You might not care for Billy Joe Saunders’s mouth, but the respect is likely there after last night’s virtuoso performance against slugger David Lemieux. Saunders exploited Lemiuex’s limited offensive arsenal with a southpaw jab, feints and movement to score a unanimous decision win and clear the path as a potential opponent for the winner of the Canelo-Golovkin rematch.
NO CONTEST FROM ROUND ONE: I’ll admit it — Lemieux fooled me once again. Having covered his career since he was a hot prospect and been ringside for several of his fights, I thought he might have finally turned the corner. The win over Hassan N’Dam made me think he’d finally figured out how to intelligently cut off the ring and break down elusive fighters.
But I quickly discovered within the first minute that at the highest level, Lemieux is missing the versatility to compete. Saunders rendered Lemieux’s massive power impotent with his movement and made him pay with stinging counters. Lemieux wasn’t just missing his power shots by inches. At times he was several feet out of range and clumsily fell off balance. Saunders even mocked him by looking into the crowd to see where Lemieux was punching at.
NOT A RUNNER: Despite getting a few rounds from his hometown judges, you can argue this was a complete shutout. Lemieux looked embarrassed afterward and tried to characterize Saunders as a runner. The retort to that claim was written in the bruises on Lemieux’s face and the blood that was splattered all over the canvas. Lemieux was a bloody mess from Saunders’ jab and straight left halfway through the fight, and the only reason he wasn’t KO’d is due to the champion not possessing a big knockout punch.
NEW OPPONENT OPPORTUNITIES: This was the masterclass performance Saunders needed for fans to take him seriously again. His inactivity and lackluster performances since defeating Chris Eubank had many looking at him like a title placeholder rather than a legit champ. Now, you can see him posing problems for other HBO fighters like Danny Jacobs, Demetrius Andrade, and yes, even the cash cows Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin. With the latter two likely to rematch this May, I could see Saunders targeting Jacobs despite the Eddie Hearn/Frank Warren promotional riff. It could do well in the UK, and it’s a much more fan-friendly fight stylistically than Andrade.
But if Saunders had his way, he’d be facing Golovkin. He claimed Golovkin only wanted him last year because he saw him as an easy mark. Now that Saunders is training under Brenden Ingle, he feels he’s at the peak of his powers. We might not see a GGG showdown, but I love the confidence and last night’s bout shows that a focused Saunders won’t be an easy night for anyone.
GARY “SPIKE” O’SULLIVAN TKO7 ANTOINE DOUGLAS: This one was tough to watch once you realized what was happening. At his best, Douglas was a solid technical boxer with a good punch. O’Sullivan realized that and made it an attrition fight, constantly invading Douglas’ range with a counter right hand and hammering him on the ropes. Douglas’ defense was extremely disconcerting as O’Sullivan clocked him with right hand after right hand. As early as the first round, commentator Roy Jones spoke on how Douglas was the making a fatal mistake of leaving his jab out there and not protecting against the right hand.
The punishment culminated to a frightful end in the seventh when O’Sullivan brutalized a defenseless Douglas. He took about 3-4 unnecessary flush shots before falling to the canvas. Although he’s only 25, Douglas would be wise to consider hanging up the gloves. He was left in there too long against Avtandil Khurtsidze last year, and that fight appears to have done permanent damage, not to mention last night’s beating doing no favors.
ULYSSE JR. UD10 CLETUS SELDIN: The HBO investment in Cletus Seldin has hit a pothole right out the gate. After an entertaining beatdown on Robert Ortiz last month, Seldin sought to have a quick turnaround last night against relative unknown Yves Ulysse Jr. It was supposed to be a showcase for the Hebrew Hammer, who instead got an Erislandy Lara type schooling to the tune of three suffered knockdowns and a lopsided decision loss (88-99 across the board).
It wasn’t always pretty as Ulysse moved a lot and shunned engagement in the middle rounds. But when he did stand his ground, he either put Seldin on his backside with counter shots or forced him to retreat. Ulysse showed smart strategy in walking the bullish Seldin into uppercuts or clocking him with overhand rights.
Matched correctly, Seldin can still be an opening card attraction. And I’m sure HBO is grateful to have this early exposure before investing significant money.