By Keith Idec
Billy Joe Saunders would’ve preferred defending his title against David Lemieux in England.
Each of Saunders’ first 25 professional fights have taken place in England, but Lemieux wasn’t willing to travel there for a shot at Saunders’ WBO middleweight title. As long as the compensation met his demands, Saunders had no problem crossing the Atlantic Ocean for a fight in Lemieux’s native Quebec.
They’ll meet in a 12-round, 160-pound championship match that’ll headline HBO’s tripleheader Saturday night from Place Bell in Laval, Quebec, near Montreal.
“David’s team wouldn’t come to England,” Saunders said during a recent conference call. “I wasn’t coming to Canada at first, but then, if this fight was gonna get made it was gonna be after Christmas. So I said, ‘Listen, I wanted to [fight] twice before the new year and twice I will be. So traveling is nothing to me. I’m a born traveler. Traveling is nothing to me.
“I’ve been boxing all over the world since I’ve been 16 years of age – from Russia, from Australia, from Beijing. You name the countries, I’ve been there. And I know it’s only amateur boxing, but I’ve been used to traveling and preparing to fight – the same nervousness, the same sort of energy you need to fight. I’ve done that before.”
The ever-confident Saunders (25-0, 12 KOs) isn’t worried about virtually all of the fans inside 10,000-seat Place Bell supporting Lemieux (38-3, 33 KOs) on Saturday night.
“I go to enemy territory all the time,” Saunders said. “Where I’m from, when I boxed Andy Lee, it was the biggest feud [possible] amongst Gypsy culture – English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh, all there in one mixture, most of them there for Andy Lee.”
Saunders dropped Lee (35-3-1, 24 KOs) twice in the third round and beat him by majority decision to win the WBO 160-pound championship in December 2015. That bout took place at Manchester Arena in Manchester, England.
The 28-year-old Saunders doesn’t consider Lemieux capable of out-boxing him, thus he isn’t worried about judging if their bout goes the distance.
“Listen, I’m not concerned at all,” Saunders said. “We’ve got one Canadian [judge], one English [judge] and one other nationality, so it’s gonna be a fair playing field.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.