A day after their middleweight world title fight was signed Billy Joe Saunders and David Lemieux began what will surely be a war of words before they step between the ropes.
Reigning titlist Saunders and former titleholder Lemieux, both of whom can trash talk with the best of them, signed for the fight on Tuesday and went right after each other on Wednesday, well in advance of the mandatory bout that will take place Dec. 16 (HBO, 9:40 p.m. ET/PT) at a venue to be determined in the Montreal region, where Lemieux is from.
“Lemieux looks good against ‘B level’ fighters, but he is now getting in the ring with someone who is far more superior and slick than anyone he has ever been in with,” Saunders said. “I don’t just want the dog meat that (unified world champion Gennady) Golovkin has left behind, I want the dog himself. And when I come through this fight, I will have (Golovkin). (Lemieux) is a mandatory, and we’ve agreed to a deal to go over to foreign soil and get it on.
“I have a lot of friends in Canada, and I’ll be bringing a lot of supporters over to Canada from the U.K. It has all the makings of a good fight. I’m expecting a good, clean, fair decision. Once I beat Lemieux I’ll be moving onto bigger fish — the winner of the (expected) rematch between Canelo (Alvarez) and Golovkin. I’m looking forward to a great fight.”
Saunders (25-0, 12 KOs), a 28-year-old southpaw from England, won a 160-pound world title by majority decision from Andy Lee in December 2015 and has made two defenses, lackluster decisions wins against Artur Akavov in December and Willie Monroe Jr. on Sept. 16.
Lemieux (38-3, 33 KOs), 28, lost his in his first defense to Golovkin by eighth-round knockout in a title unification fight in October 2015 in New York. Since then Lemieux, one of boxing’s most destructive punchers, has won four fights in a row.
Lemieux is banking on a fifth consecutive win and collecting another title belt.
“It’s time to be world champion again,” Lemieux said. “Saunders is about to get destroyed. I’m going to be extremely ready for this fight and I’m going to inflict a lot of pain on Saunders. His 0 must go.”
Camille Estephan of Eye of the Tiger Management, Lemieux’s co-promoter, said Lemieux truly does not like Saunders and plans to take that dislike out on him in the ring.
“I know David is extremely motivated and viscerally dislikes Saunders,” Estephan said. “When he’s in that state, watch out. This promises to be a war. We are thrilled to have the opportunity for David to fight for the WBO title at home and keep it here.”
The fight poses an interesting style match: Saunders’ boxing ability against Lemieux’s brute power.
“Will Saunders be able to use his speed and craftiness to outbox Lemieux, or will David land a massive shot to end it in short order? We’ll find out Dec. 16,” said Golden Boy Promotions CEO Oscar De La Hoya, Lemieux’s promoter, who ironed out a deal with Saunders promoter Frank Warren to avoid a purse bid.
Warren said Saunders is ready for his first fight outside of the United Kingdom.
“Billy Joe Saunders is going into the lion’s den, as he believes he (can beat) David Lemieux. It’s a great opportunity for Billy Joe to defend his WBO world title against a big-name opponent,” Warren said. “… He is looking forward to making a statement to the American audience to ensure he secures a fight with the winner of the Canelo versus Golovkin rematch, for the undisputed middleweight world championship.
“Billy Joe is out to prove he is the best middleweight in the world. He has been continually avoided and if it means he has to go to Canada to ensure he can no longer be overlooked, then that is what he is prepared to do.”