By Dave Spencer
Photos: Stephanie Trapp/SHOWTIME
The middleweight knockout sensation has been in this position before, a major fight on US television with a world championship shot dangling as the carrot at the end of the stick. The previous version featured a young 22-year-old slugger who had only been past the fourth round just twice, hammering away at a veteran who would ultimately bend, but refused to break. The setback was only supposed to be temporary, but it has been a long three year road to arrive upon the precipice of where he once stood before, vowing this time, things will be different.
Welcome to David Lemieux, Version 2.0.
“I’m in a new chapter in my life,” said Lemieux following the Saturday’s impressive KO win. “I’ve changed everything in my life to be the best in the ring and to make sure their are no flaws in the road to become world champion.”
The Montreal powerhouse battled Fernando Guerrero (26-2 19KO) this past as the co-feature on Showtime Champion Boxing, and if there was ever such a thing as a second chance at making a first impression, Lemieux did exactly that.
So what’s different this time around?
“It’s two different dimensions and two different people,” Lemieux told Fightnews in the days leading up to Saturday’s third round destruction of Guerrero, comparing the fight to his first loss, a title elimination fight against Marco Antonio Rubio in 2011. “Against Rubio I wasn’t like I am today; today I’m a whole different fighter.”
Since that ESPN headline appearance, Lemieux has toiled in relative anonymity. A subsequent loss to former world champion Joachim Alcine, a fight Lemieux and trainer Marc Ramsay both believe he won, pushed the slugger off the top of the marquee to toil on undercards and work his way back to the top.
Much of the early journey back was a deja vu of where he had been before. Early round KO victories with highlight reel knockouts seemed no longer to satisfy people’s insatiable thirst to see the knockout artist go further into fights, the public wanted to see just what would what happen after push when it was followed by shove.
Leading into Saturday the now 25 year-old proved both that he could dominate and win on the scorecards as he did with Marcus Upshaw and that he is capable of scoring the late knockout as he did in the 7th round with Jose Torres.
“A lot has changed,” said Lemieux, “My ethics in training, my diet, my focus, my team, my manager, my perspective of boxing. Simple adjustments have made a huge difference.”
Last time out in 2011 Lemieux was given Rubio as a mere stepping stone to a shot at then WBC Champ Julio Chavez but pre-fight talk diverted itself to every big name in the division and the super-middleweight one above it. Come fight night though Rubio proved to be much more than a mere footnote to Lemieux’s meteoric rise to the top. He was Gumby-like in absorbing the best Lemieux could throw for five rounds, and when the youngster burnt through his gas tank like a muscle car on a cross country trip, Rubio wasted no time ending things in less than seven.
“Everything happens for a reason and I needed that to happen. I appreciate the bad stuff as much as the good stuff that happens in life. You need the bad stuff to understand and appreciate the good stuff and I’ve been able to turn everything around since then. In life if you don’t take care of yourself, nobody will take care of you. It was time for things to click, time to wake up.”
Things were certainly clicking for Lemieux Saturday. Guerrero a former world title challenger had no answers for the powerful locomotive in front of him and went down in all three rounds, suffering a badly damaged right eye in the process. About the only thing that did work for the visiting fighter was being able to take a knee and ending up with a visit from the ringside physician instead of an eight count.
The moral victory was short-lived as Lemieux ended things in spectacular fashion moments later with an uppercut that almost put Guerrero into the rafters where the Stanley Cup banners of the Montreal Canadiens are hung.
Coming up big on a televised Showtime fight has sparked renewed interest in the Montreal slugger. Promoter Yvon Michel had said before the fight that the name of WBO Champion Peter Quillin was the target if Lemieux was able to come up big and impress. Certainly the destroyer helped feed the network’s appetite for destruction inside the ring and will lead him past being a support player.
“I knew if he was going to take a few punches, it wasn’t going to go the distance,” said Lemieux after the fight. “I was always careful, but once I started landing the shots it came as no surprise that it ended.”
“It’s a difference of day and night,” Lemieux answered afterwards of where he was, moving forward as swiftly as he does inside the ring. “Those two losses have a lot of history and I’ve put it in my past. I’m in a new chapter today. Right now we’re ready to go to war with anybody.”