Death, taxes. Few things in life are certain. Never more true than in the unnecessarily complex world of professional boxing. A humble concept, boxing has become increasingly obscured by a parade of oxymoronic titles conjured by the various bodies charged with her stewardship.
Occasionally, boxing, the brave old show girl that she is, wrestles free from this lecherous embrace to remind fans just how simple it all ought to be.
The middleweight clash between contenders David Lemieux and Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan on Saturday 15th September 2018 is one such example and there are a host of bookmakers eager to offer boxing betting markets on a fight almost guaranteed to be a classic.
For those inclined, here are the five key indicators to inform your investment.
Evenly matched. Both fighters are, to all intents and purposes, career middleweights. Lemieux did fight regional Super-Middleweight and Light-Middleweight title bouts in Canada during his early years but he has largely been a solid 160-pounder throughout his championship career.
Irishman O’Sullivan, who’s 17/10 at Paddy Power for a win, is listed as a generous looking 5ft 10 inches while the Canadian Lemieux, who’s 19/10 at William Hill, stretches for 5ft 9 and one half inch. Despite the years between them, O’Sullivan may be the fresher fighter. Lemieux turned professional very young rather than chase an Olympic dream he didn’t feel Canada could support and has more ‘miles’ on the clock.
Think Lemieux will run out of juice? Back an O’Sullivan Victory at Paddy Power.
In terms of championship level experience, David Lemieux is the more seasoned. Despite being the younger man he has been fighting in 12-round contests since 2010 when he first boxed for a WBC International title. During this time he has fought Gennady Golovkin and Billy Joe Saunders, losing both, but is accustomed to high stakes matches, if thus far unsuccessful at that exalted level.
O’Sullivan, 34, could be described as a late bloomer, securing a 3-fight Golden Boy contract in the glow that followed his upset victory versus the talented but vulnerable Antoine Douglas last November. Their careers have stretched over a similar decade and the Irishman also fought and lost to a then much ‘greener’ Saunders in 2013.
If you favour experience and knowledge over physicality, back Lemieux at 19/10 with William Hill.
Boxers, like all sportsmen, thrive when confident and are confident when thriving. O’Sullivan has shrugged off those who dismissed his credentials to establish himself as a top 10 middleweight. There is a definite sense he is the fighter with momentum following that Douglas triumph, in which he survived the American’s eye catching early work to dominate and stop the taller man in the seventh.
Lemieux enters the bout with questions to answer on both his technique and mind-set. In defeat to Saunders, fight fans will remember the Englishman looking out into the crowd after a speculative Lemieux right hook sailed wide of the target to see where the punch may have landed, the last flicker of Lemieux’s self-belief and any remnants of the fear his style and success had previously generated appeared to be extinguished.
In his comeback fight early this year, Lemieux failed to make the contracted weight, though he would triumph, and had reasoned in the Saunders’ aftermath that a shoulder injury had hampered his performance. Both narratives raise questions as to Lemieux’s enduring appetite and hint that his prime may already have passed.
O’Sullivan’s form may lend credence to backing him at one of the top boxing bookmakers.
Neither fighter takes a backward step, preferring to stay in mid or close range to deliver punishing shots to the body and head of opponents. O’Sullivan has shown patience in his work and is a hurtful puncher, slightly looser in style once on top than Lemieux but without the single punch power of the younger man. It will suit both of them to have an opponent willing to trade and success may be forged as much on their durability as it is deliver their own blows.
Lemieux’s ‘pet’ punch is the left hook and he will often double and triple this shot off the jab to great effect. Slightly more poised in the last year or two, he was ferocious and unrelenting on the way up, against Saunders Lemieux’s ‘poise’ became hesitancy and then impotence.
O’Sullivan when faced with Douglas’ movement and natural physical advantages showed greater self-belief, adaptability and patience than many felt him capable. It is this calmness that could offset Lemieux apparent advantage in power. In a slug-out with a bigger puncher, it will be crucial if he is to succeed.
Style will play a big factor in this fight. We think Lemieux has the upper hand here with a power advantage.
There are always less tangible factors in play in any prize fight, despite the asserted politics-free slugfest the bout promises to be, they need consideration.
Both fighters are contracted to Golden Boy Promotions and the expectation is the victor will be the next opponent should Golden Boy’s own golden boy, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, triumph in the main event. There is no evident preference from the promoter as to who that might be but I sense the Irishman is marginally the more marketable commodity in any future Canelo fight. He has the novelty factor Lemieux may lack.
The venue is neutral, only in their performance can either fighter ‘win the room’.