Of all the qualities middleweight titlist David Lemieux lacks in the head-to-head comparison with betting favorite Gennady Golovkin entering their Oct. 17 unification bout, punching power is certainly not one of them.
But apparently neither is confidence. In fact, the Canadian slugger’s swagger has been a major marketing tool in projecting this 160-pound showdown at New York’s Madison Square Garden (HBO PPV, 9 p.m. ET) as a true old-school fight with a 1980s feel.
The idea of pairing the division’s two biggest punchers, who rarely -- if ever -- take a backward step in the ring, is a major part of that. But so is the fact that Lemieux (34-2, 31 KOs) isn’t daunted by the notion of going toe-to-toe with boxing’s most avoided fighter.
As Golovkin trainer Abel Sanchez has noted in recent weeks, Lemieux is dangerous in this fight because he has something to lose, which can’t always be said of recent GGG opponents.
Lemieux, 26, captured a vacant title in June by dropping former titlist Hassan N’Dam four times in a decision win. But despite holding the option of padding his wallet and résumé with a handful of title defenses before slow-building toward a GGG fight, Lemieux wanted it now.
“I always knew I was going to fight Golovkin. It was just a matter of time,” Lemieux told ESPN.com. “I sat down with my manager and the decision made sense. I knew I was ready for anybody in the middleweight division. Did I [choose Golovkin] too fast? Did it go too slow? It doesn’t matter.
“If you’re ready, you’re ready. We don’t know what tomorrow brings.”
The Montreal-based Lemieux, sporting a wild mohawk hairstyle, is proud of his reputation as an old-school fighter with a style he calls “seek and destroy.” It has become a mirror of his persona outside the ring.
“People who have got to know me over the years know that there’s no BS,” Lemieux said. “It’s all business for me.”
He believes his decision to face Golovkin (33-0, 33 KOs) now, instead of waiting, shows his true colors.
“I’ve said to myself that if I’m going to be a world champion, I’m not going to duck anybody,” Lemieux said. “A world champion needs to beat the best in the division. The fact that everybody is talking about Golovkin gives me that challenge.
“Not every fighter accepts opportunities like this. If you are scared or whatever, you don’t also get the glory that comes with it.”
Lemieux calls Golovkin the biggest challenge of his career, and he has tailored his training camp to prepare for the demands that come with facing a fighter who has knocked out 20 straight opponents and defended his title 14 times.
He is also well aware of the question that keeps surfacing each time critics break down the matchup: What happens when Lemieux feels Golovkin’s power?
Lemieux’s answer is quite simple.
“I can say the same about Golovkin -- what is he going to do when he feels the power that’s coming from my side,” Lemieux said. “Because I’m going to tell you, there’s a lot of power that’s going to be coming from my side. This is going to show character and who has the biggest heart.
“I’m not afraid to taste Golovkin’s power. If it’s for one round or if it’s for 12 rounds, it doesn’t matter.”
Lemieux was knocked down and later stopped on his feet in a 2011 upset loss to Marco Antonio Rubio, whom Golovkin steamrolled in two rounds in October 2014. But Lemieux has long explained away that defeat as having more to do with the turmoil in his camp at the time.
It’s a topic he has gone silent on of late, saying, “There was so much going on there behind the scenes that we are not going to talk about.” But during a 2014 interview with ESPN.com, Lemieux shed a bit more light on the topic.
“I don’t want to go too much into detail. It might embarrass a few people,” Lemieux said. “I was with my old trainer Russ Anber. There was a whole bunch of changes [in camp] and we didn’t really prepare for a 12-round fight against Rubio. It was more like everybody depending upon my power punching to get Rubio out of there inside of four rounds.
“There was a lot of controversial things, but all of that is in the past. We have changed everything and my whole team, my nutrition, my trainers and my preparation. The Rubio fight kind of breaks a fighter or gets him to a different level and for me it has taken me to a different level. Like a champion, I got off my ass and went on to greatness.”
The revamped version of Lemieux has run roughshod on the division with nine straight wins since 2011 and no signs of a vulnerability to be had. Lemieux believes a good chin is developed through preparation and being in top shape both physically and mentally.
“Some people just don’t have it and some people do,” Lemieux said. “My chin is perfect. I’ve never really been knocked down. In the Rubio fight, it wasn’t really a knockdown. My chin is perfect, and the best way to show that you have a great chin is not to get hit and not to expose it.”
For Lemieux, it all comes back to confidence. He acknowledges the pressure that comes with being in this spot as a titlist and main event fighter on a pay-per-view against one of boxing’s most dangerous fighters. But it’s overcoming the nonbelief of others that truly motivates him.
“It’s not really pressure, it’s part of my life. It became a lifestyle,” Lemieux said. “I know where I’m headed and I want to be on top. I know the pressure that comes with it.
“OK, everybody thinks that he can beat me? Oh yeah? We’ll see. Let’s see that. Now I’m here and I’m going to fight him. It’s up to me to prove otherwise to the world.”