GLENDALE, Arizona – In the six-plus years since he last held a title, David Lemieux was twice before within a win of landing one more major title shot yet without even a fight to show for either opportunity.
With that, came the immediate decision to accept a fight with Phoenix’s David Benavidez for the interim WBC super middleweight title. It didn’t matter to Lemieux (43-4, 36KOs) that it required traveling to Benavidez’s home region, with the fight headlining a Showtime tripleheader this Saturday from Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona.
All that mattered to the former IBF middleweight title is having what could be one last chance at a second title reign.
“Yes. It’s a big challenge. But to match that, I had a very big training camp and we are ready for this fight, physically and mentally,” Lemieux vowed during the final pre-fight press conference for his scheduled 12-round bout with Benavidez. “It’s going to be a hell of a show for the fight fans, David doesn’t like to do rounds, I don’t like to do rounds. We’ll see what happens. Everyone knows how good David Benavidez is. Everyone’s going to know who David Lemieux is and will respect me after I have that belt around me.
"I got a lot of respect for David Benavidez. He is a hell of a fighter. But, a ring is a ring and I’m here to become champion.”
Whoever prevails in Saturday’s interim title bout will become—in theory—the WBC mandatory challenger to Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez (57-2-2, 39KOs), who remains the undisputed super middleweight champion. There is the strong likelihood that the winner will be kept waiting at least throughout the year for his due title shot.
Lemieux is less focused on that fight materializing than what it will take to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds versus the younger, bigger and fresher Benavidez (25-0, 22KOs). At 33 and having fought his share of brutal slugfests, the Montreal-based Armenian ring warrior acknowledges that every fight is a must-win situation with tomorrow never promised.
It’s a lesson he was forced to learn in back-to-back canceled fights, both of which would have positioned him for a fight at a world title.
A bout with dehydration forced Lemieux to withdraw from a December 2018 middleweight bout with Tureano Johnson on a show topped by Guadalajara’s Alvarez at Madison Square Garden, where the winner was teased as a potential future opponent for the Mexican superstar. Lemieux then came up injured in a planned interim WBA super middleweight title fight with John Ryder in the planned co-feature to Alvarez’s May 2019 three-belt middleweight title unification bout with Danny Jacobs at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
When the opportunity arose to next face Benavidez, the only question Lemieux had was how soon the fight could take place.
“I don’t run away from anyone in the ring. I’ve never avoided any fight or any fighter,” noted Lemieux, whose IBF middleweight title reign ended after four months with an October 2015 knockout loss to Gennadiy Golovkin. “When I step in the ring, I’m the man to worry about. I have a solid guy in front of me but I’m confident in my strength and my power. I have a lot of experience in the ring and will bring it all on Saturday night.
“We know the difficulties that David Benavidez poses. We came well prepared to make sure we don’t get surprised in the ring. I’m confident in my team and what we have to do to walk out of here with that title."
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox