Saunders vs. Lemieux analysis & prediction
By Scott Gilfoid: The moment of truth is here for WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders (25-0, 12 KOs) with him having to back up his trash talking tonight against his mandatory challenger David Lemieux (38-3, 33 KOs) in a crucial fight for both guys at the Place Bell in Laval, Quebec, Canada.
Saunders looked kind of scruffy at the weigh-in. Taking all the weight off to make 160 had him looking a lot older than his 28 years. It must have been difficult for Saunders to lose the weight, because he’s looking haggard around the face, and there’s a lack of muscles in his upper body.
Lemieux is arguably the biggest puncher in the middleweight division today. He might be the biggest puncher since Julian Jackson was knocking guys out in the 1990s. There hasn’t been anyone like Jackson until now with Lemieux. He’s got true 1-punch power, and there’s no else in the 160-lb. division that is scoring knockouts like he’s been. Lemieux is this era’s version of Julian Jackson in my view.
Saunders is the unlucky guy that must face him tonight. The World Boxing Organization picked the wrong time to force Saunders to face Lemieux, as he was hoping that he would get to face the winner of the Saul Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin rematch. Since winning the title against Andy Lee in December 2015, the WBO has let Saunders take 2 soft defenses of his belt against Artur Akavov and Willie Monroe Jr. For all intents and purposes, those were both fringe contenders and not the talented fighters in the division. Saunders had it easy, although he struggled and was arguably beaten by Akavov.
If the WBO had allowed Saunders to take on another soft opponent for his next fight, he’d be free to wait on a big payday fight against the Canelo-GGG rematch. Unfortunately for Saunders, the WBO ordered him to fight Lemieux, and they’ve put him in a very nightmarish situation. Saunders not only might lose the fight to Lemieux, but there’s a good chance he could lose badly by getting knocked out. That would be terrible for Saunder’s career. He would miss out on facing the Canelo vs. Golovkin winner, and his popularity would take a big hit due to him getting knocked out by Lemieux. It’ll be a double whammy for Saunders. What’s done is done. The WBO has ordered that Saunders face Lemieux tonight, and he’s going to have to figure out some way to try and win the fight. Saunders doesn’t have the power to beat Lemieux, we know that. The only thing Saunders can try and do is spoil for 12 rounds, and hope that the judges favor his spoiling over the hard shots that he’s getting nailed with by Lemieux.
Saunders has tried hard to upset Lemieux for weeks now, counting on that giving him a boost to win the fight. Saunders believes that it helps him win fights when he can upset his opponents. This suggests that Saunders doesn’t have confidence enough in his own talent to win without trying to upset his opponents. Some boxing fans might believe it works for Saunders to play mind games. I personally don’t think it helps Saunders one bit. The guys that Saunders beat in the past were ones that he would have beaten even without his mind games. Saunders should have lost to Artur Akavov in my opinion, and I had his fight with Andy Lee a draw.
You can argue the Chris Eubank Jr. fight was a draw as well for Saunders. As such, Saunders doesn’t win with trash talking. He just wastes time. Tonight, we’re going to see whether Lemieux is going to go to pieces mentally tonight against Saunders. Personally, I don’t see it happening. I expect Lemieux to be focused on winning like he usually does by hitting Saunders as hard as he can with every shot. That’s how Lemieux always fights. It’s not anger. It’s just how he fights. Lemieux is not going to throw shots any harder than he’s done in the past, because he’s already punching at 100 percent capacity. The fight is going to come down to whether Saunders can run, hold and spoil enough to go the 12 rounds or not. Saunders is not going to knockout Lemieux, because he lacks the power. Saunders couldn’t even knockout Andy Lee, fringe contender Artur Akavov or Willie Monroe Jr. If Saunders can’t KO those guys, then he surely won’t be able to knockout Lemieux.
“What I say doesn’t mean [expletive] at this point,” said Saunders to IFL in talking about his fight tonight against Lemieux. ”It’s all about who gets in there and does his thing. It’s all mind games,” said Saunders.
Well, it’s good that Saunders at least acknowledges that it’s pointless for him to keep talking trash. If Saunders’ chin can’t hold up under the massive power from Lemieux’s shots tonight, then all trash talking he’s been doing isn’t going to save him from his fate. Either Saunders is going to be able to take Lemieux’s power or he’s not. I suspect Saunders won’t be able to handle the power without taking a nosedive to the canvas for the full 10 count. If Saunders does make it through the entire 12-round fight, I see it as a lopsided decision win for Lemieux. I think the fight is going to be a lot like the Saul Canelo Alvarez vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. match from earlier this year. Chavez Jr. lacked the power to hurt Canelo with his shots. Canelo was nailing Chavez Jr. with monstrous shots for 12 rounds. Chavez Jr. would have still lost the fight even if he’d connected with more punches per round. The judges would have scored the fight in Canelo’s favor based on the massive shots he was landing.
”When you get in the rhythm of knocking guys out one after another, but are they really contenders that he’s knocked out?” said Saunders. ”Curtis Stevens is a contender. No disrespect to Curtis Stevens. He’s nothing special in my mind. Andy Lee is better than Curtis Stevens. He stepped it up against Golovkin and got beat,” said Saunders about Lemieux.
There’s no doubting Lemieux’s punching power. He’s obviously knocked out a lot of mediocre opposition during his 10-year pro career, but he’s mostly knocked out the small handful of contenders he’s faced. Lemieux has stopped Curtis Stevens and Glen Tapia. Lemieux had Hassan N’Dam on the canvas 4 times in their fight in 2015. You only need to look at a small clip of Lemieux’s recent fight against Curtis Stevens to understand that his power is for real. If Lemieux hits anyone in the middleweight or even the super middleweight division with one of his enormous power shots, he’s going to knock them out. I rate Lemieux as the hardest puncher in the 160 lb. division today.
“All I said was that he has short legs; that he has very short legs,” said Saunders. ”I don’t know David to dislike him. I just didn’t like it when he started saying things about putting people dead in a coffin. That puts the sport into disrepute,” said Saunders.
Saunders has stepped into it with his comments towards Lemieux. Now he’s going to have to try his best to backup what he’s been saying inside the ring tonight. Saunders is going to look silly if Lemieux knocks him cold tonight. The boxing public is going to laugh at Saunders for getting knocked out after all the things he’s said about Lemieux. If Saunders continues to talk trash in the future, he’s not going to be taken seriously by his opponents, because they’ll realize that he doesn’t possess the talent to back it up. Heck, the top fighters are already dismissing Saunders as a threat. Canelo recently said he would knockout Saunders with 1 hand tied by his back. Golovkin doesn’t view Saunders as a threat.
Saunders will do fine for 1 or 2 rounds, but by round 3, Lemieux will start catching him with massive shots to the head at the body. Once that happens, I see Saunders quickly folding and taking a knee to get out of the fight. If Saunders goes get up after taking a knee, Lemieux will poleaxe him with a left hook in the same way he knocked out Curtis Stevens. I see Saunders knocked out by the 4th.