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Heavier David Lemieux returns for Bell Centre bout Saturday

Heavier David Lemieux returns for Bell Centre bout Saturday
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That is until last December, when he spent so much energy for a Madison Square Garden bout against Tureano Johnson, he ended up in a New York hospital, suffering from dehydration and being told by a doctor he was close to being put on dialysis, having lost kidney function.

“In my business, it’s life or death. Every time you (step into the ring) you’re putting your life at risk, your brain cells at risk, your organs and health at risk,” the Montreal boxer said Monday. “I never realized that until the doctor looked at me and said ‘it’s amazing you’re still standing.’

“I’ve been put in this condition many times, and I fought on top of it,” he added. “They took a blood analysis and saw how bad the situation was. It opened my eyes. I’ve been like this many times and pushed it … I fought the next day. I never realized the degree to which I was hurting my body in certain ways.”

Montreal’s David Lemieux punches Gary O’Sullivan in the first round during their middleweight bout on Sept. 15, 2018, in Las Vegas. Lemieux won by knockout in the first round. Al Bello / Getty Images

The days of Lemieux, the former International Boxing Federation middleweight champion, trying to make weight are over — at least at 160 pounds. Lemieux, who has had numerous bouts cancelled over the years, has finally heeded everyone’s advice and will box in the 168-pound super-middleweight division.

Lemieux (40-4 with 34 knockouts), who turns 31 on Dec. 22, makes his debut at that weight Saturday night, when he meets Ukraine’s Max Bursak (35-5-2, 16 KOs), in the 10-round main event at the Bell Centre. It marks the first fight card at the home of the Canadiens since June 3, 2017.

Lemieux, 5-foot-9 1/2, looked small as a middleweight. He appears even more petite now. Or so it appeared when he and Bursak posed for photos following the news conference at the Montreal Casino. But he vowed the added weight won’t correlate into any power deficiency, which has always been his staple.

Lemieux said his bone density level is extremely high. That translates into his heavy hands and his explosiveness in the ring. In his first title defence against Gennady Golovkin in 2015, Lemieux struggled mightily and weighed 159.9. He remembered looking across at Golovkin, who was almost two pounds lighter, but appeared bigger.

The following night, Lemieux was stopped in the eighth round of the one-sided bout.

“Look at Mike Tyson,” Lemieux said, noting he wasn’t comparing himself with the former world heavyweight champ. “Tyson was what, 5-foot-10? And he was knocking guys out who were 6-foot-5.

“We decided to give the body a break and go up (in weight). I think it’s going to be a big advantage for me. I’m going to be very strong in the ring. Very strong.”

Lemieux hasn’t fought since September 2018, when he barely broke a sweat dismantling Gary O’Sullivan in the first round in Las Vegas. After his fight against Johnson was cancelled, Lemieux had to pull out of a bout last May against England’s John Ryder — also scheduled for Vegas — when he suffered an injury to his right hand during a sparring session.

But there have been no setbacks this time, Lemieux said.

“I’m always concerned (about his hands) in a small way, because I hit hard and with impact,” Lemieux said. “There’s always a bit of concern when you go out, bombing guys. You have to make sure you don’t hit them on the elbow or the wrong place. The timing. The angle you might hit the guy or if he moves.

“But my hands are good and I had a great camp with zero injuries. I’m confident.”

Bursak, 35, held the European middleweight title in 2013, but has been defeated in two world-title opportunities. He lost a wide unanimous decision to Hassan N’Dam for the vacant World Boxing Organization interim title in 2012. Five years later, he lost another unanimous decision to former WBO super-middleweight champ Gilberto Ramirez.

Bursak’s coming off a fifth-round stoppage of Beka Mukhulishvili in early October.

“Gennady Golovkin showed us how Lemieux can be knocked out,” Bursak said through a translator. “Billy Joe Saunders showed how to defeat him by points. I know different ways to win.”

Also on the Bell Centre card are heavyweights Arslanbek Makhmudov, a native of Mozdok, Russia, based in Montreal, and Simon Kean of Trois-Rivières. Makhmudov meets Samuel Peter, a former World Boxing Council champ. But that was in 2008.
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