Lemieux s loss to Saunders a small step back, promoter says
|Montreal Gazette 17 Dec 2017 at 16:43|
Maybe this is as good as it gets for David Lemieux, a one-trick pony who can still win more than he loses, but might never compete with the elite of the middleweight division. He has plenty of heart and courage, but could be incapable of taking the next step.
“It’s not a disaster. It’s a small step back. Not even. We didn’t go forward,” Camille Estephan, Lemieux’s co-promoter, said after the clock struck midnight Sunday, the boxer’s entourage left to pick up the pieces.
“David’s a fighter that’s exciting, that American television and fans want to see,” Estephan said. “There are a lot of good fights we can do. We didn’t go backwards that much, if at all.”
HBO, the U.S. specialty network, came to Canada last week, ostensibly to see Lemieux, the Laval middleweight who has fought frequently on its channel. But it was Billy Joe Saunders whom the executives must have come away impressed with.
The Englishman easily retained his World Boxing Organization middleweight title Saturday night — and undoubtedly will send Lemieux and his handlers back to the drawing board — and put on a boxing display in the process, scoring an alarmingly easy and one-sided 12-round unanimous decision in the main event before 7,836 pro-Lemieux spectators at Place Bell.
Saunders, now 26-0, won every round on Benoit Roussel’s scorecard (120-108). That was the Canadian judge. The United Kingdom’s Phil Edwards gave Lemieux the sixth and 11th (118-110), while Puerto Rico’s Gerardo Martinez believed Lemieux won the sixth round and the final two (117-111). The Montreal Gazette also gave Saunders a decided edge, 117-111.
Saunders landed 165 of 430 punches (38 per cent), according to CompuBox, while Lemieux connected on only 67 of 356 (19 per cent).
It was the third defence for Saunders, who captured the title against Andy Lee two years ago. He was boxing outside the United Kingdom for the first time as a pro. He had emphatically stated all week that Lemieux wasn’t in his class, and proved prophetic.
“Did I not tell you it was going to be an easy fight? I told you to bet on it and I told you what I was going to do,” said the 28-year-old southpaw. “I said he wouldn’t hit me, and he didn’t. I told you how easy it would be, and I made it easy.
“I could have finished him in one round.”
That might have been a tad premature, but Saunders’s superiority was clear from the opening round. He moved, changed direction and proved elusive. His footwork totally had Lemieux dumbfounded and, while the fans brayed at Saunders for his occasional reluctance to trade, he landed more than enough telling salvos to inflict damage on the Quebecer, whose nose was bloodied in the seventh round.
“It was what boxing’s all about — the art of hitting and not being hit,” said Frank Warren, Saunders’s promoter. “I didn’t think he’d do it as emphatically as he did. If that had been in Spain, everyone would have been saying ‘olé’. It was a matador and the bull.”
A petulant Lemieux failed to meet the media following the bout. In the ring, he told HBO it wasn’t his night, while maintaining he injured his left hand in the second round. But Estephan and trainer Marc Ramsay said it was Lemieux’s left shoulder.
“He was running away from the first round until the end,” Lemieux said. “I guess that’s his strategy to win — to run away from fighters who are fighting. If that’s the way you want to win, congratulations.”
With every round that passed, Lemieux became more confused, bewildered and despondent. He was befuddled by Saunders’s footwork and rarely was able to cut the ring off, where he might have trapped the champion and unloaded one of his devastating shots.
The blueprint on Lemieux will now become a patent. Simply move. Don’t engage in a slugfest. Lemieux has occasionally had trouble making the 160-pound division limit and, on this night, looked considerably bigger than Saunders. And there was no denying he was slower.
We shouldn’t forget Lemieux is a former champ, having captured the International Boxing Federation’s version of the title against Hassan N’Dam at the Bell Centre in June 2015. Now, in retrospect, Lemieux should have milked the title and earned some lucrative purses in the process.
Instead, he was outclassed and overmatched by Gennady Golovkin in his first defence four months later at Madison Square Garden. And now the blemish against Saunders following four consecutive victories. Lemieux’s record dropped to 38-4.
While Saunders can contemplate a bright future — he wants a potential unification bout against the winner of the expected rematch this May between Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez — Lemieux might have to be fed a couple of lower-ranked opponents to help restore his confidence.
Estephan said he would like to see Lemieux back in the ring next May, depending on his injury.
“He wins most of the time. He lost this one,” Estephan said, shrugging. “Can he beat the top guys? We’re talking about two or three of the top middleweights in the world that he lost to. He beats everybody else.