I have no idea how far middleweight prospect David Lemieux is going to go, but I do know one thing: The kid is one of the most exciting prospects I have seen in a long time.
I've been following Lemieux's career for the past couple of years, and he looks like he's on the verge of stardom.
He's only 21 and has charisma to burn, to go with what seems like massive punching power. And he's not a wild puncher just looking to bomb out his opponents. He's patient and throws straight, compact punches with purpose. He's clearly a guy who has learned well from trainer/manager Russ Anber, one of the most respected boxing guys in Canada.
To top it off, Lemieux is beginning to draw crowds in his hometown of Montreal, a great boxing city where the fans really get behind their fighters.
This past Friday night, Lemieux simply destroyed Hector Camacho Jr. in a fight that American fans were able to see courtesy of ESPN3.com, which has been a savior this fall by acquiring the rights to a nice selection of bouts.
I had no doubt that Lemieux would beat Camacho. But I figured it would go rounds. I did not expect him to hammer out a crafty lefty (who has shown a good chin and the ability to make a fight ugly) in one round with a highlight-reel right hand to the face.
Lemieux (24-0, 23 KOs) recently has been scoring those kinds of sensational knockouts as he has slowly but surely been matched up with a better cut of opposition. He blew out Elvin Ayala in one round on ESPN2 in June -- and Ayala had lasted into the 12th round against Arthur Abraham, a huge puncher, in a world title bout. In April, Lemieux needed only two rounds to take down Walid Smichet, who lasted into the seventh round with Peter Manfredo and took John Duddy the distance. I know these guys aren't stars, but they were absolutely legitimate opponents for Lemieux at those points in his career.
"And he never jumps in the air and goes crazy -- he just walks to the neutral corner after the knockouts," said Anber, who has trained Lemieux since he was 9. "He's a kid I've tried to teach about the history of boxing, and he has the deadpan look of Joe Louis. He doesn't go crazy with a big celebration. Maybe he'll go up on the ring ropes after the fight to salute the fans, but that's about it. I like that."
Lemieux seems destined to be Montreal's next breakout star, a guy who could be even bigger than super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute because, although the Romanian Bute has been adopted by the Montreal fans, Lemieux is one of their own. And on top of that, he speaks five languages and stays out of trouble.
Yvon Michel, Lemieux's promoter, has been one of Canada's leading promoters for years. He was practically giddy when we spoke the other day after Lemieux blew away Camacho.
Besides the fight performances, Michel loves Lemieux's dedication and focus. Keep in mind that although he was a star amateur, winning three Canadian national titles, Lemieux bypassed a shot to make the Olympic team because his dream was not about gold medals. It was about pro championships. So instead of gunning for a 2008 Olympic berth, he turned pro in 2007 at age 18.
"He's so dedicated for training," Michel said. "He's the first one in the gym and the last one out. At this stage, you just don't want to rush him, but we want to build up to a title fight. We want to develop him a little bit more to become champion and then have him stay champion for a long time. But it's not only his punching power and dedication that I like. I never, ever have seen a kid that cool -- in the dressing room before the fight, walking to the ring. It's like he has ice in his veins. He has no fear. He's cool, cool, cool."
And then when he gets into the ring, Lemieux usually drills his opponents. He's gone the 10-round distance only once. The rest of his opponents have fallen within five rounds.
"Anyone Lemieux will hit flush will go down," Michel said.
Said Anber, who has worked with a who's who of Canadian fighters as both a trainer and cutman: "There is nobody who I've trained who has that power. Yvon and I are on the same page on this -- anyone he hits, they've got to go. He's that devastating a puncher."
Michel said he is not overly concerned with Lemieux's lack of rounds because the fighter gets excellent rounds training in the gym, where he spars with light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal (whom Michel also promotes).
Michel and Anber are mapping out Lemieux's 2011. They figure he will be ready for a title fight shortly.
Michel will bring Lemieux back to headline another card at Montreal's Bell Centre on Dec. 3 (opponent TBA) in a fight likely to be carried again by ESPN3.com.
Michel already has Lemieux's next two dates after that locked in at the Bell Centre: Feb. 11 and April 8, both of which he said ESPN has committed to televising on ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights."
"We're trying to secure a title eliminator for February, and Russ told us after the April 8 fight he will be ready for anybody," Michel said of Lemieux. "We want to go after the champion, big time: Sergio Martinez, Paul Williams, whoever. We believe we will continue to build his popularity and convince HBO or Showtime to get on board with us."
Both networks would be wise to pay attention.