David Lemieux - Handsome Devil
There are few more scintillating sights in boxing than David Lemieux tearing out of his corner with his mind set on destruction.
The Montreal middleweight is a true throwback to the fighters of yesteryear, exuding a raw, ferocious power that excites fans and scrambles the senses of his opponents. With his thrill-a-minute fighting style, classic good looks and charisma, Lemieux possesses the star quality to be a significant player in the sport if the middleweight division’s leading lights follow 30 others and succumb to his vaunted power.
The hard-hitting Canadian stole the show on the undercard of WBC light-heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson’s decision win over Andrzej Fonfara at the Bell Centre, Montreal, on 24May, bombing out former WBO title challenger Fernando Guerrero in three rounds of unbridled savagery.
Lemieux was like a human steamroller, cutting down the ring and affording Guerrero no space to make an impact. Guerrero, himself a puncher of note, looked shell-shocked by the onslaught. It was a dominant performance that announced Lemieux as a genuine threat on the world stage.
“Guerrero is a strong fighter, but it was impossible he could take those shots for 12 rounds,” Lemieux told Boxing Monthly over the phone from his home in Montreal, in the fiercely proud Quebec region of Canada. “I knew as soon as I started landing solidly the fight would not continue for long. When I land my big punches, I can feel when it is going to end. There is only so much fighters can take and, with one beautifully placed shot, it is goodnight.”
Still just 25 years old, Lemieux, 32-2 (30), has an intimidating 88% knockout percentage with 25 of his opponents failing to complete two full rounds. From the opening bell, the Canadian almost sniffs the KO, pouncing on his opponents like a junkyard dog seizing upon a slab of fresh meat.
He has been blessed with uncanny power since his childhood where a love of fighting saw him expel his excess energy as a scrapping street youth. “Power has always been something I’ve been gifted with. The fighting in my childhood was what got me into boxing,” said Lemieux who turned professional at just 18 after winning three national amateur titles at junior level. “I used to be a little fighter when I was a 7, 8, 9 years old, starting fights here and there in the streets. My neighbour was a boxer so he introduced me to the gym. That put me on the right path and got me off the streets.”
Lemieux knocked over his early professional opponents like dominoes, scoring 25 straight wins (24 inside the distance) until back-to-back defeats in 2011 against heavy-handed Mexican Marco Antonio Rubio, who withstood an early battering to triumph in seven rounds, and a disputed majority decision loss to former WBA light-middleweight champion Joachim Alcine. There is a possibility that, at just 22, the Canadian was stepped up too quickly. Those defeats prompted a career rethink and a rematch with WBC interim champion Rubio is, understandably, an attractive option.
“The kid I was back then is totally different from the man I am today,” Lemieux told BM. “Rubio is a very good fighter and I respect him, but if we fought now he would understand that I am not the same man. I am hungry for it. It would be a great rematch and a totally different outcome. It would be very satisfying for me.”
A less than ideal preparation played its part in that defeat, claims Lemieux, who subsequently split from trainer Russ Abner. “I learned that the team I had around me was not right,” reflected the Canadian, who is now trained by Marc Ramsay. “There was a lot of controversy behind the scenes for the Rubio fight. There were lots of things happening, which was not the best given the degree of my opponent. I had done no more than eight rounds of sparring for that fight and that is pretty much all I had in the tank.”
A mischievous rumour that Lemieux was partying too much was perhaps an easy conclusion to draw, for a man blessed with looks as devastating as his power, but Lemieux vehemently discounts these suggestions. “I have always been the hardest trainer at the gym,” he insisted. “People obviously get influenced very easily. They don’t want to look deeper. It is complete nonsense. I don’t party when I am in my training. I am serious and focused.
“There is always temptation, certain people I have to avoid and be careful and not to hang out with,” continued Lemieux, whose Armenian mother brought him up after his Quebecois father left during her pregnancy. “Those things are regular for anybody who is popular and good looking. I have never had too many problems with women! But I have to be very careful. It is the 21st Century and women can ruin you these days if you are not careful.”
Lemieux has subsequently rebuilt his career and paid special tribute to manager Camille Estephan who guides WBC heavyweight champion Bermane Stiverne among others. “He has been the ace of spades in my deck of cards,” said the Canadian banger. “Thank god for him. Camille has helped me so much in my life. He is my manager, but also part of my family. A great man.”
With his penchant for being fast out of the blocks, elite fighters will hope Lemieux punches himself out after several rounds of his trademark, frenzied attacks, but the revitalised Canadian believes he can sustain his feverish pace for as long as necessary.
“This is the tricky part,” mused Lemieux. “They think I will punch myself out after five or six rounds, like I did against Rubio, but they have no idea. I will keep punching for 15 rounds if I have to. I am now well focused mentally and physically to never have the same outcome. Against Miguel Torres, I performed exactly in the first as I did the seventh round. I knocked him down maybe seven or eight times and he had never been knocked out. The more rounds my opponents go the more torture they will inflict upon themselves.”
It is hard to imagine the exciting Canadian jabbing and moving his way to a dull decision victory. There is no reverse gear in Lemieux and the Montreal favourite sees no reason to change. “I am sure there will be fights when I do 10 or 12 rounds, but if I don’t have to – I won’t,” he said. “I am not a one dimensional puncher. Whatever direction I hit from is going to be a solid shot. It can be the last punch. At the gym, we are working the jab, boxing, but why should I do it? I am a power puncher. It is what people like to see. They don’t want me boxing. I am a bull. I am not going to be a ballerina.”
The Canadian fight scene is flourishing at present with Stevenson, Stiverne, Jean Pascal and Lemieux the major factors in its renaissance. Lemieux’s style is made to measure for the lucrative US pay-per-view TV market and his successful Showtime debut against Guerrero opened the door to the mega fights stateside. Yet the dream is to win a world title in Montreal in front of his adoring fans with whom he shares a special rapport.
“I am down to earth outside of the ring,“ said Lemieux, explaining his popularity in his home city. “I like people and people like me. I am a very explosive puncher. I would love to win the world title in Montreal because I have a great crowd, a big fan base. It would be a fantastic atmosphere.
“I think we are very close to a world title shot,” continued the Canadian, who like Stevenson is promoted by Yvon Michel. “The world champions are all good fighters. I will fight any of them, depending on the business perspective and logic of it. But we have to be smart and not take a fight that is worth a few million for a few hundred thousand.”
Lemieux’s predilection for entertainment may one day lead him down other avenues. “There are no limits. Something like acting would be interesting. We don’t know where the world takes us. But I would love to do it. I like entertaining. I could do a suspense thriller or something like that. Maybe play a serial killer!” joked Lemieux, whose toddler son Leon has already inherited that trademark power. Montreal kindergarteners beware.
Still in the height of his youth, the crowd-pleasing Lemieux has the potential to be a major star in the red-hot middleweight division, graced by luminaries like Miguel Cotto and Gennady Golovkin. “I am going to be in the game for a long time,” said the bullish Canadian. “Not many fighters will be able to keep up with me when I am at my strongest abilities. I have some good competition, but I am not afraid of anybody. I am going to be the face terrifying many fighters.”