Saunders has boxer’s chance against Lemieux on Dec.16
By Dan Fitz-Simons: Billy Jo “superb” Saunders (25-0), the WBO middleweight champion, at 5’11,” has been described as a cocky, sawed off tough guy with a big attitude. Be that as it may, the British southpaw has a perfect record of 25 wins in 25 fights without ever being knocked out. What he lacks in height, he makes up for in craft and speed. Rated # 5 by Boxrec, Saunders is one of the best boxers in the middleweight division.
Billy Jo’s great grandfather was a famous bare-knuckle fighter; boxing runs in his blood. He can box or bang when necessary (as he proved against Andy Lee), and can switch his tactical game within half a round. Quick hands, fast foot work and good head movement make him hard to tag. Many of his opponents have also been tied up and frustrated by his “snap and catch” style.
An excellent counter-puncher, Saunders also uses accurate, stinging jabs to keep his adversaries off balance. This combination of boxing skills and ring savvy have earned him World, European, British, and Commonwealth titles (WBO, EBU, and BBBoC). For a while, he was touted as a slick boxer, who exemplified “the sweet science.” More recently however, this image has been seriously tarnished.
After defeating tough, legitimate opponents like Chris Eubanks Jr., and Andy Lee in highly entertaining bouts, Billy Jo’s star began to fade. His career became plagued with excuses, cancellations, injuries and training issues. From 2015 to 2016, he fought only once against Artur Akavov. It was hardly a vintage performance. Saunders showed up listless and overweight, and his punches had no snap.
Nine months later, in September 2017, he took on Willie Monroe Jr. in another lackluster 12-round contest that went the distance. Although Saunders out jabbed Monroe and exhibited improved stamina, it wasn’t a spectacular victory. Adding insult to injury, he suffered a cut over his right eye from a head clash. If nothing else, the dull bout reduced Billy Jo’s ring rust.
David Lemieux on the other hand, has stayed consistently busy, chalking up 41 fights; 16 more professional bouts than Saunders. As a result, he has the advantage of experience in numbers of fights, as well as in the quality and diversity of opponents. However, Lemieux’s greatest asset is power. Saunders hasn’t scored a knockout since 2015, and his 12 KO’s pale in significance to Lemieux’s 38 KOs.
Nevertheless, Billy Jo has a durable chin and he’s never been KO’d. A “cute” boxer, he knows how to feint, back-pedal, and clinch, making his opponent miss while upsetting his game plan. Such tactics are crucial in this match, because Lemieux lacks patience, which could lead to mistakes. The Canadian’s high work rate could also cause him to gas out in the late rounds.
Both fighters are 28 years old, but Saunders has a 1.5” height advantage over Lemieux. This will be his first fight outside the UK, and concerns have been expressed by his team regarding Canada’s point system, and the possibility of biased, home town judges. Billy Jo, for his part, is pushing his body to the limit in training camp. He has also been placed on a strict nutritional diet to prevent any weight problems.
Look for Saunders to try and out box the rugged Canadian, avoiding any toe-to-toe battles. He knows if he mixes it up on the inside, he could get caught by one of Lemieux’s devastating left hooks. If the fight goes the distance, Saunders has a boxer’s chance of winning, either on points, or by a cut he inflicted in an earlier round. Speed, skill, and stamina are the keys to victory for Billy Jo Saunders.