Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Options For David Lemieux Following KO Of Stevens

In October 2015 two of Boxing's most feared “Knockout Artists “ Gennady Golovkin and David Lemieux squared off in Madison Square Garden in New York City to further unify the Middleweight division. Golovkin, who entered as the undefeated WBA/IBO world champion facing the IBF world champion Lemieux in what had all the ingredients of a “Shootout!” With both fighters having knockout power in either hand and with each entertaining the fight with career knockout percentages of 91% and 86% respectively, it was certainly not hard to understand how Boxing fans anticipated an all out war between the two.

What happened instead however, was more of a demonstration of a fighter showcasing his overall skill set and proving not only superiority of his opponent, but in the process showing the Boxing world that fighters who have carved a reputation as a “Knockout Artist “ can be much more as a fighter than simply one who has devastating punching power. For eight  rounds, Gennady Golovkin systematically implemented a strategy using lateral movement, a consistent jab, and effective combination punching to dominate Lemieux. Golovkin scored what some felt was a controversial knockdown of Lemieux in the sixth round of the fight when after nailing Lemieux with a flush left hook to the body, which caused a delayed reaction, Golovkin struck Lemieux, who had taken a knee with a right hand to the head while Lemieux was on the canvas.

Although some felt there were grounds for a disqualification against Golovkin, this observer maintains his opinion that the right hand that Golovkin landed was one that was not thrown with the intent of hitting a downed opponent, but was likely caused by the delayed reaction from Lemieux after the previous left hook to the body, which was what caused the knockdown and the decision to not disqualify, penalize, or at minimum warn Golovkin for what should be viewed as an unintentional foul boils down to a referee’s discretion. Despite the element of controversy that arose, Golovkin did not relent in his approach and ultimately was able to stop Lemieux in the eighth round.

What should not be overlooked despite the fact that Lemieux came up against a fighter, who on that night proved to have a complete package of skills, was the valiant effort he put forth in defeat. One might argue that Lemieux was also able to provide Golovkin with more resistance than most of his previous opponents up to that point in Golokin’s career. It should also not be overlooked that despite the fight being lopsided in Golokin's favor, Lemieux did have periodic success and landed some flush offense of his own throughput the bout.

The logical question that is usually asked of a fighter who suffers the kind of loss Lemieux suffered at the hands of Golovkin is can that fighter bounce back? For Lemieux, the rebuilding process began in May of last year when he scored a fourth round knockout of Glen Tapia. Lemieux followed that victory by scoring a ten round unanimous decision over Cristian Rios in the former world champion’s hometown of Montreal, Canada last October.

This led to the third fight on Lemieux’s comeback trail on March 11th against former world title challenger Curtis Stevens at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, NY. Much like Lemieux's encounter with Golovkin, this fight pitted two “Knockout Artists” against each other as Stevens entered the bout having scored knockouts in twenty-one of his twenty-nine career wins registering a career knockout percentage of 60%. A commonality that Lemieux and Stevens also shared in addition to their styles in being offense-first fighters was that Stevens also suffered a loss at the hands of Gennady Golovkin, who stopped Stevens in eight rounds in November 2013.

Unlike when Lemieux fought Golovkin however, the encounter between Lemieux and Stevens was what most had anticipated, a “Shootout!” For three rounds Lemieux and Stevens engaged in a battle that was fought at a quick pace from the opening bell. It was clear immediately that neither fighter was intimidated and showed no fear for each other’s punching power. With the two fighters exchanging punches and each seemingly looking for the knockout blow, it did not take long for this encounter to live up to its billing. This battle between hard-hitting Middleweights would have an exciting, but brutal conclusion as Lemieux would knock Stevens out cold with a straight right hand to the head followed by a flush left hook to the jaw that sent Stevens down and out for several minutes on the canvas. Stevens left the ring on a stretcher and was taken to a local medical facility for observation. It was reported the day following the fight by several media outlets including Fightnews.com that Stevens was okay and did not suffer a more severe injury due to the knockout he suffered at the hands of Lemieux.

This victory for the former world champion Lemieux, the third thus far in his comeback was the type of statement making performance that a rising contender or former world champion seeks as they vie for an opportunity at a world championship. The obvious question coming out of this fight is what are the potential options for Lemieux after scoring what should be considered a Knockout of the Year candidate?

Of course, all the attention at least with regard to the immediate future of the 160lb. Middleweight division will be focused on unified WBA/IBO/IBF/WBC Middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin as he attempts to make the eighteenth defense of his Middleweight crown against current WBA number one contender Daniel Jacobs on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. It is logical to assume that if the opportunity were to present itself for Lemieux to face the winner that fight that he would certainly consider it. Although Lemieux was bested by Golovkin when they met in the same building where Golovkin and Jacobs will do battle, there have been many times throughout the course of Boxing history where former world champions are open to potential rematches with fighters who defeated them regardless of the competitive nature of those fights.

It is important to remember that Lemieux like all of us is human and it is certainly understandable how one might look at his fight with Golovkin as simply a bad night at the office for him. As Lemieux proved in his battle with Curtis Stevens, sometimes all a fighter really needs is one punch.

Even though this observer believes that Lemieux could be a viable option for either Golovkin or Jacobs depending on what happens when they meet this weekend, there are other options that could be considered. Options such as a potential challenge of WBO Middleweight world champion Billy Joe Saunders, the only champion in the division that is not named Golovkin. Saunders as some may recall scored a razor thin twelve round majority decision over Andy Lee to win his world championship in December 2015. For the undefeated WBO champion, who scored a twelve round unanimous decision over Artur Akavov in December of last year in his one title defense since his defeat of Lee, could see Lemieux as a potential option to springboard himself into a unification bout with the winner of Golovkin-Jacobs, which would once again fully unify the Middleweight division.

If a world championship fight is not in the immediate future however, one potential option that this observer has thought of that I feel could make an interesting fight for Lemieux would be for him to face undefeated contender Rob Brant. Brant, who currently holds the North American Boxing Association (NABA) Middleweight title is unbeaten in twenty-two professional fights and has scored knockouts in fifteen of those twenty-two wins. For Brant a fight with Lemieux would represent an opportunity to climb further up the rankings and if he were to defeat Lemieux, one might assume that Brant, who is currently rated in the top ten of both the World Boxing Association (WBA) as well as the World Boxing Organization (WBO) could himself be in line for a world championship fight.

This is of course only three potential scenarios for Lemieux going forward. Although the possibility does exist that Lemieux could take an entirely different route for his next fight, this observer believes one of these three options may indeed be the most logical at this stage of his career. Logic may also suggest that Lemieux’s next course of action would probably be decided after the Golovkin-Jacobs clash takes place on Saturday night. No matter what Lemieux decides to do, he has made a strong case for himself as still being one of the most dangerous fighters in the Middleweight division. Something that any rising contender, world champion, or former world champion should keep in mind as they too discuss their potential options in the future.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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