Billy Joe Saunders believes he has already won a battle of mind games with David Lemieux following a fiery weigh-in ahead of their WBO world middleweight title showdown in Quebec.
Champion Saunders (25-0, 12KO) and challenger Lemieux (38-3, 33KO) both weighed in at the Place Bell on Friday with tempers flaring as the pair made the 160lb limit.
Hometown hero Lemieux was forced to strip off after weighing in marginally over the limit at the first attempt. Chaos then temporarily reigned as Team Saunders animatedly queried whether the challenger actually made 160lbs at the second, naked, attempt and it took a third trip to the scales before all parties were satisfied.
The champion then voluntarily stripped off to weigh in as tensions rose ahead of Saturday night’s 12-round showdown, which will be screened live on BoxNation in the UK and Ireland with HBO broadcasting the bout in the US and Canada.
Having continually attempted to push his rival’s buttons in the build-up to the bout, MTK Global-managed Saunders believes he has the heavy-handed and aggressive Lemieux exactly where he wants him.
“The angrier you make the bull, the easier you can make it for yourself sometimes,” said Saunders. “People know I like to get into opponent’s minds sometimes by saying and doing little things.
“It helps – people say it doesn’t but if I can make him try 10 per cent harder and blow himself out three rounds quicker then I’ve done my job.
“I know I’ve got to be on form though. It doesn’t really matter what either one of us says, it just matters what we do in the ring on Saturday night.”
While 28-year-old Saunders is putting his title and undefeated record on the line, 28-year-old former IBF champion Lemieux is seeking to claim his second world title.
Bookmakers, pundits and fight fans are finding it a tough fight to call, but the champion believes his slick skills will trump his opponent’s vaunted power.
“I think he’s probably been in with a lot bigger punchers than me, a lot bigger, but he hasn’t been in the ring with someone as slick as me,” said Saunders.
“He’s used to an American style or even [Gennady] Golovkin’s style, waiting for bombs to come, taking them and tucking up and then coming back.
“He won’t be landing with none of them – he’ll be missing with a load of them and then I’ll be coming back and I’ll break his heart.”