Saunders vs. Lemieux ordered by WBO
By Jeff Aranow: The World Boxing Organization has ordered WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders (25-0, 12 KOs) to begin negotiations with #1 WBO mandatory contender David Lemieux (38-3, 33 KOs), according to the WBO president Francisco Valcarcel, Esq. Earlier on Monday, the WBO ordered Saunders and Lemieux to begin negotiations starting immediately.
The promoters for Saunders and Lemieux have 30 days to negotiate an agreement for the fight. If an agreement is not made within 30 days, the WBO will order a purse bid. The WBO sent the letter to Eric Gomez of Golden Boy Promotions and Frank Warren of Queensbury Promotions. Warren is the promoter for Saunders, and Gomez is Lemieux’s promoter. There’s a PDF file of the letter on the WBO’s website.
Unless Saunders can beat Lemieux, he can give up his dream of a big cash out fight against Canelo or Golovkin. This is a nightmarish fight for Saunders to face a devastating puncher like Lemieux. Saunders has nothing to keep Lemieux off of him.
If Saunders is unable to get out of being forced to fight Lemieux next, he could lose his WBO title. Lemieux is a devastating puncher and he’s been looking greatly ever since coming back from his knockout loss to Gennady Golovkin in 2015.
”Ready to take that WBO belt from that coward BJ Saunders,” said Saunders on his Twitter on Monday. ”I get back to where I should be on the map. Lock N Load [expletive] #hospital,” said Lemieux.
This seems like an early Christmas present for Lemieux from the WBO. If Lemieux can capture the WBO title from Saunders, he can use the strap to get a tremendous payday against the winner or the loser of the Canelo vs. Golovkin fight. The way that Saunders has looked in his last 2 fights against Willie Monroe Jr. and Artur Akavov, he’d be lucky if he can see round 5 against Lemieux. Saunders seems to have lost something from his game due to the long stretches of inactivity he’d had since winning the WBO title in 2015.
Saunders has fought only 2 times in the last 2 years since winning the WBO middleweight title. In between fights, Saunders has packed on a lot of weight, and he’s had to melt down to make 160. All that weight that Saunders has to lose each time he fights has left him looking like the shell of the fighter that beat Chris Eubank Jr. in 2014. That version of Saunders would give Lemieux all he could handle. Saunders hasn’t looked like that fighter in a long, long time, and he may not ever get back to that level again.
This move by the WBO has to be interested as bad news for Saunders (25-0, 12 KOs), since he’s been chasing after a fight against Gennady “GGG” Golovkin and Saul Canelo Alvarez for some time now. Saunders had the perfect opportunity to take a fight against Triple G last year when his promoter Tom Loeffler was in the UK looking to arrange a fight for Golovkin. Saunders didn’t take the fight with Golovkin. Instead, Saunders made a voluntary defense against little known fringe contender Artur Akavov on December 3 at the Lagoon Leisure Centre in Paisley, Scotland. Golovkin took a fight against welterweight Kell Brook. Call it a missed opportunity on Saunders’ part. He could have fought Golovkin then, but instead he took an easy fight against Akavov, which he almost lost. Boxing News 24 scored the Saunders-Akavov fight for Akavov.
Saunders was hoping to fight the winner of the possible Canelo Alvarez vs. Golovkin rematch on May 5. Saunders would get a big payday if he could face either of those 2 middleweight stars.
With Lemieux being the mandatory challenger now for Saunders, it leaves he British fighter in a bind. Saunders has several options available to him and they are as follows:
• Offer Lemieux a large step aside payday to get him to go away for a little while until the smoke clears from the Canelo-Golovkin fight
• Vacate the WBO title to avoid having to fight Lemieux. Saunders could then try and use his unbeaten record and possibly a big offer to get a fight against the Canelo-Golovkin winner or loser
• Appeal to the WBO to try and avoid Lemieux
• Fight Lemieux and hope for the best. I this will be the last option that Saunders will use. If he can’t get out of the Lemieux fight using whatever methods he can, then he’ll probably take it and hope for the best
If Saunders can go the 12 round distance with Lemieux by spoiling the entire fight, then there’s a possibility that he can win a controversial/hometown decision. If the fight is staged in Saunders’ hometown, then there’s always the chance that he could get the nod by the judges like he did in his questionable win over Akavov. Unfortunately, it’s not going to be easy for Saunders to go the distance with Lemieux, because the Canadian fighter can knockout an opponent even with a glancing blow to the head or the body.
Lemieux is arguably the hardest puncher in the middleweight division today. He doesn’t have the hand speed of someone like Danny Jacobs, but he hits with massive power with either hand. If Saunders is literally running from Lemieux to try and survive, there’s no judge that can give him the win under those circumstances. It would be like a replay of the recent heavyweight clash between WBO champion Joseph Parker and Hughie Fury. In that fight, Hughie used movement and holding all night long, clinching and moving for the full 12 rounds. It was an easy fight for the judges to score, and yet one of the judges unbelievably scored it a draw. With the spotlight on the judges in boxing ever since the controversial scoring for the Canelo vs. Golovkin fight, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll see another crazy set of scores handed in for another high level world championship fight at middleweight.
Lemieux says Saunders is a “coward,” and he wants to put him in the hospital, according to his social media site. The two fighters have been trash talking each other in the last week. Lemieux says Saunders priced himself out for a fight. Saunders invited Lemieux to fight him in the UK. Whether he was serious or not is the big question.
”P^%y, you was my mandatory and you was saying you was injured. Come fight me now,” said Saunders to Lemieux on his Twitter last week.
”We did make you guys an offer but you’re over pricing yourself, another way of saying, no, you coward. When I fight you’re ending in the hospital.”
Well, Saunders may not have any other choice but to fight Lemieux now if he doesn’t accept a step side offer. One hasn’t been made, but don’t be surprised if that’s a move that Saunders makes to try and veer around a very dangerous opponent in Lemieux.
Boxing fans shouldn’t get too excited about WBO ordering Saunders to start negotiations with Lemieux. Until there’s a signed contract for the fight, you have to take this with a grain of salt. It’s a fight that Saunders will likely drag his heels to make. The Saunders-Lemieux negotiations will likely go nowhere at all. It’s going to go to a purse bid almost certainly. Can Lemieux’s promoters at Golden Boy out-bid Saunders’ promoter? It’s doubtful. Will a step aside offer be made to Lemieux by Saunders’ management to get him to go away? Lemieux is better off taking the fight with Saunders rather than agreeing to a step aside fee. With the WBO title, Lemieux can get a nice paying fight against Golovkin or Canelo. Having the WBO title will help Lemieux get a better split of the revenue against a fight against Canelo or Golovkin. Going into a fight against either of them as just an empty-handed challenger will leave Lemieux in a position of weakness.