against Lemieux would have been a far better way to go out than for him to be defending his WBO 154lb. strap against fringe welterweight contender Sadam Ali on HBO Boxing. Ali was knocked out by Jessie Vargas recently. It’s a very strange decision on Cotto and HBO’s part to go with Sadam Ali as the opponent for that fight.

At the very least, Cotto should have fought 154 pounder. Even if Cotto wanted another soft opponent like the last guy he fought Yoshihiro Kamegai, anything would have been better than for him to fight a fringe level welterweight like Sadam Ali. If Ali was still undefeated, then yeah, he’d be a slightly decent choice, but that’s the case. Vargas battered and stopped Ali in their fight.

Saunders has become a once a year fighter since winning the WBO middleweight title in 2015 with a 12 round majority decision victory over Andy Lee on December 19, 2015. Saunders has fought just twice since that fight, beating Artur Akavov by a 12 round unanimous decision on December 3, 2016, and then Willie Monroe Jr. by a 12 round unanimous decision on September 16. Saunders was out of the ring for 12 months from the time he won the WBO title from Lee until defending it against the Russian Akavov last December.

For Saunders’ second title defense of his WBO belt, he was out of the ring for 9 months until he finally defended the title against Monroe Jr. Thus far, the World Boxing Organization hasn’t made any noise about Saunders defending their belt only once a year, but you have to wonder what they’re thinking. In an ideal world, the WBO’s champions will defend their titles 3 times a year. 2 times a year is good, but when you get a champion only fighting once a year, it’s got to be viewed as a negative. It’s definitely sad news for the contenders in the WBO’s top 15 rankings at middleweight to have to wait eons for Saunders to defend his titles annually.

The WBO recently ordered Saunders to defend his title against No.1 ranked Lemieux this month. Saunders had hoped to get a fight against the winner of the May 5 rematch between Saul Canelo Alvarez and IBF/IBO/WBA/WBC middleweight champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin. Saunders may still get the winner of that fight, but only if he can get past Lemieux first. On the surface, Saunders has shown a good front by saying he’s happy the WBO ordered him to defend his title against Lemieux. Saunders is sounding as cocky as usually in yapping like mad on his Twitter, but I suspect that deep down he’s got to be really worried about this fight. Lemieux is no joke. He’s got major punching power, and he can hurt Saunders if he lands one of his big shots on the button.

Saunders is going to need to start training right now to get ready for a fight with Lemieux on December 16 on HBO Boxing. It’s a good thing that Saunders’ fight with Monroe Jr. took place just 1 month ago, because he probably hasn’t put too much weight on since then. Even with Saunders being in great shape, he’s going to have of a lot of issues with the punching power and the pressure that Lemieux is going to be putting on him. Saunders will probably try and control Lemieux with a jab the way that Golovkin did in his fight with him in October 2015. Golovkin was able to dominate Lemieux with a jab, because he had so much power with that punch. In contrast, Saunders has a weak jab, and it’s more of a range finder than anything. As such, Saunders won’t be able to hold Lemieux off for long by jabbing him. Saunders is going to have to fight Lemieux for him to beat him.

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