Lollipops and BJs

By Paul Magno on December 18, 2017
Lollipops and BJs
We saw the same Saunders we’ve always seen. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press via AP)

Having around a fully actualized Billy Joe Saunders could add some real intrigue and depth to the middleweight division…

Billy Joe Saunders has arrived…or so say the marks who constitute the vocal minority of the online Universo Pugilistico.

The truth is that the Billy Joe Saunders we saw Saturday night is pretty much the same Billy Joe Saunders we’ve always seen, just with a bit more focus and a tad more discipline. He was also facing HBO’s favorite predictable, flat-footed, big-swinging fall guy, David Lemieux—something that would help any mobile boxing stylist look like a prime Pernell Whitaker, provided they can keep themselves from daydreaming mid-fight.

On paper, Saunders-Lemieux was supposed to be an even-money affair, mostly based on the fact that the heavy-handed Lemieux could, in theory, capitalize on a Saunders whose career had thus far, despite his status as WBO middleweight titlist, been defined more by malaise and distraction than consistent ring execution. Lemieux is about as nuanced and tactical as a refrigerator falling off the back of a moving truck, but he has real one-punch power and it was easy to see a scenario where he could catch a lazy Saunders with something big.

But Lemieux never did. And Saunders was able to breathe easy and maintain ring clarity in the face of Lemieux’s awkward, sloppy bum rushes and general confusion.

After the fight, the French-Canadian puncher looked about as frazzled as an aspiring Hollywood starlet emerging from a closed-doors meeting with Harvey Weinstein. He made a half-assed excuse about an injured hand during the post-fight interview, but his eyes told the story of someone who had just been victimized. He slammed Saunders for running, avoided eye contact with both the camera and interviewer Max Kellerman, and generally looked like someone who couldn’t get backstage soon enough.

And, post-fight, Saunders was Saunders. Always good on the mic, the gypsy Brit finally put up a main stage performance as entertaining as one of his press conferences. And, best of all, that ring performance was also almost flawless in execution.

But, then again, he was facing someone who made it easy for him to look good. Matched against one of the true elites of the division—notably, Gennady Golovkin or Saul Alvarez—Saunders will need to do more than have a solid camp and maintain focus during the fight if he wants to actually win. Daniel Jacobs would also be a tough match-up for Saunders, given his athleticism and overall skill level. Then, of course, there are division newcomers Jermall Charlo and Demetrius Andrade, who might already be the all-around best middleweights in the world while still waiting for their shots at the big dogs.

Realistically, everyone from Golovkin right down to Charlo and Andrade could be too skilled and too talented for Saunders and it’s hard to make an argument otherwise based on Saunders’ body of work. Even after his one-sided dominance over Lemieux, questions remain.

It’s easy to look quick and sharp against someone who is slow and dull. Stylistically, Lemieux was a giant wiffle ball served up on a tee for a fighter like Saunders—Saunders had to simply not fuck it up. The 28-year-old definitely has the raw potential to be a ring great, but he’s never been able to show more than a few minutes at a time of high-level professionalism. It remains to be seen whether he can build from this victory or if this high-mark performance will lead to implosion and an ugly fall from grace, like his pal and fellow gypsy traveler Tyson Fury, who went from career-defining performance to retirement over the course of 18 scandal-heavy months.

Having around a fully actualized Billy Joe Saunders could add some real intrigue and depth to the middleweight division, regardless of whether or not he can be any better than the fifth or sixth best 160-pounder in the world.

But don’t be surprised if he shocks an “elite” or two. A fighter who fights like him can always shock the world on any given night. Of course, all of this is up to Saunders, who now has to make the decision about whether he wants to rest on the laurels of beating Lemieux or move towards bigger, better, but infinitely more complicated accomplishments.

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  1. Koolz 07:17am, 12/19/2017

    If BJs fights GGG I know how this fight would go.

    First it would be a smaller ring.  There would be no GGG trying to rush as Saunders, there would be no Saunders getting off some jab with his movement.
    The fight would go like the Geale fight.  GGG would close the ring off on Saunders and when he has the opportunity he would let the punches go.

    Saunders would be trapped in a corner or on the ropes.

    I think it’s five round fight.  I think Saunders is really really good and that performance against Lemieux is the best I have every seen of him.

    The guy was on Fire!

    Don’t worry all of Hollywood, Politics, Political Media, Bankers, Music and Business Lawyers are Weinstein.  You are just lucky that you are hearing about one person with in this Group.

    They Eat Their Own.

  2. raxman 05:43pm, 12/18/2017

    its easy to criticise BJS for his resume since becoming champ. perhaps its true and as simple as a fighter losing motivation, and realising this his team kept him away from any serious challenges (challengers) until he got his head right. That seems to be Saunders version of events anyway.
    But in defence of the young champion, one just need to look at his resume prior to his fight with Andy Lee.
    Whilst most prospects are spoon fed journeyman, and past it journeyman in a lot of cases, eventually moving up to a gate keeper or 2, Billy Joe Saunders fought and bettered a number of other prospects - Ryder, O’Sullivan and of course Eubank jnr, were all unbeaten.  BJS fought and bested one after the other.
    Canelo, Jacobs,Andrade and Charlo are all highly ranked by the wbo - obviously Canelo is the money (ie the reward), whilst Jacobs and Charlo the danger (ie the risk)
    with Jacobs being promoted by Eddie Hearn I’m tipping he starts making noise about a big fight in the UK. Stylistically, and given the trouble he had with Lara and Trout both defensively minded leftys it may be that for Saunders, Canelo is the easier fight - easier than Jacobs or Charlo that is

  3. Timothy O'Malley 08:47am, 12/18/2017

    I watched the fight and saw a master boxer perform. Mr Saunders showed a skill level as good as any in the business. He showed and great jab and ring generalship at the elite level. For you to not just give him his credit and start spouting off names you think might be better is a cheap shot. Right now he is 26-0 and on a collision course with one of the division greats. How about we give him his credit and see how it all turns outs.

    Also, I believe Mr Saunders and Tyson Fury are both considered gypsies in England I wouldn’t say it to there face as gypsy is a derogatory term used by the settled community there. Mr Saunders is of Romany decent and Mr Fury is of Irish Travellers heritage. Both communities are very similar in lifestyle and have much in common one of which is a fighting background about the community. If I learned one thing in my research of these peoples if you want to fight them make sure you put your mouthpiece in.

    As a Detroit Irish boxing fan it has been a pleasure following both Saunders and Fury.

    Good luck boys and keep up the good work.

  4. Lucas McCain 08:17am, 12/18/2017

    I wasn’t sure I got the lower-case “s” in the headline until I got to the Harvey Weinstein analogy.  Naughty of you!

  5. Gogea Mitu 07:28am, 12/18/2017

    You’ve got the best backhand in the business! If Canelo fights the way he fought GGG he won’t win a round either. Bad night for Lemieux all round….especially being on the card with Seldin because “the many thousands in attendance” at Place Bell will have seen the striking similarity between their performances on the night and just maybe the seed was planted that David should have been in with O’Sullivan instead of the gypsy!

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