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Saunders vs. Lemieux preview

Image: Saunders vs. Lemieux preview

By Scott Gilfoid: Billy Joe Saunders’ 2-year reign as the WBO middleweight champion could be coming to a swift end in a little over 2 weeks from now when he defends his belt against former IBF champion David Lemieux (38-3, 35 KOs) on December 16 at the Place Bell in Laval, Quebec, Canada.

Saunders, 28, has only been seen on rare occasions in defending his WBO belt since winning it 2 years ago in beating Andy Lee by a 12 round majority decision on December 19. Saunders has found his way to the ring just twice in defending the WBO belt against Artur Akavov and Willie Monroe Jr. Those were soft defenses for Saunders.

The World Boxing Organization finally got their act together and ranked a good contender at No.1 in placing the hard hitting Lemieux as Saunders’ mandatory challenger. Saunders now is up against it in having to defend his WBO strap against one of the most dangerous fighters in the 160 lb. division. To be sure, there are unquestionably better fighters than Lemieux in the middleweight division.

I rate these guys as being better than Lemieux: Gennady Golovkin, Danny Jacobs, Jermall Charlo and Saul Canelo Alvarez. However, Saunders might not be one of the guys that possess the talent needed for him to get past Lemieux on December 16. In fact, this is a fight that very well could see Saunders knocked out early.

Let’s face it; Saunders is not hard to hit. We saw Akavov and Monroe Jr. landing at rapid rate in their fights against Saunders. Those guys didn’t have the power though to hurt Saunders. Lemieux does. He hits very hard, and he’s capable of knocking out anyone in the division if he lands flush.

Saunders has a number of things going AGAINST him in this fight with Lemieux. These are things that will hinder Saunders from beating Lemieux:

• Saunders is the visiting fighter. He won’t have a large crowd of his own boxing fans that will motivate him to victory on December 16. Yeah, some of Saunders fans will make the long, arduous journey to watch him fight Lemieux live on December 16 in Canada, but I doubt there will be more than 100 of those fans in the audience on the night

• Lack of power. Saunders has never been a power puncher during his career, ever. But now that Saunders is starting to balloon up in weight in between fights, he’s looking weaker with each fight. Why is that? I think it’s obvious. When a fighter becomes fat and out of shape, it takes more effort for them to burn that flab off during training camp. As such, the heavier fighters tend to use their training camps as fat farms instead of normal training camps. The emphasis is more on taking off weight than it is in training. When Saunders burns that weight off, he looks weak and dried out, as if he’s lost too much weight. Saunders has arguably changed his body set point to where he probably needs to move up to super middleweight for him to have the same results as he had in the past That might explain why Saunders has looked so awful since 2015

• Too thin. Saunders has taken too much off, which leaves him looking terribly thin and emaciated looking. I think that’s an alarm bell that indicates that it’s time for Saunders to move up to 168. Hopefully when Saunders does move up in weight, he won’t keep getting out of shape in between fights If he does that, Saunders will eat his way out of the super middleweight division as well, and be forced to move up to 175.

• Showing signs of decline as a fighter. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that Saunders isn’t the same fighter he was earlier in his career. Saunders’ last 2 performances against Akavov and Willie Monroe Jr. indicate a fighter that has seen better days, and who is getting diminishing returns in his fights at middleweight. At this point, Saunders will never be the same fighter he was 1000 yesterday’s ago at middleweight. It’s pretty much academic at this point that Saunders needs to move up to 168 if he wants to find the kind of success that he had in his best years of his boxing career. The reason why Saunders has looked so awful in his last 2 fights isn’t because he wasn’t trained correctly. It’s because he’s eaten his way out of the middleweight division. For example, if the average reader were to drop 30 pounds from their current weight, they’re likely going to be extremely weak if they were asked to get inside the ring and start fighting. You’re not going to be able to get back to a weight that you were at years ago and still have the same power that you had back then. It’s not going to happen. It’s the same situation with Saunders. He’s keeping himself at middleweight by limiting calories and burning off weight, but he doesn’t belong in this weight class any longer in my opinion. That’s why Saunders has looked so awful lately. He doesn’t belong at 160. The guy has eaten his way out of the division, and his body is telling him that he doesn’t belong in this weight any longer. Lemieux is perfect at middleweight. This is still his correct weight class. That’s why he’s going to slice through Saunders like a hot knife through butter on December 16. This is going to be so easy for Lemieux that it’s not even funny. That’s view of the fight. Saunders is going to be weight drained on the night, and Lemieux is going to blast through him like he’s nothing.

The best thing that Saunders can try to do to win the fight against Lemieux is to try and run, jab and hold for 12 rounds. That’s the only thing Saunders can do for him to have any real chance of beating Lemieux. If Saunders chooses to fight Lemieux like he did against Akavov and Monroe Jr. recently, he’s going to wind up on the canvas counting stars the way Curtis Steven. Lemieux destroyed a very good fighter in Stevens in knocking him out in the 3rd round last March. The thing is, I would favor Stevens over Saunders if that fight took place right now.

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