An important crossroads confrontation is scheduled to take place on tonight at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, New York. Middleweights Curtis Stevens and David Lemieux will meet with only the winner likely to remain relevant in the 160lb division.
As last week's headlining bouts proved, trying to predict how a fight will look stylistically once the bell rings can leave one looking slightly foolish from time to time. At risk of being wrong again I suspect that this one will start slowly but before it is over we will have witnessed some terrific exchanges and a decisive ending.
The rather off the beaten track setting is no stranger to big banging fights. In 2015 the venue hosted the rough house Lucas Matthysse vs. Ruslan Provodnikov tear up and 2012 was when Gennady “GGG” Golovkin (on US debut) destroyed Grzegorz Proksa in the very same building. Fans watching the after dark showdown on Saturday can reasonably expect elements of these two match-ups once again as battle unfolds on the Verona stage.
For those of us not attending TV coverage can be found on HBO (USA) and BoxNation (UK).
Stevens and Lemieux share two common past opponents. Lemieux was victorious over Hassan N'Dam (UD) but was stopped in the 8th round when he challenged the division's king, GGG. Both of these encounters took place in 2015. Stevens lost to both the aforementioned fighters; his bout with GGG was stopped after eight one sided rounds in 2013 and almost exactly a year later Stevens dropped a UD to N'Dam.
Time to meet the boxers who will toil for glory and our entertainment.
Curtis Stevens (29-5-0, 21KOs) hails from Brownsville, New York and is 31 years old. A pro since 2004 Stevens began his paid career as a light-heavyweight, gradually working his way down weight wise before fighting for the first time under the 160lb limit in 2013. As his record suggests Stevens carries very good power but the loss column indicates that whenever he steps up a level he just can't quite get over the line. Stevens has never held a world title.
Standing 5'7 the New Yorker is a frustratingly inconsistent fighter. Capable of holding his own on the inside, his power is evident when punching at short range, and possessing good countering skills at longer range Stevens has been guilty of letting his good work go to waste, by giving away rounds, thanks to indulging in long spells of inactivity during fights. When he does let his hands go his combinations are impressive and dynamic.
Stevens fans will be hoping their man is prepared to fully engage in combat for as long as it takes this weekend. His comments in the buildup suggest he is: “I can slug, I can box. My first reaction is just to take you out but I can box you too. For this fight, I could try to box the first couple rounds and then bring it to him for the rest of the rounds.” It got spicier during a conference call, Stevens telling his foe: “You're going to get right what you want. Your whole front furniture will be missing out of your mouth.”
David Lemieux (36-3-0, 32KOs) is the former IBF middleweight world title holder. The man from Montreal, Canada turned pro in 2007 and has fought in the 160lb division since 2009. Similar to Stevens, Lemieux has legitimate power and if he is allowed to establish himself on the front foot he is a dangerous opponent for any middleweight in the world.
Slightly taller than Stevens at almost 5'10 Lemieux is an aggressive come forward fighter who is always looking for the knockout. Even while he was being dismantled by the jab of Golovkin the Canadian never once took a backward step. One power punch or combination from Lemieux can change the course of any fight. At times his footwork is rather basic and a world class opponent can telegraph his attacks effectively. If Stevens chooses to stand in the pocket and slug it out the Montrealer would be fancied to come out on top.
Lemieux is going into this clash holding a grudge against Stevens: “The last time that my opponent spoke so much I believe it was Delray Raines. I broke three of his ribs and his nose. I couldn't be more prepared for a fight. I have one objective in mind – I want to take his head off.”
So both pugilists, realising the importance of the contest, are fired up to do battle. As both men are big hitters with impressive KO percentages I would be surprised if this one goes the distance. There is a chance that the early stages are slow and cautious. This style of encounter will benefit Stevens if he keeps his work rate steady. As the fight progresses though it would not surprise me to see more toe to toe exchanges as tiredness and perhaps desperation sets in. This would play into the wheelhouse of Lemieux which is why I am siding with him to via via 10th round stoppage.
No matter who comes out on top, Stevens and Lemieux will hopefully deliver an action filled duel. Blood may be spilled as both men scrap to get another shot at the middleweight titles. Late on Saturday night we will discover which one of these star-crossed boxers will keep their future big fight dreams alive. Don't miss it.