David Lemieux vs. Billy Joe Saunders: No love lost between these trash-talkers

David Lemieux vs. Billy Joe Saunders: No love lost between these trash-talkers
We’ve seen this movie before in professional boxing and know how it ends. The two pugilists seemingly hate each other. Then they embrace when it’s over, talk about their mutual respect and thank each other for padding their bank accounts.

Except this time. Perhaps the enmity and animosity emanating from David Lemieux and Billy Joe Saunders truly is legitimate? They’ve certainly spent enough time recently on social media going back and forth. And again on Monday, as the two were part of a media conference call before Saturday night’s world-title bout.

“I’m more excited than anything just to lay my hands on Saunders. He’s got a big mouth. It’s rare I see someone with this big a mouth,” said Lemieux, the Laval native. “It’s his character. I don’t like him.”

Lemieux, 38-3 with 33 knockouts, will attempt to regain a portion of the middleweight championship this weekend at Place Bell against the undefeated Saunders of Great Britain, who’s undefeated in 25 bouts but has recorded only a modest 12 KOs. The 12-round main event will be televised in the U.S. by HBO.

Saunders, a southpaw who has never fought as a pro outside of the U.K., captured the World Boxing Organization’s version of the 160-pound title in December 2015, winning a majority decision against Andy Lee in Manchester. Saunders has defended twice, scoring unanimous decisions against Artur Akavov and, last September, Willie Monroe.

Lemieux won the vacant International Boxing Federation middleweight title in June 2015 against Hassan N’Dam at the Bell Centre, then got demolished by Gennady Golovkin in the eighth round of his first defence at Madison Square Garden — Golovkin didn’t lose a round.

The hard-punching Lemieux has won four bouts since then, including two in 2017, against Curtis Stevens and Marcos Reyes last May.

“I don’t think it’s going to be very difficult in the ring against (Saunders). I’m going to be his biggest nightmare,” Lemieux said. “It’s going to be hell for him. I’m here to knock him out. I’m ready to take the title.”

But Saunders doesn’t believe Lemieux is in the same class. He accused the Quebecer of being mentally weak, criticizing him for only fighting “bums” and “old men.” He called Lemieux, whose defence has been questioned, a “walking punching bag.”

But it was a recent Lemieux tweet , in which he called his opponent a “peasant” and said he was a “dead man,” that has particularly upset the champion.

“I don’t dislike David. I don’t know him to dislike him,” Saunders said. “He mentioned about putting people in a coffin, dead. I only respect the boxing world. I don’t like that stupid talk. It’s upsetting and discrediting. Keep the death situation out of it. That’s the only thing I didn’t like. It discredits boxing.”

Nonetheless, Saunders said he would give Lemieux a kiss on his cheek after he wins. Lemieux, for his part, said any such gesture would be answered with a hook to the head.

And on and on they went.

If Lemieux deserves credit for deciding, albeit foolishly, to meet Golovkin in his first defence, then Saunders deciding to come overseas, risking many potential lucrative fights that could be on the horizon, is either brazen or smacks of supreme confidence.

Saunders realizes one punch can change everything in boxing, but it appears only Lemieux is capable of landing that punch. Saunders, on the other hand, will have to outbox and outmanoeuvre his opponent while hoping to frustrate him.

“When I come to someone’s backyard in Canada, I’m never going to leave a stone unturned,” Saunders said. “I’m at my best physical shape I can possibly be in. There’s no better Billy Joe Saunders turning up Saturday night. I can guarantee that. I hope David can, too.”
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