The babe is leaving its cradle. On Monday it was announced that Montreal’s David Lemieux will travel to Brooklyn on December 6 to face Gabriel ‘King’ Rosado at the Barclays Center. Lemieux (32-2) has never fought outside of Canada, as all of his professional experience has come within the tightly circumscribed borders of La Belle Province. Rosado (21-8), who boxes as if his next meal depends on the outcome, will be a difficult opponent so long as his thin skin doesn’t become sanguinary. The Philadelphian is the sort of durable fringe contender Lemieux must beat to realize the lofty ambitions of his management team.
Only twenty-five, Lemieux has a fine resume and is feared for his power. His two losses came in 2011 when, as an undefeated middleweight, he was stopped by Marco Antonio Rubio in April and then dropped a split decision to Joachim Alcine in December. It was a disastrous year that recalibrated expectations for the young Quebecer, who prior to the Rubio loss was The Ring’s eleventh-rated middleweight. While Lemieux dominated the Mexican through the first five rounds, he lost energy in the sixth and was consequently punished. His trainer, Russ Anber, stopped the fight, conceding afterwards that even if Lemieux had been able to come back it was inadvisable to put a young fighter through the beating he would have certainly endured.
In retrospect Anber’s decision seems wise, but in his next fight Lemieux experienced no rebirth. He was outpointed by the Montreal-based Alcine in Quebec City, in a bout in which he never established his power and was thoroughly outworked. Consecutive losses as a young pro can completely rob a young fighter of his confidence, particularly if in defeat he doesn’t exercise his assets, as Lemieux didn’t against Alcine, given the impotence of his usually heavy left hook. Alcine said afterwards that Lemieux was the hardest puncher he’d fought, but that his plan was to take him late into the fight where he would inevitably gas out.
Being known as a frontrunner isn’t an appealing designation in boxing. After the Alcine loss Lemieux waited six months to fight again but has since notched six stoppages in seven fights, albeit against mostly forgettable opposition. His last win came in May against Fernando Guerrero, who he smashed with a terrific right uppercut in the third round, forcing Guerrero to take a knee and for the referee to stop the fight. It was an emphatic statement made on the Adonis Stevenson-Andrzej Fonfara undercard which announced to Montrealers that Lemieux had returned from boxing purgatory.
Now he takes on Gabriel Rosado, a man with eight career losses and a propensity to bleed. Rosado’s record, however pedestrian its numbers appear to be, speaks more to his willingness to fight anyone than his mediocrity. He has lost three straight but they came against Jermell Charlo, Peter Quillen, and the world’s top middleweight, Gennady Golovkin. Sandwiched between the Quillen and Golovkin fights was a date with J’Leon Love, which was ruled a non-contest when Love tested positive for a banned diuretic afterwards. Unlike most fighters, Rosado does not exercise caution when choosing opponents. His record resembles a UFC fighter’s more than it does a boxer’s, but he finds his way into notable bouts because he remains competitive and his scrappy style and North Philly background make him marketable.
Rosado isn’t skilled enough to make a run at the division’s crown, but his orneriness might create problems for Lemieux. He said that when he fought Golovkin as an inexperienced middleweight, Rosado did so with the mentality of a smaller fighter. In other words, he tried to box and move rather than apply pressure and thus got away from what has made him effective: coming forward to break down his opponent. Of course, such a tactic could play right into Lemieux’s hands. The Quebecer is also a straight-ahead boxer who is at his best when attacking. This should make December’s fight a head-on collision, which favours Lemieux’s superior punch.
I assume it will be Rosado’s plan to take the Quebecer into the later rounds. “King” does not have an excess of punching power, and unlike Marco Antonio Rubio, he won’t devastate Lemieux with one shot. Instead, he will try to make the Montrealer uncomfortable, which could doom Rosado if he walks into one of Lemieux’s coma-inducing bombs. However the fight sorts itself out, it will deliver action because of their mutual allergy to boredom.
It is the excitement David Lemieux provides, twinned with the stylish image he cuts, that makes him such an attractive prospect. Oscar de la Hoya, who is promoting the HBO-televised bout, told ESPN that Lemieux “comes at you like a Mack truck. We’re going to do some good things with him. He has a great record, amazing power and is a great looking kid.” The promoter is not wrong about Lemieux’s potential, especially since he’ll have Quebec behind him should he march towards the middleweight title. But to do so he must polish his boxing skills and avoid certain tendencies, such as not squaring up so much which makes him susceptible to counterpunches. Against savvy opponents he cannot count merely on power and relentlessness to win fights.
It is Team Lemieux’s plan for him to box the world’s best, meaning Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez specifically. As his manager, Camille Estephan, acknowledged this week, he is not popular enough to make a fight with either of these two yet, and must get past the division’s guardsmen before he can attack the castle. Hence, they are leaving his home province’s plush confines to pursue greater spoils southward. Fighting in the United States will feel different than the Quebecois cradle in which Lemieux’s career has been nursed but only by leaving home can he evolve from a contender into a commander. — Eliott McCormick