Middleweight world titleholder Billy Joe Saunders and former titlist David Lemieux talked a lot of smack before their world title fight. Only Saunders backed it up.
England's Saunders, fighting outside of the United Kingdom for the first time, traveled to Lemieux's home turf outside of Montreal and put on a dazzling boxing display to retain his 160-pound title for the third time Saturday night at Place Bell in Laval, Quebec.
Saunders cruised to a unanimous decision in a fight that was utterly one-sided. Lemieux looked befuddled and bewildered as he had no answers for Saunders' movement and quick, clean punches.
Lemieux is one of boxing's most devastating punchers, but he came nowhere close to landing the big shot he needed. He got whipped.
Judge Benoit Roussel scored the fight a shutout, 120-108, but judges Phil Edwards (118-110) and Gerardo Martinez (117-111) amazingly found rounds to give Lemieux. ESPN.com also scored the fight 120-108, as did HBO's unofficial judge Harold Lederman.
"I know you're booing me because I whipped your fighter's ass, but that's boxing," Saunders told the crowd during his postfight interview on HBO. "I know what sort of fighter David Lemieux is, I know what sort of coach he's got. I look easy to whip, I look easy to put down, I look like I can run out of gas. But you can't hit me."
Saunders was in his second fight with trainer Dominic Ingle, and he gave his coach credit for keeping him under control and sticking with his game plan.
"I wanted to put it on him. I really did want to put it on him," Saunders said. "I went to put it on him, and [Ingle] was screaming, 'Take your time! Don't! Don't!' It was the best advice, because then I picked, poked, prodded him."
By winning, and doing so easily and impressively, Saunders positioned himself for a possible big-money unification fight against the winner of the expected May 5 rematch between three-belt world champion Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez. Saunders wants GGG.
"Golovkin, you keep saying you want my WBO belt," said Saunders, who has the only major belt Golovkin doesn't have. "Fight me now. You'll be punching fresh air."
That is basically what Lemieux was doing against him. According to CompuBox statistics, Saunders landed 165 of 430 punches (38 percent), while Lemieux was limited to landing only 67 of 356 (19 percent).
Saunders (26-0, 12 KOs), a 28-year-old southpaw, opened the fight with a display of classic boxing skills but landed enough to easily win the first round. But nobody expected Lemieux to match boxing skills with Saunders. For him to win, he needed to land his big power shots, but he never could. He never even came close.
Saunders' confidence was obvious as he began to do his imitation of Muhammad Ali's shuffle in the second round, when he not only outboxed Lemieux (38-4, 33 KOs), 28, but also landed solid left hands.
Saunders continued to toy with Lemieux as the rounds went on. Lemieux looked frustrated and confused as he was unable to deal with Saunders' movement and quick hands. In the fifth round, Saunders taunted Lemieux when he nailed him and then made him miss.
Saunders continued to do as he pleased, but by the second half of the fight, he was not only outboxing Lemieux but also beating him up. He snapped Lemieux's head back with a right hook in the seventh round, and by the end of the round, Lemieux's nose was bleeding.
Lemieux looked dejected in the corner but could do nothing but follow Saunders around looking for a Hail Mary punch.
Marc Ramsay, Lemieux's trainer, knew how dire the situation was as he begged Lemieux not to quit after the 10th round. Lemieux didn't quit, and he continued to press forward looking to land a haymaker, but he never came close.
Lemieux was filled with excuses after the fight, claiming a hand injury and accusing Saunders of running, which he most certainly did not do.
"I wasn't at my best. Hats off to Billy Joe," Lemieux said. "As of the second round, my left hand, I couldn't use it the way I wanted to, and he was on the run, so I had difficulties throwing my jab. He was running away from the first round until the end. I guess that's his strategy to win, to run away from fighters who are fighting. If that's the way you want to win, congratulations."
O'Sullivan knocks out Douglas
In a rough, tough fight, middleweight Gary "Spike" O'Sullivan, one of Saunders' chief sparring partners, broke down Antoine Douglas en route to a seventh-round knockout in a mild upset.
O'Sullivan landed many hard, clean right hands against Douglas, who got off to a solid start but slowly faded until O'Sullivan was beating up by the end of the fight.
"I was sick for two weeks with a chest infection, so I was not 100 percent," O'Sullivan said. "I thought it was a good opportunity, so decided to fight anyway. I'm happy with my performance but could have done better. Douglas is a tough guy and has a good chin, never been knocked out like that."
They spent most of the fight trading punches back and forth, but at a measured pace, with neither man showing any inclination for defense. But O'Sullivan seemed to be the harder puncher, and Douglas (22-2-1, 16 KOs), 25, of Burke, Virginia, got nailed repeatedly with O'Sullivan's right hand, never making any adjustments.
In the seventh round, O'Sullivan (27-2, 19 KOs), 33, of Ireland, landed a clean left hook with Douglas on the ropes and followed with a huge right hand that badly hurt him. With Douglas in rough shape, O'Sullivan continued to pound away with a series of unanswered punches until referee Steve St. Germain stopped the fight at 1 minute, 7 seconds.
According to CompuBox, O'Sullivan landed 130 of 447 punches (29 percent), and Douglas connected with 108 of 376 shots (29 percent). But O'Sullivan pulled away over the final three rounds, outlanding Douglas 46-23 in power shots.
Douglas, who was taken to the hospital after the fight to get checked out, saw his three-fight winning streak come to an end, while O'Sullivan won his fifth in a row.
Ulysse Jr. toys with Seldin
Junior welterweight Yves Ulysse Jr., with superior speed and skills, had an easy time with Cletus "The Hebrew Hammer" Seldin, knocking him down three times and toying with him for 10 one-sided rounds in a near-shutout decision victory. All three judges scored the bout 99-88, but it's hard to fathom that each judge gave Seldin even one round.
"I was the underdog. Everyone thought that I was in for a beating, and look at what happened," Ulysse said. "I told you that my moment was coming. Speed kills! Sky is the limit."
Midway through the first round, Ulysse (15-1, 9 KOs), 29, of Montreal, nailed Seldin with a straight right hand followed by a left hook to knock him down. Another straight right hand floored Seldin (21-1, 17 KOs), 31, of Shirley, New York, again in the second round. When Ulysse unloaded a flurry of punches in the third round, including connecting with yet another right hand, Seldin went down for the third time in the utter mismatch.
Seldin was returning to HBO for the second time in five weeks, only the third fighter in the network's 44-year history of televising boxing to appear in back-to-back months. He joined legends Mike Tyson in 1986 and Roy Jones Jr. in 1996, but that is about all they have in common. Seldin, who knocked out Roberto Ortiz in the third round on the Daniel Jacobs-Luis Arias undercard on Nov. 11, was befuddled by Ulysse's slick movement and powerful right hand.
Seldin, who has solid power, couldn't land anything authoritative at all. Often, when he threw punches, he hit nothing but air.
Ulysse came close to stopping Seldin in the 10th round as he tattooed Seldin with clean shots throughout the round. In the 10th round, he landed a fight-high 29 of 51 punches, according to CompuBox.
Ulysse, who bounced back from a 10-round split decision loss to Steve Claggett on Oct. 27, landed 157 of 360 punches (44 percent), and Seldin connected with only 42 of 333 (13 percent).
"Yves Ulysse is a good fighter, but he is not exciting," Seldin said. "I was not expecting him to run that much. I thought he would come to fight coming from a decision loss. I showed my toughness and tried to finish strong, but it was impossible because of all the running."