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Saunders happy Lemieux fight ordered

Billy Joe Saunders David Lemieux

By Jim Dower: Billy Joe Saunders (25-0, 12 KOs) says he’s “happy” at hearing the World Boxing Organization has ordered him to defend his WBO middleweight title against mandatory challenger David Lemieux (38-3, 33 KOs) for his next fight.

WBO president Pablo Valcarcel ordered the fight on Monday, giving Saunders and Lemieux’s promoters 30 days to put the fight together before a purse bid is ordered at that time if no agreement is made. Lemieux says he’s going to put Saunders in the hospital. Saunders for his part is relieved that the fight with the power-punching former IBF middleweight champion Lemieux has been made.

It’s unlikely that Saunders will be able to get out of the Lemieux fight. The WBO’s decision to order the Saunders-Lemieux fight means there’s little wiggle room for Saunders to try and get out of that fight. He’s effectively been pulled into what amounts to be a black hole in space. Saunders has passed the event horizon and there’s no pulling back now to escape the Lemieux fight. The only chances of Saunders getting out of the fight is if an injury occurs and/or Lemieux is willing to agree to a step aside payment.

Saunders has taken a lot of criticism from the boxing public after he made an unusual move of calling out welterweight Amir “King” Khan. It was an inexplicable move on Saunders part to try to fight Khan, who hasn’t fought in almost 2 years after being knocked unconscious by former WBC middleweight champion Saul Canelo Alvarez in the 6th round of their fight on May 6, 2016.

Saunders had been pursuing a big unification fight 160 lb. champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin before that. For some reason, Saunders reversed course and started calling out Khan. Saunders saw the Khan fight as the best option for him to make for a big match-up under the current climate in boxing. Khan hasn’t shown any interest in fighting Saunders, however. But now that the WBO has ordered Saunders to face Lemieux next, it takes away his options. The only way that Saunders can get out of the Lemieux fight is if either of them suffers an injury. It wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Saunders or Lemieux suffer an injury while training for the fight. Lemieux was injured during his last fight against Marcos Reyes on May 6. Lemieux won the fight by a 10 round unanimous decision, but he’s been out of the ring for the last 5 months since then with a shoulder injury. The injury is now healed and Lemieux is ready to fight for the WBO title.

“So happy the World Boxing Organization has made me and Lemieux,” said Saunders on his social media site on Tuesday. ”We will see what short legs [Lemieux] does. I hope you don’t get an injury. #AndStillKing.”

This is going to be a difficult fight for Saunders to win. Saunders doesn’t move as well as he once did, and he’s looked sluggish in his last 2 fights against Willie Monroe Jr. and Artur Akavov. Lemieux is going to be trying to knock Saunders unconscious with every punch he throws. Just 2 fights ago, Lemieux knocked Curtis Stevens out in the 3rd round with a left hook to the head on March 11. Stevens was unconscious before he hit the canvas after taking a Lemieux left hook with full force.

Saunders is going to need to have great game plan to be able to evade the big punches from Lemieux for 12 rounds. Saunders was getting hit in his last fight by Monroe Jr. It was perhaps lucky for Saunders that Monroe Jr. didn’t throw a lot of punches, because it would have been a lot tougher fight for him if he had fought the way he did in his win over Gabriel Rosado last September.

Saunders has his eye on a big money fight against IBF/IBO/WBA/WBC middleweight champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 KOs) for over a year now. Saunders appears to have been letting the Golovkin fight marinate for some reason. Saunders could do that because the WBO didn’t press him to fight good opposition for his first 2 title defenses for his middleweight belt.

Saunders had it easy with wins over Artur Akavov and Willie Monroe Jr. Had the WBO not buckled down on Saunders to have him fight a good opponent in Lemieux, it’s quite possible that he would have taken another stay busy level opponent like his previous 2. The WBO ordering Saunders to face Lemieux next means that the sanctioning body wants to see him face a good fighter for a change. It’s going to be a real test for Saunders to try and show that he’s worthy of being a world champion, considering that right now he’s viewed as a paper champion in the eyes of a great many boxing fans.

If Saunders can defeat Lemieux without controversy or hint of hometown cooking, it’ll make a fight between him and Golovkin that much bigger. Saunders would only need to wait and see if Golovkin can do his part by beating Canelo in the rematch. The reason why Saunders is targeting a fight against Golovkin is because he’s the one that is interested in fighting for his WBO middleweight title. Canelo doesn’t care about winning needless titles. Canelo doesn’t view it as being important for him to try and win all the titles at middleweight. It’s more responsibility to go after all the titles, and then defend them against the different sanctioning bodies’ top contenders.

”Ready to take that WBO belt back from that coward Billy Joe Saunders,” said Lemieux on his Twitter after learning the news of the World Boxing Organization ordering the Saunders-Lemieux fight on Monday. ”I get back to where I should be on the map. Lock N Loaded. #hospital.”

Saunders-Lemieux is a fight that could make or break either of these two guys. The winner of the match has a great chance of fighting the winner of the Saul Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady “GGG” Golovkin 2 rematch in 2018. The Saunders-Lemieux loser will need to spent valuable time trying to rebuild their career. Lemieux has already gone through 2-years of painstaking rebuilding of his own boxing career following an 8th round knockout loss to Golovkin from their fight on October 17, 2015. Lemieux has won 4 fights in a row since then, and he’s looking much improved. Saunders hasn’t lost yet, but he hasn’t looked very good in his last 2 fights against Willie Monroe Jr. and Artur Akavov.

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