By Keith Idec
Billy Joe Saunders knew he had several physical and mental advantages over David Lemieux before they fought.
But when Saunders saw the size of the ring in which they fought Saturday night, the unbeaten WBO middleweight champion grew even more confident that he’d defeat the Quebec-based challenger in his home territory. The elusive southpaw used every bit of a ring that was larger than he expected to out-box the heavy-handed Lemieux in their 12-round championship match at Place Bell in Laval, Quebec, Canada.
With all that room to operate, Saunders side-stepped Lemieux and moved out of his punching range all night long to record a convincing victory. Once he out-maneuvered Lemieux in the first round, Saunders was certain that he would be able to do what he had practiced repeatedly during training camp.
“The moment round one went, I saw it,” Saunders told BoxingScene.com following the fight. “I knew it, I knew it. I seen him fade. Every feint I was doing I was making him leap. Pop-pop, move, pop-pop. And then I knew – you get the matador with the bull, bang, turning him, bang, I made him dizzy in there. Ring too big. They made one mistake tonight. They tried everything to upset me. But they made one mistake – big ring. Big ring. Give me my element, just played with him.”
By “they,” England’s Saunders (26-0, 12 KOs) referred to Golden Boy Promotions and Eye of the Tiger Management, which handle Montreal’s Lemieux (38-4, 33 KOs).
Saunders, who fought outside of England for the first time as a pro, admitted that he was concerned prior to the fight that he wouldn’t be given the benefit of the doubt on the scorecards. That helped him remain focused for the entire fight, which he won handily on the scorecards of all three judges – Wales’ Phil Edwards (118-110), Puerto Rico’s Gerardo Martinez (117-111) and Canada’s Benoit Roussel (120-108).
“Fear,” Saunders said regarding what drove him to victory. “Coming into someone’s backyard, not in my comfort zone, out of my comfort zone. Thinking all day long, in my hotel room, ‘I have to win every single round. I can’t let a round go.’ ”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.