Dougie’s Friday mailbag (Saunders-Lemieux preview, year-end awards, Jeff Horn, Eubank Jr.)
SAUNDERS-LEMIEUX, YEAR-END AWARDS
Hey Doug, just wanted to get your thoughts on the Billy Joe Saunders-David Lemieux fight tomorrow and your personal end of the year awards.
I’m quite looking forward to this one as it’s a classic style matchup between a stick and mover and a pressure puncher, both at the peak of their powers. I favor the Brit as I think he’s quite skilled at feinting, countering, and using lateral movement. I also think he’s got the grit and chin to survive some hairy moments, although obviously Lemmy can spark anyone if he connects well.
I find Lemmy a lot of fun but I remember him losing some rounds to Hassan N’Dam and getting out-boxed in spots. I think Saunders can employ a similar game plan but will be far less error prone. He knows this is his big time moment and I think he’s going to come in with great conditioning and focus.
Also, it’s always fun to look back at the past year around this time, and it’s been probably the best year of boxing since I became a hardcore fan. Off the top of my head, this is my little list:
Fight of the year: Chocolatito vs Rungvisa 1
Event of the year: Joshua vs Klitchko
KO of the year: Lemmy over Stevens
Prospect of the year: Bivol (not sure if he quite qualifies as a prospect)
Upset of the year: Truax over Degale
Fighter of the year: GGG
Would love to get your list! – Jack E.
Sure, Jack, just keep in mind that my opinions on these year-end categories are not THE RING’s official award selections (which are coming soon). It has been a hell of a 2017, though, hasn’t it? Hard to believe we STILL have one more significant world-title bout this year with the Saunders-Lemieux showdown.
Fight of the year: Chocolatito vs Rungvisa 1 – I agree with this pick. In terms of sustained action, drama, bloodshed, world-class technique and savvy interwoven through 12 brutal, nothing came close to Gonzalez-Sor Rungvisai I (which also had its share of controversy as most observers thought Chocolatito did enough to retain his 115-pound title)
Event of the year: Joshua vs Klitchko – Yeah, I can see this heavyweight showdown as the most significant boxing event in 2017. Joshua-Klitschko was fought in front of 90,000, was televised internationally (including on Showtime and HBO in the U.S.), and it delivered a dramatic heavyweight title showdown that injected a lot of enthusiasm into boxing worldwide. I can also see Canelo-Golovkin and (as much as I hate to admit it) Mayweather-McGregor winning honors in this category.
KO of the year: Lemmy over Stevens – Yeah, hard to come up with a better one-hitter-quitter than this one, which was a 50-50 clash of experienced middleweight punchers. Charlo’s first-round one-punch icing of Erickson Lubin was pretty nasty but, in my opinion, not as significant due to the unproven nature of the 22-year-old challenger. Sor Rungvisai’s fourth-round KO over “the King” in their rematch was chilling and a bit depressing, but worthy of consideration.
Prospect of the year: Bivol (not sure if he quite qualifies as a prospect). I don’t view the 12-0 Dmitry Bivol as a prospect. He’s a legit top-10 contender in a very deep division. THE RING ranks him as the No. 6 light heavyweight (and I think he’s better than the magazine’s No. 5 contender, Artur Beterbiev). I’m not sure who the Prospect of the Year is. There were no clear frontrunners in my opinion, but I was impressed by Ryan Garcia, Jaime Munguia, Anthony Yarde, Vergil Ortiz and Josh Kelly. Munguia might be the most seasoned of that group of promising talents. Garcia and Kelly probably have the most natural ability and star power. Yarde and Ortiz seem to be born fighters (and punchers).
Upset of the year: Truax over Degale – Yeah, hard to go against that one, but I think Sadam Ali over Miguel Cotto and Tony Bellew over David Haye are in the running.
Fighter of the year: GGG – I can see Golovkin as “the man” of the boxing world in 2017. I thought he legitimately beat two very talented middleweight standouts who are in their prime – Daniel Jacobs and Canelo Alvarez. However, there are more than a few observers who thought he just scraped by both or was lucky to win a close decision and earn a draw. I’ve thought about (and proposed) a co-Fighters of the Year award this year to both GGG and Canelo, who, in my opinion, exceeded expectations by competing with Golovkin at the level he did. THE RING has awarded the award to two fighters before (four times, in fact) but it’s been a long time since that’s been done (and it’s never happened when both recipients fought each other that year). Vasyl Lomachenko, Joshua and Terence Crawford (in that order, as I see it) are all in the running.
I’m quite looking forward to this one as it’s a classic style matchup between a stick and mover and a pressure puncher, both at the peak of their powers. Indeed. What’s not to like about this WBO middleweight title bout? I’m glad I’m going to witness it live and up close.
I favor the Brit as I think he’s quite skilled at feinting, countering, and using lateral movement. Saunders is a crafty, cagey, ring-savvy son of a gun. Fans forget that he was an international-level amateur as a teenager. He’s also very good at employing roughhouse tactics, such as using his head, shoulder, forearms and elbows to frustrate or break down his opponent, or just to create space when needed. If this fight were in the U.K., I’d probably slightly favor BJS. But it’s in Montreal, so I’ve giving Lemmy the slight edge, but I know the local man has his work cut out for him.
I also think he’s got the grit and chin to survive some hairy moments, although obviously Lemmy can spark anyone if he connects well. Saunders is tough. I think he’s got solid whiskers. However, it’s important to note that the two world-class punchers that he’s faced – Chris Eubank Jr. and Andy Lee – did not set the tempo of the fight or pressure him much (if at all). Lemieux brings more pressure and a higher workrate to the ring than Billy Joe’s previous opponents.
I find Lemmy a lot of fun but I remember him losing some rounds to Hassan N’Dam and getting out-boxed in spots. That’s true. When he wasn’t getting dropped hard on his ass, N’Dam was outmaneuvering and outhustling Lemmy. However, that fight took place in June 2015. He may have matured and even learned a thing or two in the five bouts that have taken place since.
I think Saunders can employ a similar game plan but will be far less error prone. I know Saunders has much better balance and punch selection than N’Dam. We’ll see if he’s as gritty as the France-based Cameroonian tomorrow night.
He knows this is his big time moment and I think he’s going to come in with great conditioning and focus. Jeez, I would hope so. If he doesn’t have it together for this fight, he doesn’t deserve to hold that WBO belt.
I’ll keep this short. I think Lemieux’s power stuns Saunders early and scores a knockdown in one of the opening rounds. However, Saunders will begin to adjust and Lemieux fades, giving Saunders a close, maybe majority or split decision win.
Thanks and Happy Holidays to you and your family. – Robert from Ashton, MD
Thanks for the holiday wishes, Robert.
I can see your scenario playing out, but there are a couple factors that could impact the scoring outcome, if it goes the distance (apart from the fight being in the Montreal area): 1. Even though Lemieux tends to slow down by the middle rounds, he’s been known to gain a second wind late in some fights; 2. Lemmy’s power doesn’t fade… much; and 3. If, Saunders is dropped or hurt early in the bout, how many rounds will it take him to gather his wits and get back to an effective game plan?
Hi Doug, hope you’re well,
Don’t know if you got a chance to see the Horn vs Corcoran fight. Basically, it was a good club fight. And I mean that in a good way. Jeff is the sort of fighter like Micky Ward who thrives on character and guts. I’m sure other people will ask you about what chance he has against Terence Crawford, but what I want to ask is: who could he make a great, fight-of-the-year-candidate fight with? After all, styles make fights… I actually think Amir Khan is the best bet, at 154. Both have deficiencies but both are compelling to watch. Thanks. – K
Horn is a strong, durable, physical and AWKWARD welterweight who might even prove to be a pain in the ass against elite boxers like Crawford (even though Bud would likely outclass him). I guess Khan-Horn at junior middleweight would be an interesting fight, but why would Horn move up to 154 when he’s got big fights at 147 pounds lined up with Crawford and maybe Pacquiao? Win, lose or draw, he’s going to make good money in those bouts. (And Khan’s sights are going to be set on fellow Brit Kell Brook, who has recently tossed his hat into the 154-pound class.)
Anyway, I think Horn vs. the Matthysee-Kiram winner, Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia and Jessie Vargas are the most entertaining bouts that can be made at welterweight (in that order). If there’s anything left of Lamont Peterson after the Errol Spence Jr. fight, I think Horn-Peterson can be a hell of a fight. Horn-Porter could be extremely ugly but there would be a lot of contact in that ultra-physical contest of unorthodox mauler-grinders.
RIGONEAUX & THE QUITTING STIGMA
Hi Dougie, hope all is well over your way.
I wrote in a few months ago re: Kell Brook’s decision to take a knee against Errol Spence and the subsequent lynching he received from boxing circles (though as you correctly pointed out, this was from ‘some’ sections, not all). I thought it was pretty disgraceful the way some of the things that were said given the circumstances.
I am however struggling to reconcile my thoughts around Rigo’s decision to pull up stumps mid-way through last week’s fight with Loma. One the one hand, we’ve seen and heard many stories of fighters carrying on with far worse injuries (often successfully). Taking one’s licks is presumably in the job description also; if you’re happy to dish it out against lesser opposition then you’d better be prepared to be on the receiving end. On the other hand, they’re not playing tennis out there – it’s not like Rigo could just play out the rest of the contest without receiving considerable damage. If a fighter (or his corner) can’t see a path to victory, then isn’t saving themselves the brain trauma the sensible thing to do?
I guess I’m falling in the middle somewhere. Help me Dougie!!
– Rigo vs Jeff Fenech
– Kostya Tszau vs Pacman
Keep up the good work! Cheers. – Luke, Brisbane, Aust.
Thanks Luke. Will do.
This mythical matchup pick might be a little controversial (to some) but I think Fenech (who would often fight like a demon with TWO badly damaged hands) would outpoint Rigo at 118, 122, 126 and 130. I think the bouts would be more competitive at the heavier weights, but bottom line: I think Fenech – who was celebrated for his relentless nature, but was an underrated boxer/ring general who outclassed a WIDE variety of boxing styles and talents (including amateur stars, such as 1984 Olympic gold medalist Steve McCrory) during his athletic prime in the mid-to-late 80s – would be able to take Rigo’s best shots (if caught clean) and would outwork/rough-up Rigo over the distance.
And I think a battered King Kostya perfectly times a “Juan Manuel Marquez right-hand special” that naps Manny midway through a barnburner that he’s trailing.
Regarding Rigo’s hand injury, I think he pulled a “No Mas,’ but I’m not going to kick a man when he’s down. He’s got enough to deal with. It took even the great Roberto Duran several years and many fine performances (vs. Pipino Cuevas, Davey Moore, Marvin Hagler and Iran Barkley) to regain the respect and adulation of the boxing public following the Ray Leonard rematch. Think about that. That’s a nine-year time span and he was already considered an all-time great.
However, Duran was a superstar, so he was going to be given second chances (and third and fourth chances, too, because he had his share setbacks during the ‘80s). I don’t know if Rigo will even be given the opportunity to redeem himself. So, it’s hard for me to take a big dump on the guy (even though some of his fans are insufferable).
I know a lot of fans detest boxers that quit, and some fans never forgive the fighters (which is ridiculous), but I’ve got a compassionate streak when it comes to that situation.
As far when it’s OK for a corner to pull the fighter out of the fight, or for the fighter to call it day, I think it’s a grey area between when the bout is no longer competitive and before the boxer sustains serious injury or takes a gratuitous beating. A boxer shouldn’t give up just because he or she isn’t winning rounds or because he or she can’t figure out the opponent, but he or she should not continue if taking a one-sided beating round after round. And the boxer should not be obligated to continue fighting if he or she suffers a serious injury during the fight.
EUBANK JR., 168, BJS GETTING HIS HEAD TOGETHER
What do you think of Eubank Jr training himself and of him as a fighter generally? He claims that his dad and his mentor Ronnie just organise camp and he trains himself.
His aggression, confidence and physique are awesome.
In his fight against BJ Saunders (only loss) he looked lost in the first 6 rounds, then when he stopped listening to his ‘coach’ Ronnie Davies he took control albeit in a chaotic manner.
How good is he in your opinion? Can he beat the 3 guys ahead of him in the RING rankings and is there anyone behind him you think would give him problems?
A few other comments:
James DeGale must be done? I think his partying in Ibiza has caught up with him maybe… saw him out in the clubs over there quite a bit which is a bit weird for a boxer to be seen on the dance floor of a rave at 0400 AM on a regular basis!
Billy Joe Saunders gave a great interview on BBC Radio 5 Live recently where he sounded very considered and mature. He has taken himself to Dom Ingle Wicobank gym and away from Adam Booth, not because he couldn’t work with Booth, purely because he wants to get his routine, nutrition and focus to a militant state. He’s always looked a bit doughy, now he starts to look ripped, how highly do you rate his ability? Cheers. – Ed
I highly rate Billy Joe’s boxing ability. When his mind is right, he’s live against any 160 pounder in the game. I’m pretty sure his head and body are in the right place for Lemieux but I still have to wonder about his activity and how that might be a factor tomorrow night. Saunders fought twice since winning the WBO belt TWO years ago.
I don’t know if DeGale is done, but I’ve seen (spoken and written) about his gradual decline in technique since the first title defense against Lucian Bute. I thought the Porky Medina fight last April could have easily been a draw and I thought he CLEARLY lost to Badou Jack earlier this year. Is it too late for him to regain his form? He’s a tough S.O.B., and he’s got the experience. I guess it comes down to lifestyle and desire. Time will tell if still wants to be a champion.
What do you think of Eubank Jr training himself and of him as a fighter generally? I think he’s cheating himself from reaching his full potential as a fighter, but it’s his career, so who am I to tell him how to go about his training? I’ll say this for Junior, so far, so good! He’s doing well. I consider him a top-five contender at super middleweight, and I see improvements from fight to fight, so maybe this situation works for him.
His aggression, confidence and physique are awesome. I agree (although is aggression is measured).
In his fight against BJ Saunders (only loss) he looked lost in the first 6 rounds, then when he stopped listening to his ‘coach’ Ronnie Davies he took control albeit in a chaotic manner. I picked Saunders to win that fight knowing that Eubank Jr. was a glorified prospect, still learning the basics, but he showed me something in the final three rounds. And I think he’s added wrinkles to his game in every fight since that loss.
How good is he in your opinion? He’s world class, but he’s not unbeatable and he’s not as devastating as he looked against Avni Yildirim, who had a tailor-made style for him.
Can he beat the 3 guys ahead of him in the RING rankings and is there anyone behind him you think would give him problems? On a good night, I think Eubank can beat the three men rated in front of him (and he’ll get the chance to prove this vs. No. 2-rated George Groves in February). On a bad night, I can see Gilberto Ramirez, Groves and Callum Smith all outpoint him. They are tall, rangy, busy boxers that can stick and move when they need to. The men rated behind Junior can also give him trouble. Caleb Truax is solid all-around, hardnosed, consistent and persistent. The Dirrell brothers are inactive and inconsistent but they’re also experienced, and at their best, they present difficult mobile, boxer-puncher styles. Benavidez is green but he’s a giant and he’s powerful and extremely active/aggressive. And the “old man,” Braehmer, is as crafty as they come. He can be a spoiler against a fighter with Euby’s sporadic offense and tendency to wait and pose.
LEMMY-SAUNDERS & THE WELTERWEIGHTS
I’m pretty interested in Saunders vs Lemieux. It crept up on me. Lemieux boxes well enough and is so powerful and destructive, it seems like his fight to lose. But Saunders is genuinely slick and appears fit. If he won it’d give him tons of cred, right? And if Lemieux wins well, he’s back to holding a title.
Also, noting the mid-week welterweight action which I’ve enjoyed while staying home with a cold. Horn vs Corcoran, and Benn vs Peynaud, were both fun fights to watch. Nigel Benn being one of my all time favorites, I worry some for Connor after that (hard fought six-round win). Lots of heart, and some chops, but worrisomely green/lacking amateur experience. Any thoughts?
And, Horn and Corcoran had a right tear up. I kinda wish they wouldn’t feed Horn straight to Crawford. Let him duke it out with Vargas or Matthysse or Porter then feed that winner to Crawford…. Yeah, Crawford at welterweight, it’s going to be good. I hope he stays busy! Thanks Doug. – Alec
I think Top Rank will have Crawford fight three times next year thanks to their new deal with ESPN.
I agree with your thoughts on Horn-Crawford, but if the money is right for Team Hornet and they think they’ve got a shot at winning, there’s no sense in pursuing dangerous/risky fights (for less money) that might not even be able to be made due to silly boxing politics.
I’m pretty interested in Saunders vs Lemieux. You must be a boxing fan!
It crept up on me. Me too. But here I am, freezing my mulatto ass off.
Lemieux boxes well enough and is so powerful and destructive, it seems like his fight to lose. I don’t consider him a strong favorite in this matchup. I think he’s going to have to put forth the performance of his life to beat Billy Joe.
But Saunders is genuinely slick and appears fit. He’s not just slick, he’s cagey and he can be dirty, too. That’s all good stuff (if the ref allows it) against a brute-strong, forward-marching puncher like Lemieux.
If he won it’d give him tons of cred, right? It would not only earn back most of the respect he’s lost over the past two years, it would vault him into a high-profile showdown with Daniel Jacobs and, quite possibly, toward a big-money mega-fight with the winner of the Canelo-Golovkin rematch. A
nd if Lemieux wins well, he’s back to holding a title. Yep, he’ll be a two-time titleholder, a potential regional star and a major player in the middleweight division. There isn’t a single contender or fringe contender that wouldn’t make for a fun fight vs. Lemmy, so my hope is that he remains busy if he wins the WBO belt.
Horn vs Corcoran, and Benn vs Peynaud, were both fun fights to watch. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?
Nigel Benn being one of my all time favorites, I worry some for Connor after that (hard fought six-round win). The Dark Destroyer was one of my faves, too, but I’m not all that concerned for his kid. If he develops into a legit contender/title challenger, good for him. If not, I hope he knows when to hang up the gloves and I hope he enjoyed the ride while it lasted.
Lots of heart, and some chops, but worrisomely green/lacking amateur experience. Any thoughts? Nope. Not really. Some guys are meant to go all the way in boxing, but most aren’t. However, that doesn’t mean those who fall short aren’t worth watching. If Conor Benn makes for fun six- and eight-round scraps but doesn’t progress beyond that level due to his late start and limited amateur experience (22 bouts), so be it. I’ll watch him whenever he’s featured on TV because I know his name and I know he’s got an all-action style like his old man had. Same deal with Horn. Is he gonna beat Crawford? Nope. Is he gonna remain a top-10 welterweight contender over the next 18 months? Probably not. But is he going to make for some fun fights? Yeah, I think so. And that’s good enough for me.