By Frank Warren
THE MOMENT OF truth is looming for Billy Joe Saunders on Saturday night when he embarks on his toughest assignment to date against the heavy hitting Canadian David Lemieux in Montreal.
Bill is indeed rolling the dice a little bit by heading over into Lemieux’s home territory to make his third defence of his WBO world middleweight title.
It is a tough, tough fight against a renowned puncher who is at his most dangerous in the early rounds. Bill, however, is a fast starter himself, he has got a good boxing brain and is very elusive.
He is a tricky southpaw with a very good chin and I don’t believe he has ever been in the floor in a fight – amateur or pro.
Bill can also bang himself a bit and has pulled big punches out of the bag when needs be.
He knows the importance of this, he is on primetime HBO – one of the reasons we are over there – and if he comes through this we are looking to put him in a big, big fight in the spring.
It might well be the case that Bill has never been in such a good place, both physically and mentally.
He appears to be incredibly focussed and that is 90 per cent of the job with Bill. Physically he is in great shape and let’s hope it all translates into a career-best performance.
Coverage begins from Montreal at 2am on Sunday morning, live and exclusive on BT Sport and BoxNation
Commiserations to Gary Corcoran who was stopped in the eleventh round of his WBO World Welterweight title challenge against Jeff Horn in Brisbane on Wednesday morning.
Horn, who was making the first defence of the title he snatched from Manny Pacquiao in July, began the fight in sharp fashion, establishing his jab well in the middle of the ring as he sought to lay down a marker in-front of his hometown fans.
It was a valiant effort from the Hellraiser who is as tough as they come. The Wembley man put up a brave fight but was saved from further punishment by his corner after cuts began to restrict his vision.
Gary will come again after a deserved winter break.
OUR BUMPER SHOW at the Copper Box on Saturday nearly all went to plan and we witnessed some excellent performances on the night, but we all then shared in the disappointment of James DeGale over surrendering his world title to Caleb Truax.
The simple truth is I just don’t think James got going in there on this occasion and his tactics of operating off the ropes didn’t work for him.
Truax took his opportunity in coming to fight for the IBF world title although everybody – including me – thought it was an ideal fight for James to set him up for the New Year.
Obviously that didn’t turn out to be the case and James made the point that perhaps he should have waited until next year to come back and he might be right.
It is now all about getting a rematch if it can be done.
Lee Selby maintained his sequence of world title defences and put up a decent show in dealing with the threat of Eduardo Ramirez. I thought he might have made an easier job of it, but he still showed a good few glimpses of his class and now we’ve got to sort out in the next couple of days what we are going to do with him and Josh Warrington.
The kids on the undercard did exceptionally well. Daniel Dubois looks what he is – a force of nature and a formidable puncher – and he quickly snuffed out the threat of Dorian Darch.
Much the same can be said of Anthony Yarde, who stepped up in terms of class fighting Nikola Sjekloca, who last time out got a draw with Robert Stieglitz in his own country.
He got caught a couple of times and in some ways that is a good thing. It answered questions but, the bottom line of it is, when it came to switching it on Anthony cranked up the speed and power to get rid of his man.
In his early fights I made a comparison with a young Nigel Benn, but I now believe he is far more measured and calculating in his work than Nigel was at the time.
It seems like he thinks out the fight before he really engages, he knows what he’s going to do and he sticks to it.
He has got gears and when he moves his head and slips and slides, he is also a very elusive target.
Further tests await for both Daniel and Anthony in 2018.
WITH 2018 CLOSING in and the prospect of another fantastic year of boxing very much on the cards, it is an appropriate time to mark your cards over a few of our provisional plans for the early part of the year.
The brilliant Zolani Tete has had many a fight in East London before in his homeland, but on February 10 he will be fighting for the first time to the east of the capital at the Copper Box against his mandatory challenger and former two-weight world champion Omar Narvaez.
Anthony Yarde and Daniel Dubois will also be launching their 2018 campaigns on the same night.
Terry Flanagan will bid to become a two-weight world champion himself in April when he challenges for the vacant WBO super lightweight world title against the also unbeaten Maurice Hooker from Dallas.
Also pencilled in for April is the second instalment of the second coming of Carl Frampton in Belfast before, in May, all roads lead to Leeds for the world title challenge of local hero Josh Warrington.
Another spring set-to we have to look forward to is Liam Smith seeking to reclaim lost property when he takes on Sadam Ali in a mandatory challenge for the WBO world super welterweight title.
We are currently negotiating this and if we cannot agree terms in the next 24 hours we will enter into purse bidding.
We also have big fights coming up for a young super featherweight stars Zelfa Barrett and Lyon Woodstock, while I am also delighted to welcome rising light heavyweight Lyndon Arthur to the ranks and look forward to seeing him develop into a genuine contender.