By Jake Donovan
Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam and David Lemieux are all set for their vacant middleweight title fight Saturday evening at Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec City, Canada.
While a vacant title is guaranteed for the winner, the real reward come in the form of a major payday just a few months into the future. Unbeaten middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin is in need of an opponent for his next fight, targeted to take place this fall.
Depending on the outcome of Saturday's headliner in Montreal, the timing could be perfect. It would serve as the ultimate irony since there was nothing perfect or timely about getting N'Dam to a long awaited title shot.
The title at stake became vacant when Jermain Taylor was jailed in January prior to his eventually canceled voluntary defense versus Sergio Mora.
N’Dam (31-1, 18KOs) was forced to wait out three opponents as the IBF went down its list of challengers before Lemieux agreed to terms for the fight, not a difficult proposition when the fight landed in his hometown.
The bout—which airs live on Fox Sports 2 and Fox Deportes—marks N’Dam’s second bid at a major title. The Cameroon boxer—who now lives in France—held separate interim titles but his first crack at the full version led to his lone career loss, when he was dropped six times but still offered a competitive performance in a 12-round defeat to Peter Quillin in Oct. ’12.
N’Dam has since won four straight, including a 12-round win over Curtis Stevens in a title eliminator last October.
Lemieux (33-2, 31KOs) enters his first career title fight. The wildly popular knockout artist from Montreal comes in riding an eight-fight win streak, since suffering back-to-back losses in 2011.
A shocking knockout loss to Marco Antonio Rubio saw the view on Lemieux's career transition from prospect to suspect. It certainly didn't improve his status any when the free-swinging knockout artist dropped a stunning split decision loss to veteran gatekeeper Joachime Alcine.
Sweeping changes in his daily routine have led to his current streak. His last ring appearance saw Lemieux register a 10th round stoppage of Gabriel Rosado last December. The bout was his first stateside appearance—taking place at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York—as well as his debut performance on HBO.
With so much at stake, who will rise to the occasion and emerge not just with a title belt in tow, but also staking a claim to run with the elite of the middleweight divison?
Read on to see how the staff at BoxingScene.com believes the action will play out.
BOXINGSCENE STAFF PREDICTIONS: HASSAN N'DAM N'JIKAM vs. DAVID LEMIEUX
Ryan Burton (Lemieux TKO11): The hometown fighter falls behind on the cards but scores a late knockout to capture his first world title.
Jake Donovan (N'Dam Dec): Going bold with this pick, and my track record suggests I'm probably way off here. It's possible N'Dam overtrained for this fight, but what I saw at Friday's weigh-in was a fighter brimming with confidence, which says a lot considering the turmoil amongst his team leading to this title shot. His chin is the biggest wild card in this fight, but I like the visiting challenger to avoid the canvas and a robbery, with at least two judges rewarding his superior boxing performance.
Michael Gibbons (Lemieux SD): Back and forth fight. Both guys will find each other alot. A 10-8 round or two will be the difference for Lemieux.
Takahiro Onaga (Lemieux TKO5): N’Dam N'Jikam gets bounced off canvas several times before finally getting stopped.
Cliff Rold (Lemieux KO): This could be a higher octane version of N'jikam's fight with Quillin and looks like the best fight of the week. That won't work out well for N'Jikam in a battle of dented chins.
Victor Salazar (Lemieux late TKO): Maybe the best fight of the weekend on paper. Had there not been a long layoff for N’Dikam, he would probably win this running away. He may do that but in the back of my head I remember the Frenchmen being dropped multiple times by Peter Quillin. Lemiuex’s power is on par or better than Quillin’s. The fights at home and a Gennady Golovkin fight maybe waiting in the wing for Lemiuex. I’ll go Lemiuex late stoppage.
Reynaldo Sanchez (Lemieux late TKO): Lemieux should do their work for GBP. He will win this fight and then, tonight from the ring, he should call out Genaddy Golovkin. And become the GGG opponent in a unification fight.
Alexey Sukachev (Lemieux TKO8): The Cameroonian can box but—as was shown by Peter Quillin—he has some problems with taking a punch. Curtis Stevens was too small and not as intelligent to expose Hassan but Lemiuex, fighting at home, with some refinement after his back-to-back losses to Rubio and Alcine, should learn the lesson and demolish his foe.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox