Billy Joe Saunders defends his WBO middleweight belt against Canada’s David Lemieux in Montreal in the early hours of Sunday morning.
The world champion faces a mammoth task in defending his strap. It will be Saunders’ first time fighting outside the UK – in Lemieux’s backyard, no less.
We asked our boxing trader, expert, and all-round hero Tommy Young for his thoughts on the big fight.
Ladbrokes News: Tommy, give us your initial thoughts on how Saunders shapes up?
Tommy Young: Well, this is one seriously interesting title bout with Saunders going into the lion’s den, so to speak. It’s good to see him take on a big challenge as he’d been treading water since gaining the title in December 2015.
He had a troubled 2016 where he was inactive and looked terrible when he did eventually fight. But since then Billy Joe has changed trainer and showed he is getting back to his best when beating Willie Monroe Jr in September of this year.
LN: And for anyone out there not aware of him, tell us about David Lemieux?
TY: Well, he’s been around for a long time. He’s had 41 professional bouts winning 38 of those, 33 by knockout. He was largely unknown outside of Canada until he won the vacant IBF title and then faced Gennady Golovkin in his first defence.
He was duly knocked out by GGG and it’s to his credit he has been able to bounce back and return to the world championship table. The way he stopped Curtis Stevens in three rounds back in March was very impressive and a repeat of that level of performance would bring a lot of problems for Saunders.
LN: What way is the betting looking?
TY: The betting for this bout is extremely tight with Billy Joe Saunders the 5/6 favourite. Lemieux is a slight outsider at Even-Money. The fight is so finely balanced because it’s a classic case of a skilful boxer in Saunders vs a big hitter in Lemieux.
It’s pretty hard to know which will prevail. Saunders hands-down has the boxing ability to win. He was an Olympian at 18-years-old and when he outboxed Chris Eubank Jnr. back in 2015 he was superb, especially in the early rounds. Lemieux is more basic but has genuine knockout power in his locker, which Saunders does not.
LN: That brings us nicely to how you see the fight panning out?
TY: The old adage is that a boxer beats a brawler but in this fight, I’m going to disagree and go for Lemieux. I have a few reasons for this. My first concern for Saunders is that I feel even though he can outbox Lemieux I don’t think he has the power to hurt him.
Over 12 rounds I don’t see how he will be able to keep Lemieux off him. Saunders can box and move for a while but if Lemieux is confident, he can rush Saunders and not get hurt. Eventually, Lemieux will tag Saunders and do some real damage.
There is an especially high risk of this later in the fight. Saunders has gassed in the past, notably against Eubank Jr and also when he won the belt off Andy Lee. Any dip in level against Lemieux and he will be punished more than the aforementioned were able to due to Lemieux’s brutal power.
Finally, one more thing in Lemieux’s favour is that he is the home fighter. So even if he can’t get to Saunders and knock him out he’s likely to have friendly judges. Saunders will have to win very clearly to be totally confident of getting any decision.
LN: Lovely stuff, Tommy. Lastly, give us your fight predictions…
TY: My tips for this fight would be David Lemieux to win at Even-Money, Lemieux by KO TKO or DQ at 7/4 and Lemieux to win in Rounds 10-12 at 11/1.
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All Odds and Markets correct as of date of publication