David Lemieux: ‘There’s a lot at stake for me’ against David Benavidez

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David Lemieux has always been known as a big puncher.

The Montreal native stopped his first 20 opponents as a professional, first at 154 pounds and then at 160. And he has carried his power to 168, at which he has stopped two of his three opponents since moving up in weight.

But he knocked out Francy Ntetu and David Zegarra. On Saturday, he fights one of biggest, strongest and best 168-pounders on the planet for the WBC’s “interim” title, David Benavidez., who is better than a 10-1 favorite.

Could Lemieux, who has lost his biggest fights, maintain his streak against a fighter like that?

David Lemieux (right, against Marcos Reyes) faces a stiff test against David Benavidez on Saturday. Ethan Miller/Getty   Images

“I do believe that my power will translate at 168 pounds,” he said. “I’ve been working a lot to integrate into the 168-pound division, and I believe my power will be at its peak on fight night. Benavídez is a big guy. We know that. But we’re preparing and we have the right sparring partners. I’m going to go in there and be very strong.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve had an opponent like Benavídez, but I’m excited. I’m very hyped up about this fight. I know what a victory will do for my career and I won’t miss my shot.”

Lemieux (43-4, 36 KOs) said he grew out of the 160-pound division. Now, he said, he’s more comfortable.

“The eight pounds makes a world of a difference,” he said. “160 pounds was very difficult to make, especially towards the end. I feel great training at 168. I’m very comfortable making that weight. I’m training very hard, building strength and muscle and not worrying about cutting weight. I’m feeling great.”

Lemieux, 33, isn’t old. At the same time, he probably won’t receive many more opportunities to fight at this level unless he has a break-through victory.

He won the IBF middleweight title when he outpointed Hassam N’Dam in June 2015 but lost it four months later it to a prime Gennadiy Golovkin, who blew the Canadian out in eight one-sided rounds.

Then, in his most-recent title shot, in 2017, he lost a wide decision to then-WBO beltholder Billy Joe Saunders.

He needs to beat Benavidez (25-0, 22 KOs) on Saturday.

“Regardless of your age, it’s really now or never in every fight in the boxing ring,” he said. “You don’t get many chances to leave a good mark in the game, so every fight needs to be taken very seriously, especially a fight of this magnitude. There’s a lot at stake for me.

“I know I’m the underdog, but I don’t care. I’m just going in there to fight, underdog or not. I’ve been the underdog in the past and I’ve won the fights. It doesn’t really bother me.”

“… I feel like I’ve been underestimated during my career. But the only way to come back is with a strong victory against an opponent of an elite level. That’s what I’m planning on doing on May 21.”