Lemieux vs. Stevens Preview
Comparing Lemieux vs. Stevens to Gatti-Ward, or even to Hamed-Kelley, before a single punch is thrown, is risky business…
Tonight at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York, in a fight televised live on HBO Boxing After Dark, former IBF middleweight champion David Lemieux (36-3, 32 KOs), the knockout artist from Montreal, Quebec, Canada, gets it on with WBC Continental Americas middleweight champion Curtis Stevens (29-5, 21 KOs), the bombardier from Brooklyn, New York, in a non-title bout.
Much is made of championship fights and for good reason, but there are no guarantees that a fight will be good just because a plastic belt is at stake. History has shown that the more a fighter has to lose, the fewer chances he is willing to take, which often makes for fights that fail to live up to the hype.
The winner of tonight’s fight between Lemieux and Stevens is significant because the winner presumably gets a shot at Canelo Alvarez, after he stops Chavez Jr. and after the ostensible superfight with Gennady Golovkin takes place.
Boxing politics and the carrot and stick strategy of attracting viewers aside, tonight’s fight between Lemieux and Stevens should be a good one. But comparing it to Gatti-Ward, or even to Hamed-Kelley, before a single punch is thrown, is risky business.
Consider the fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, for example. The richest fight of all time was supposed to be the fight of the century, but fans felt hoodwinked as Floyd bested Pacquiao, who may have “hurt his shoulder,” by a wide margin.
More recently, the fight between Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia was described in advance as the Second Coming of the first fight between Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns. Thurman-Garcia was a good fight, in my opinion, but comparing it to Leonard-Hearns I was at best wishful thinking, at worst an outright deception. When Sugar Ray, who was offering commentary on CBS, was asked before the bout about the similarities between the two fights, he said, “The similarities are that they similar,” which by saying nothing pretty much said it all.
But tonight’s fight has much to recommend it. Both men have knockout power. Both men come to fight. It is a true crossroads fight. Lemieux is the more versatile of the two, but their pedigrees are similar and they have two opponents in common, Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam and Golovkin, both of whom Stevens lost to, whereas Lemieux only lost to Triple G.
Lemieux and Stevens are nevertheless chomping at the bit. At a teleconference call to promote the bout the fighters talked the talk.
Lemieux told Stevens, “You’re going to get knocked out.”
“Tell the doctor to bring smelly salts,” replied Stevens. “They’re going to need to wake your ass up.”
Lemieux said, “You’re going to get knocked out. You ain’t never fought a guy like me.
Stevens countered, “And you ain’t never fight nobody like me. The difference is I fought a million yous. You never fought someone like me.”
“I’m going to destroy you,” said Lemieux.
“Just meet me in the middle of the ring,” Stevens said.
Lemieux assured Stevens, “That’s what I’m going to do.”
“That’s all you’ve gotta do,” said the Brownsville Bomber. “Meet me in the middle of the ring. That’s all you’ve got to do. You’re going to get right what you want. Your whole front furniture will be missing out of your mouth.”
“You’re going to get knocked out,” Lemieux said. “That’s what’s going to happen.”
Stevens said, “You ain’t doing shit.”
Let’s hope the same intensity ensues when they let their fists do the talking.
The HBO Boxing After Dark telecast begins tonight at 11:00 p.m. ET / PT.