The landscape of Boxing’s Middleweight division over the last several years has largely been dominated by undefeated unified WBA/IBO/IBF/WBC Middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin and what this observer has called his “Path Of Destruction” through the division. While Golovkin’s reign has established him as the number one fighter in the division, the Middleweight division has seen another world champion emerge and quietly establish himself as a force to be reckoned with. Undefeated WBO world champion Billy Joe Saunders.
Saunders, a native of Hatfield, England is unbeaten in twenty-five professional bouts having scored knockouts in twelve of those bouts. After winning the British, Commonwealth, and European Middleweight championships, Saunders won a hard fought twelve round majority decision over WBO Middleweight world champion Andy Lee in December 2015 to win his portion of the World Middleweight championship.
Since defeating Lee, Saunders has made two successful defenses of his WBO crown scoring twelve round unanimous decisions over Artur Akavov in December of last year and Willie Monroe Jr. in his last fight in September of this year. Saunders now prepares for what should be called one of the toughest tests in his career as he will face former IBF Middleweight world champion David Lemieux on Saturday night at the Place Bell Arena in Laval, Quebec, Canada in a fight that will headline a card televised by HBO Sports here in the United States.
Lemieux has long been one of the Middleweight division’s feared “Knockout Artists” having scored knockouts in thirty-three of his thirty-eight career victories. Lemieux, a native of Montreal, Canada, won the then vacant IBF Middleweight world championship in June 2015 with a twelve round unanimous decision over former WBO champion Hassan N’Dam.
Lemieux lost his championship in his first title defense in October 2015 as he was stopped in eight rounds by Gennady Golovkin in a unification bout. Although Lemieux came out of that bout with a loss, he showed his mettle in defeat and was not disgraced in the fight. Lemieux returned to the ring in May of last year and has gone unbeaten in his last four fights having scored knockouts in two of those fights including a devastating one punch knockout of longtime Middleweight contender and former world title challenger Curtis Stevens in March of this year.
This figures to be a classic scenario of a boxer in Saunders against a power puncher in Lemieux. The former IBF world champion will come into this encounter with an experience edge as compared to the champion Saunders having fought sixteen more bouts in his career in addition to seemingly having an advantage in terms of punching power having registered a career knockout percentage of 80%.
From a strategic standpoint, it is logical that Lemieux will look to cut the ring off from Saunders while looking to get himself in position to throw his power punches and look to gradually break the champion down. Lemieux has shown throughout his career that he is capable of knocking an opponent out with either hand and if he can neutralize Saunders’ movement it will be to his advantage. The champion meanwhile will likely look to outbox Lemieux by establishing himself as a moving target with the intention of extending Lemieux into the mid and late rounds and outwork the challenger toward a decision victory.
A question that some might ask is whether the winner of this fight will be a logical choice to face the winner of the potential rematch between Gennady Golovkin and Saul Alvarez. Anything is possible and in an era where the public wants to see one world champion per weight class, it would appear to be the ideal scenario to fully unify the World Middleweight championship. This of course, will also depend on whether Boxing’s various sanctioning organizations will have their respective mandatory championship defenses before a fight for the Undisputed Middleweight world championship can be made.
For now, Billy Joe Saunders and David Lemiuex have the focus of the division squarely on them. A classic battle of boxer versus puncher have in the past produced very compelling battles. Whether or not Saunders-Lemieux will be among them remains to be seen,
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
Saunders vs. Lemieux takes place Tonight (Saturday, December 16th) at the Place Bell Arena in Laval, Quebec, Canada. The fight can be seen in the United States on HBO Sports beginning at 9:40PM EST/PST. Check your cable/satellite provider for time and channel in your area. For more information on HBO, HBO Sports, and HBO Boxing please visit:www.hbo.com.
In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the bout can be seen on BoxNation beginning at 2AM (Sunday, December 17th Local UK Time.) For more information about BoxNation please visit:www.boxnation.com. Check your listings internationally.
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