By Alan Hubbard
I DOUBT I am alone in suggesting that Billy Joe’s performance against David Lemieux in Montreal was the finest of the year by a British boxer.
Ok, some may argue the case for Anthony Joshua’s conquest of Wladimir Klitschko, but there were times when the world heavyweight champion struggled against the old man whereas Saunders did not put a foot – or a fist – wrong against the outboxed, outfoxed and outclassed challenger.
As Jeremy Clarkson says in those TV ads: Perfection!
Or as Boxing News headlined it: Flawless!
It was certainly the most compelling and complete victory by a Brit since Tyson Fury toyed with Klitschko back, in 2015, and before that Joe Calzaghe’s total domination of Jeff Lacy.
It was the night Billy Joe became Billy Elliott, a young dancing master who tripped the fight fantastic, groomed by Dominic Ingle in the manner of such Wincobank wonders as Naseem Hamed, Herol Graham and Johnny Nelson.
That’s the way they teach’em up in Sheffield: hit and hop it.
But Billy Joe did more than that. He made Lemieux look the proverbial wallflower at times with his dazzling quickstep and prudently selected southpaw jabbing and left hooking.
In French, the Canadian’s surname means The Best. But he was definitely second best last weekend.
You got the impression that the new super-fit Billy Joe could have danced all night, and if he continues in the same vein he’s a cert for Strictly when he fighting days are done.
But that won’t be for some time. The undefeated WBO middleweight champion can look forward to a fruitful year in 2018 and beyond.
On the evidence of what we saw in Montreal he would give either Triple G or Canelo big trouble.
I am not saying he would beat them, but they would find it difficult to nail him, and even if they did his chin is one of the best in boxing. Have you ever seen him wobble?
As BoxNation’s Steve Bunce opined, had we seen such a show from Floyd Mayweather the world would be raving about it.
Saunders reckons he is the slickest middleweight in the world and you can’t argue with that.
As for Ingle, the son of the wise and wily Brendan is now undoubtedly one of the outstanding trainers in the game, having inherited his dad’s instinctive ability to teach the true art of self-defence.
His blueprint for this match was spot on but his main task now is to ensure that the often wayward Saunders does not drift back into bad habits and keeps the shape and mindset that has drawn such plaudits from fellow pros and punters alike.
Teaming up with Ingle is probably the best move Saunders has made since signing with Frank Warren after the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Ingle is as shrewd a tactician as you will find in any corner while both fighter and promoter have kept faith with each other through some turbulent times.
The result was a masterclass in Montreal in which BJS finally lived up to his potential.
We look forward to more of the same in 2018. As they say on Strictly: Keep dancing…
Happy Christmas to all.