“I know you’re booing me because I whipped your fighter’s ass, but that’s boxing!”
In front of a partisan crowd at the Place Bell in Quebec, Billy Joe Saunders put on a masterful performance to clinically outpoint home hope David Lemieux and defend his WBO middleweight title.
The Canadian supporters began the night rapturously cheering on their man but Saunders swiftly silenced them as he completely outclassed his helpless and clearly frustrated challenger.
With Lemieux having recklessly charged forward in straight lines continuously without any real thought process, the fleet-footed champion was able to play the role of matador to the rash bull and skilfully stay clear of any incoming danger.
The Hatfield fighter entered proceedings as the narrow favourite with most bookies to prevail on his Canadian ventures, in what was initially regarded as a razor close 50-50 encounter.
But there was a huge gulf in class showcased over 12 lopsided rounds as the undefeated 160lbs titlist ran out an impressive victor, deservingly earning scores of 120-108, 117-111 and 118-110 from the judges.
To travel to away territory, the first time fighting outside of the UK as a professional, and secure such a dominant success over the Championship distance is a highly commendable feat for the Briton.
But it’s one that also begs the question, where has this Billy Joe Saunders been all along?
For some time now Saunders has been constantly met with criticism, whether it was for his lack of activity and few title defences, a previously apparent unwillingness to push for the big bouts or lacklustre showings when he did enter the ring ropes.
Although, all of that has been seemingly put to bed in light of the 28-year-old’s most creditable outing to date as he outwitted the hard-hitting Lemieux in his own backyard.
Much had been made of the Canadian’s destructive power in the lead up to this middleweight clash, but Saunders was majestically able to nullify those traits with his clever movement around the canvas.
The elusive southpaw outmanoeuvred the home fighter all night, making the bright white ring seem enormous with his effective footwork and forcing Lemieux to fall short throughout the bout.
As was Saunders’ sky-high confidence and superiority during proceedings he even began to taunt Lemieux, shuffling his quick feet and playfully looking to the rafters after avoiding a massive right hand which finished well off the target at the midway stage.
It’s fair to say that the majority of fans and pundits did pick the reigning title holder to prevail, but there had been little evidence to support initial predictions of an upcoming “boxing masterclass” or “schooling” taking place.
That is exactly what unfolded under the bright lights in Quebec, but such bold claims were based off more hopes and beliefs than expectations, with Saunders having only shown in glimpses the array of ring skills he possesses beforehand.
There had been no real evidence to support initial suggestions that the Briton was capable of achieving such a feat and carrying out a one-sided boxing lesson, except for brief moments in former bouts against the likes of Chris Eubank Jr and Andy Lee.
Mission complete happy Xmas ????? pic.twitter.com/QOGy6N4MGw— billyjoesaunders (@bjsaunders_) December 17, 2017
It’s clear his hunger and desire for the big occasions has returned, with the link-up with Sheffield-based trainer Dominic Ingle having boosted his career aspirations and evidently improved his physical appearance.
During the aftermath of his most admirable showing so far, Saunders was quick to call out middleweight kingpin Gennady Golovkin, widely regarded as the best 160lbs fighter on the planet and a top pound-for-pound star.
The Kazakh puncher is set to tackle Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in a highly-anticipated rematch early in 2018, following the controversial draw in their maiden match-up, but Saunders has undoubtedly put himself firmly in the running for a liaison with the eventual victor.
Saunders clinched his current WBO belt back in 2015 and has only defenced it three times in two years since. But the stylish manner of his third and most-recent title defence has set him up nicely for a promising 2018, after finally showcasing his true middleweight calibre on Canadian soil.