By Keith Idec
Almost a year after suffering a lopsided loss to him, David Lemieux has an even worse opinion of Billy Joe Saunders.
Lemieux wants a rematch with Saunders, who impressively out-boxed the knockout artist from Montreal last December 16, because Lemieux claims a shoulder injury sustained during training camp hindered him during their 12-round, 160-pound title fight. In hindsight, Lemieux believes he should’ve postponed the Saunders fight to allow the torn labrum in his left shoulder to heal.
Saunders has harshly criticized Lemieux for blaming Saunders’ superb performance on his shoulder injury. Once he arrived in New York for his fight Saturday night against Tureano Johnson, Lemieux reminded Saunders that he is in no position to admonish him after what Saunders experienced the past few months.
The WBO stripped England’s Saunders (26-0, 12 KOs) of its middleweight title two months ago for failing a performance-enhancing drug test.
When asked Tuesday night about Saunders, Lemieux replied, “Billy Joe Saunders. The cheater? You mean the guy who cheated? I have nothing good to say about Saunders. He’s a good fighter, but he is also a cheater.”
The 29-year-old Saunders failed a PED test prior to his mandatory title defense against Demetrius Andrade.
The WBO replaced Saunders with Walter Kautondokwa, then the WBO’s No. 2-ranked middleweight contender, once it stripped Saunders. The top-rated Andrade (26-0, 16 KOs), of Providence, Rhode Island, floored Namibia’s Kautondokwa (17-1, 16 KOs) four times on his way to winning a unanimous decision in their 12-rounder October 20 at TD Garden in Boston.
Once the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission denied his license application for the Andrade fight, the WBO stripped Saunders and suspended him from its middleweight rankings for six months.
Saunders wasn’t suspended by the British Boxing Board of Control because oxilofrine isn’t on UK Anti-Doping’s list of banned substances, except on the actual days of competition. UK Anti-Doping administers all drug tests for the BBBofC 365 days per year.
The Voluntary Anti-Doping Association, with which Saunders entered a testing agreement for the Andrade fight, doesn’t allow the use of oxilofrine at any time.
Since he hasn’t been suspended in the UK, Saunders will return to the ring December 22 in Manchester. Saunders, who hasn’t fought since beating Lemieux, will shed some rust against Hungary’s Zoltan Sera (32-17-1, 22 KOs) on the Carl Frampton-Josh Warrington undercard at Manchester Arena.
While Saunders obviously is more concerned with regaining his WBO title, Lemieux wants another shot at the technically sound southpaw.
“Well, revenge is always what I want,” Lemieux said. “I had my problems leading up that fight. I took the fight, even though I shouldn’t have taken the fight, given the injuries I had. But if it happens, I do have unfinished business with Saunders.”
Now, however, Lemieux (40-4, 34 KOs) is interested primarily in getting an opportunity to challenge Canelo Alvarez for the Mexican superstar’s WBA and WBC middleweight titles May 4 in Las Vegas. For that to remain realistic, Lemieux must beat the Bahamas’ Johnson (20-2, 14 KOs) on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden and Alvarez (50-1-2, 34 KOs) has to get past England’s Rocky Fielding (27-1, 15 KOs), the WBA world super middleweight champion.
“My interest,” Lemieux said, “is in Canelo right now.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.