Sunday, March 26, 2023  |


Billy Joe Saunders, David Lemieux in talks for mandatory middleweight title fight


David Lemieux hoped to fight Miguel Cotto, but now, he’s perhaps receiving something even better.

The Canadian puncher won’t fight the Puerto Rican legend in his farewell bout, but he will earn a middleweight title shot after the WBO ordered Billy Joe Saunders to defend his belt against Lemieux. Frank Warren, who promoters Saunders, and Golden Boy Promotions, Lemieux’s co-promoter, are already in regular talks, the fighter’s co-promoter, Camille Estephan, told

“I think we’re close,” Estephan said. “Maybe we can get a deal (done). We want David to fight in December, we’re not going to wait too long. If we feel we’re not going to get a deal, we want to go to purse bid right away.”

Estephan hopes the fight will take place sometime in December in Montreal, where Lemieux draws as a native son. Saunders (25-0, 12 knockouts) has yet to fight outside England, and hasn’t been active. He’s competed just twice since he won the title in a December 2015 bout against Andy Lee.

“With HBO interested, it’s possible (the fight doesn’t go to the U.K.). said Estephan. “This is our market here in North America. We want to be in the right time zone. The time zone is a major problem for us and HBO obviously.”

If the fight goes to England, that would mean HBO would have to televise the fight on tape delay or live in the afternoon, if it even picks up the right. That also means less money for everyone, with HBO paying less for such a fight.

Lemieux (38-3, 33 KOs) won a middleweight title with a decision (and four knockdowns) over Hassan N’Dam in June 2015. He immediately lost his title via stoppage to Gennady Golovkin, but has stayed active with two fights in 2016 and another two this year.

The 28-year-old’s March victory over Curtis Stevens remains a strong candidate for knockout of the year.

Saunders, though, presents a trickier challenge for Lemieux. The southpaw is a strong boxer who moves well, and owns a victory over Chris Eubank Jr. However, the 28-year-old Brit has faced weak opposition since lifting the title in a victory over Lee. His last outing was a boring decision victory over former GGG victim Willie Monroe in September.

“I think Saunders is a very good fighter, he can move, but he’s not going to be able to handle David Lemieux’s power,” Estephan predicted. “He’s look vulnerable on many occasions. But if that fight happens, David has to be at his best and we expect the best out of Saunders. With David’s power, a guy who has cracks in his armor is going to fall.”

If the fight doesn’t happen, Saunders would be stripped, so it’s simply a matter of where and when for Lemieux’s second crack at a title.