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Montreal boxer David Lemieux moves up in weight, but will that translate to success?

Montreal boxer David Lemieux moves up in weight, but will that translate to success?
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“I feel good. It’s a long time I don’t feel good like this. It’s pleasant,” said the Montreal boxer, who will make his debut in the super-middleweight division Saturday at the Bell Centre, when he faces Ukraine’s Max Bursak in the 10-round main event, expected to begin shortly after 11 p.m.

Lemieux, 40-4 with 34 knockouts, easily made weight in the 168-pound division, coming in at 166.8. That was a pound lighter than Bursak (35-5-2 with 16 KOs) — understandable, considering the opponent’s a natural super-middleweight.

“At 160, my insides were curving up, like a knife wound,” Lemieux continued. “It was very different.

“I feel amazing. I like this division. I want to show the fans a great fight, a great performance.”

Lemieux, the former International Boxing Federation middleweight champion, might like the heavier division, but it remains to be determined whether his future stays there. At 5-foot-9½, Lemieux was small as a middleweight. He’ll be even more dwarfed now.

His co-promoter, Montreal’s Camille Estephan, said they’re using the Bursak fight as a litmus test.

David Lemieux, left, and Max Bursak during weigh-in in Montreal on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. Allen McInnis / Montreal Gazette

While Bursak hasn’t fared well each time he attempted to step up in class, losing title opportunities to Gilberto Ramirez, Hassan N’Dam and Zac Dunn, he never has been stopped in his career and should provide Lemieux with some valuable rounds.

Lemieux, who had his last two bouts cancelled — once due to dehydration and the other the result of a hand injury — hasn’t been in the ring since September 2018, when .

“This isn’t necessarily a better division for him. But he’s in a position where we have no choice,” Estephan said. “David’s too small for 168. We’ll see (Saturday). He wasn’t a big middleweight. It could work against him. That’s what we want to see. This is a stressful fight.

“He did 166 today and didn’t dehydrate, like usual. He could have probably done 160. We could see he has much less of a fat level,” Estephan added. “Still, it was a world of difference, like different planets. Usually the day of the weigh-in, from the morning until the weigh-in, he has knives in his body. Literally. He feels knives in his stomach, in his gut. He’s feeling good and healthy. He’s feeling very hydrated. That’s a very good sign.”

Lemieux can’t be blamed for, arguably, remaining too long as a middleweight. He certainly enjoyed success in the lighter division, winning 25 consecutive bouts to launch his career before overcoming a pair of 2011 defeats within eight months by going on another nine-fight winning streak, capped by his June 2015 unanimous decision against N’Dam for the vacant title .

Lemieux’s reign as champ could have lasted longer had he not accepted a lucrative offer, in his first defence, to meet Gennady Golovkin at Madison Square Garden. Instead, Lemieux was stopped in the eighth round of the one-sided match.

“We tried too many things … different people, nutritionists. Different ways of making weight. We couldn’t find the right one,” Estephan explained. “Plus, he made errors. We made mistakes. Sometimes you cut corners a bit and it makes all the difference. Now we have to look at ourselves in the mirror and say we screwed up. Are we going to learn and move on? I think we did.”

Marc Ramsay, Lemieux’s trainer, said his fighter was so consumed about making weight in the past, he couldn’t focus as much on his technique and tactics in sparring sessions while preparing. This time, Ramsay gave Lemieux the day off on Thursday when he came to the gym and they saw weight wouldn’t be an issue. Ramsay said it was the first time he’d seen Lemieux smile 48 hours before a bout.

“David likes to eat,” Ramsay stated. “At one point, I have to negotiate with the person I have. It’s not like I can change him. For that reason at one point we just decided, whatever the reason, it’s going to be better and healthier to continue your career at that (168-pound) category.”

While Lemieux has lost none of his power or speed, according to Ramsay, he’ll have obstacles to overcome. Now that Lemieux will be facing bigger and taller opponents — Bursak’s 6-feet — he’ll have to learn how to better neutralize the jab when he tries to slip inside and box at a short distance.

“That’s the art of boxing. You have to learn,” Ramsay said. “This fight will be a challenge physically and technically to see exactly where we are in that division. It will be a realistic analysis.”
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