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Is Billy Joe Saunders good enough to beat Gennady Golovkin?

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Billy Joe Saunders defended his WBO middleweight title with a dominant performance over David Lemieux in Montreal this past weekend.

Saunders travelled to his opponent’s backyard with new trainer Dominic Ingle to defend his title for the third time. Lemieux, a native Canadian and renowned knockout artist, failed to land a punch of note as the champion outclassed the hometown favourite over 12 rounds.

The British champion was masterful inside the ring. He controlled the distance beautifully from his southpaw stance and forced the challenger to often miss wildly, before countering with hard jabs and quick combinations.

Immediately after the fight, Saunders called out Gennady ‘Triple G’ Golovkin. The Kazakh currently holds all the remaining world titles in the division; with the WBA, WBC and IBF straps to his name. Golovkin has been linked with Saunders for some time now, as both men have frequently challenged one another in the past on social media. However, the fight never materialised, and the hard-hitting Golovkin fought Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez instead in September 2017, which ended in a disputed draw.

Above: 'GGG' has already defeated Danny Jacobs, who is likely to be Saunders' next opponent.

Triple G, who scored a knockout victory over Lemieux in 2015, is rumoured to be rematching Canelo in May next year. But following the impressive display from Saunders over the weekend, fight fans are calling for a showdown between the two in order to determine the dominant middleweight champion.

But should Golovokin overcome Canelo in the spring, how would Saunders fair against the Kazakh puncher?

Triple G is a feared knockout specialist, with 33 of his 37 wins coming via stoppage. He displays an aggressive style, often stalking his opponents across the ring before landing spiteful punches. Whilst Billy Joe has been in with strong punchers like Andy Lee, he has never faced a man with the knockout power that Golovkin possesses.

You may think that Saunders could simply outbox and manoeuvre around this come-forward style. But there’s a technical element to Golovkin’s destructive approach. Thanks in part to his vast amateur experience, the 35-year-old champion employs brilliant footwork to effectively corner his opponent before unloading a barrage of hurtful punches.

So could the constant harassment from Golovkin trouble Saunders?

The Brit easily dealt with Lemieux’s pressure tactics, moving and slipping effectively to leave the Canadian falling short with his attacks. However, Lemieux lacks the technical skill of Triple G, who is far more effective at cutting the ring off and leaving his opponents with nowhere to run to.

Saunders was able to land hard jabs and a range of power punches last weekend. On a few a occasions, it seemed he might even have been able to stop Lemieux as he connected with forceful hooks and uppercuts. This could pose Triple G some issues - a man who neglects head movement and often takes punishment in the ring.

Yet herein lies one of Golovkin’s greatest assets - his chin. The unified champion is happy to take one to land one and has walked through powerful shots from all comers in the division - including some monstrous punches from Canelo.

The clash of styles of these two men would make for a thrilling encounter inside the ring. The boxing IQ of Saunders would be put to its greatest test against Golovkin’s unrelenting pressure tactics. What we certainly won’t see is a one-sided boxing lesson from the Brit, nor a dominant wipe-out from the Kazakh. Instead, there is potential for one of the most evenly matched fights for some time.

Should he be able to control distance and utilise his snappy jab, I’d lean towards Billy Joe picking up a points victory. But Golovkin’s intelligent application of pressure would require the WBO champ to at times go toe-to-toe with one of the hardest punchers in world boxing. In order to win, Saunders will have to face some of the most gruelling moments he’s ever encountered in a ring. If he can survive the inevitable onslaught, we might well be discussing his place among the pound-for-pound greats in the sport today.




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