Could Billy Joe Saunders have looked any better on Saturday night?
Before witnessing Saturday night’s main event on HBO, there was idea floating around the boxing world that the winner of the Saunders vs. David Lemieux WBO middleweight title bout was akin to sorting through a herd to determine which fattened calf was about to be slaughtered.
But Saunders is no sacrificial offering. Any fighter that can move around the ring like that is an absurdly tough out for anyone.
After humiliating former titleholder Lemieux over the course of 12 one-sided rounds, Saunders proclaimed his desire to face the very best of the middleweight division.
“I’m the best now. That’s what [the victory] means,” he said. “I’m world champion, performing like a world champion. Golovkin or Canelo, I’m ready. Don’t call me out when I’m fat and unfit and not in love with boxing. Fight me now, when I love boxing and I’m performing.”
At the present, Saunders appears quite the performer. His hands are fast and educated. He’s capable of hurling punches from just about any angle whatsoever, and he might be the best defender in the division overall.
Is he the best middleweight?
Saunders technical mastery is superb. Against Lemieux, he effortlessly landed a thudding jab all night and at times virtually stood with his arms dangling around his knees daring the offensive minded Lemieux to take a swing.
Lemieux would do just that, but Saunders’ ability to slip and dodge punches while lobbing hard counters in return at the same time turned what was supposed to be a championship-level fight into a glorified sparring session. No matter how feisty or angry Lemieux would get at Saunders’ ring antics, he could find nothing to mount his offense upon the entire night.
I didn’t see a supposed elite-level fighter miss as many punches as horribly as Lemieux did all year.
Saunders possesses incredible timing skills. He knows just when to punch and from where to do so. Lemieux’s come forward style had served him well over the course of his career, but against Saunders it was wildly ineffective.
In a bout many considered a tossup heading into it, Saunders proved to be one of the best middleweight fighters in the world. He didn’t just defeat the seasoned and dangerous Lemieux. He absolutely dominated every minute of every round with grace and ease.
Saunders is the real deal.
When asked after the fight about Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez, two of the other real deals at middleweight, Saunders didn’t hold back.
“I’ll give them a boxing lesson,” said Saunders. “The bookies and some others claimed this was a 50-50 fight against Lemieux and it was nothing but a money-maker for punters who know a good bet when they see one.”
And here’s the truth about that statement: He totally could. Saunders’ master class show of boxing skill and determination should scare every other middleweight in the world today.
Saunders is excellent.
He’s a cagey, highly skilled and awkward boxer who knows when to punch and when to back off. It’s not just that he knows how to time his opponents coming into the fray. He knows how to time them whether they are moving forward or backward or any other direction a fighter can move in the ring.
After the fact, Saunders wondered if he had looked too good on Saturday night to get the types of fights he wants.
“Performances like that scare the likes of Canelo and Golovkin off,” said Saunders. “When you perform like that and you look like you’re a million dollars, they don’t want a piece of it.”
I’m starting to think the same thing, too.