David Lemieux is auditioning for Canelo shot against Tureano Johnson
NEW YORK – Madison Square Garden doesn’t hold the best memories for David Lemieux, but he hopes his second time at the Mecca of Boxing will open up another chance at a marquee fight.
Three years ago, the power-puncher from Montreal was stopped in eight rounds by Gennady Golovkin, losing his IBF middleweight title and his bargaining chip in the division.
“It didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to,” said Lemieux bluntly at Thursday’s press conference. “But over the years, I’ve learned a lot.”
Lemieux will have a chance to show just how much he has learned this Saturday as he’ll return to The Garden to face Tureano Johnson in the co-feature of the Canelo Alvarez-Rocky Fielding card. The fight will be Lemieux’s third since a wide points loss to Billy Joe Saunders a year ago for the WBO middleweight title.
The 29-year-old knows what this opportunity means as he pointed towards Alvarez, who is fighting the first fight of a $365 million deal he signed with DAZN earlier this year, and said “it’s great to be in the mix.” Signing an eleven-fight deal means Golden Boy Promotions and DAZN need ten more opponents for the Mexican star Alvarez, and promoters usually prefer to look close by.
Lemieux (40-4, 34 knockouts) was also on the card when Alvarez eked out a decision over Golovkin in their rematch this past September, knocking out Gary O’Sullivan in one round with a single left hook.
Camille Estephan, who co-promotes Lemieux with Golden Boy, hopes a similar showing against Johnson will elevate Lemieux from the co-feature into the main event with Alvarez on Cinco de Mayo weekend.
“If David does what David can do, the fans will want to see this fight. It’ll become a fight that is a must. The big question is, can Canelo take a David Lemieux bomb? I don’t know many humans that can,” said Estephan.
“But we’re not there yet, I don’t like to look past an opponent ever. So we’re gonna stick to where we are today, and take care of tomorrow tomorrow.”
Alvarez (50-1-2, 34 KOs) is stepping up for what looks to be a one-and-done dalliance at 168 pounds against Rocky Fielding (27-1, 15 KOs), an unheralded British fighter who holds a minor belt, and is expected to return to 160 afterwards. Promoter Oscar De La Hoya says they have no opponent yet for their May 4 date but it won’t be a third fight with Golovkin or IBF titleholder Daniel Jacobs, according to the Los Angeles Times.
In Johnson (20-2, 14 KOs), Lemieux is facing a Bahamian fringe contender who hasn’t been in the ring since August of 2017, when he was stopped in twelve rounds by Sergiy Derevyanchenko. Prior to that, had been highly rated and seeking his own shot at Golovkin. Johnson was also knocked out in the tenth and final round by Curtis Stevens while ahead on the cards in 2014.
For this fight, Johnson has linked up with trainer Andre Rozier, who was in the corners of the two men who beat him, in hopes of resurrecting his title hopes.
Johnson respects Lemieux’s power, but says he isn’t intimidated by it.
“He can probably knock a horse out. I want to feel that come Saturday night,” said Johnson, 33.
Estephan says this is the second straight fight in which Lemieux is able to have three meals on the Wednesday before the fight; in years past he would starve from the Monday of fight week to cut down to 160 pounds. He attributes it to Lemieux staying disciplined between fights and not blowing up in weight, and expects him to have more energy as a result.
“With Saunders, he should not have fought, we all learned a lesson that fight, he’s not super human. To be completely honest with you, I think we lost both fights before the fight. We lost it making weight,” said Estephan.
With two of the biggest candidates eliminated as possibilities, Lemieux has to be liking his chances of getting in the ring with the highest paid active fighter in the sport.
“At the end of the day we can’t control what Canelo’s gonna do but we can control what David Lemieux is gonna do,” said Estephan.
“When the fans see what David Lemieux is gonna do, they’re gonna say ‘Hey Canelo, step up to the plate.’”
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and can be reached at [email protected].