By Jake Donovan
The night was supposed to serve as a coming out party for a highly touted prospect. It instead resulted in the leading candidate for Upset of the Year and an old veteran getting one more crack at alphabet glory.
Overcoming a slow start and the disadvantage of fighting on the road, Marco Antonio Rubio rallied back hard to score a shocking seventh round stoppage of previously unbeaten David Lemieux on Friday evening at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada.
Both fighters were slightly under the middleweight limit for their title elimination bout: Rubio was 159 ¼ lb, while Lemieux weighed 159 ½ lb.
The scouting report held true through the first five rounds, with Lemieux pulling a clean sweep over those frames with a mixture of jabbing and heavy pressure. Right hands continued to find its home on Rubio’s chin, but the Mexican veteran weathered the storm well.
Perhaps it was a sign that things wouldn’t go as planned.
Rubio was effective in spots whenever forcing Lemieux to fight in reverse, but it wasn’t until the sixth round when he was able to enjoy sustained success. Lemieux’ highly touted offense all but disappeared the moment Rubio bit down and went on the attack.
The tactic resulted in the Canadian suffered a busted nose and catching an earful from well-respected trainer Russ Anbar. Lemieux sought to reestablish his jab in the seventh, upon advice from his corner, who demanded that he stop loading up on his shots.
It worked in terms of setting up his right hand but did nothing to prevent the incoming – and the shocking conclusion. A right hand behind the ear sent Lemieux tumbling into the corner. The referee ruled that the ropes were all that prevented him falling, resulting in the bout’s lone official knockdown.
It wasn’t enough to produce a stoppage but Rubio took care of that end, refusing to allow momentum to slip away. The veteran went on the attack, scoring repeatedly upstairs. Lemieux was unresponsive enough for his corner to climb on the ring apron with white towel in tow, signaling to the official that the hometown kid had enough.
The official time was 2:36 of the seventh round.
Rubio advances to 50-5-1 (43KO) with his seventh straight win, with all but one coming by way of knockout. This one serves as by far the biggest of his current streak, if not of his entire 11-year career. Few gave him a chance to do so in hostile territory against an explosive puncher like Lemieux, who falls for the first time as a pro as his record dips to 25-1 (24KO).
With the huge upset win, Rubio is now in position to face the winner of the upcoming alphabet middleweight title fight between Sebastian Zbik and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, with both fighters presently unbeaten.
The winner of that fight will serve as Rubio’s third straight undefeated opponent in addition to his second crack at a middleweight belt. He previously fell short in a failed bid against Kelly Pavlik two years ago, in a fight where few gave Rubio a chance and even Pavlik’s handlers viewing him as a suitable comeback opponent after suffering a humiliating loss to Bernard Hopkins in a non-title fight.
Rubio has come a long way since then, scoring surprisingly dominant wins over fighters ranging from made-to-order to serviceable gatekeepers.
The win on Friday night confirms his resurgence as a threat to most middleweights below the top level, while the jury is still out on how much Lemieux can go on to accomplish.
Big things were expected of the wildly popular puncher, who had been past the fifth round just once in his young career – a lopsided 10-round points win over Jason Naugler just over a year ago.
He entered this fight having scored four straight knockouts in bouts collectively lasting just over 15 total minutes of ring time.
That same 15 minutes of ring time was how long Lemieux remained in control of the biggest fight of his career to date, before things fell apart and his breakout party gave way to one of the better feel good comeback stories in recent years.
In other televised action, hulking (and aptly named) super middleweight prospect Adonis Stevenson recovered well from the lone loss of his career with a highlight reel third round knockout of American challenger Derek Edwards.
The Haiti-born, Canada-based Stevenson was in control every step of the way, scoring a knockdown late in the second round before finishing off his foe in the third. A straight left hand put Edwards down and out, with the referee immediately waving off the bout at the 1:48 mark of the third round.
The win advances Stevenson to 14-1 (11KO), serving as his first win since suffering a humiliating second round knockout loss to journeyman Darnell Boone nearly a year ago.
Edwards drops his second straight, as he heads home with a record of 25-2 (13KO).
Both bouts aired live via interactive stream on ESPN3.com and via same-day tape delay on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]