No Canadian caper for Billy Joe but he has the will and skill to win
By Alan Hubbard
THE DAYS WHEN British fighters crossed the Atlantic to become cannon fodder for America’s big guns are long.
More often than not they succeed over there because the Yanks are no longer the unbeatable of boxing, and haven’t been for some time.
The names of Lloyd Honeyghan, Alan Minter, Joe Calzaghe, James DeGale Carl Frampton, Lennox Lewis and Kell Brook are just a fistful of the British battlers who have either won or defended world titles on US soil.
And I am taking Billy Joe Saunders to record another away win for GB when he makes his own Transatlantic crossing – albeit to Laval,north of Montreal in Quebec, Canada – to put his WBO world middleweight title on the line in the backyard of French-Canadian opponent David Lemieux this Saturday night.
We know Billy Joe can be a bit wayward, but you sense -and see – that he has whipped himself into formidable shape for this one.
When he is up against it he can be a resolute young man. As his long-time promoter Frank Warren (he signed him as an 18-year-old after the Beijing Olympics almost a decade ago) says this is a tough ‘un for boxing’s travelling man.
But he is fit and focussed, and certainly unfazed by Lemieux’s renowned punching power.
Lemieux’s backers say that his formidable right hand is his best shot of claiming the title but when have we ever seen Saunders wobble?
He has a sound chin, as Andy Lee will testify, plus great defensive skills and, when he cares to apply it, one of the finest of boxing brains.
It is likely to be a close, classy scrap, perhaps even a split decision, but Billy Joe knows he has a statement to make, and I trust he will do so.
Watch Saunders vs. Lemieux live on BT Sport 2HD and BoxNation from 2.00am this Sunday.
HOW IRONIC THAT after three successive victories and a draw across the Atlantic James DeGale should lose his IBF world super-middleweight title on home soil-to an American!
Caleb Truax, who sounds more like a gunfighter from a spaghetti Western, was a worthy winner over the Londoner at the Copper Box last Saturday, no disputing that.
But it was a shame to see Chunky struggle against an opponent who in truth was little more than a capable journeyman.
I have known and liked the 2008 Olympic champion since his amateur days and hesitate to suggest that such a genuine gladiator should pack it in.
Fighters with 31-year-old DeGale’s risk-taking style rarely seem to get better with age.
He is shipped far too much punishment, and he did against Badou Jack in his previous engagement a year ago, and unless a return with the modest Truaz can be arranged for early next year, and the injury-prone DeGale regains form and full fitness, perhaps the time has come.
He has had a noble, indeed historic career as the first Brit to acquire both Olympic gold and a pro world title, and-one wants to see him end his fighting days as a mere opponent.
DeGale has earned well, looked after his cash and he has the charm and chat to make it as a TV personality, which is perhaps not only a safer option but the most sensible one.
THE LAST TIME I was on BoxNation’s Boxing Matters I ventured o suggest that Josh Warrington had the capacity to beat current Welsh idol Lee Selby. Needless to say I was castigated by the Taff Twitterati.
Watching IBF featherweight champion Selby shake off the ring rust by outclassing overweight Mexican Eduardo Ramirez at the Copper Box has not altered that obviously controversial opinion.
I admire Selby’s skills but I believe Warrington has the style to frustrate him.
We have yet to see Selby under severe pressure and there is no doubt that Warrington is a pressure puncher whpi who will chase and harass him all the way.
And with that Elland Road crowd behind him, it could make all the difference.
Anyway we shall now see, hopefully next spring.