Photos: Will Hart
If ever a fight can carry labels like "firefight," "train wreck" and "slugfest," it is the March 11 middleweight showdown between former IBF titlist David Lemieux and former title challenger Curtis Stevens. Both are legitimate punchers -- Lemieux's KO percentage is .923 while Stevens' is .823 -- and they are at their most dangerous in the early rounds, as 25 of Lemieux's 32 knockouts have occurred in the first two rounds along with 17 of Stevens' 21 stoppages. If you want to see subtle, sublime skills, this fight isn't for you. Looking for power-packed mayhem? That's more like it.
Life After GGG: Both are part of Gennady Golovkin's 23-fight knockout streak and both have moved on after their respective defeats to “GGG.” After being jabbed silly by Golovkin, Lemieux stopped Glen Tapia in four rounds and out-pointed Argentine southpaw Cristian Rios over 10. Lemieux cleaned up against the stationary Tapia as he averaged 70.4 punches per round to Tapia's 47.7 and landed 39% overall as well as 50% of his power shots. That said, Tapia, though out-landed by plenty (90-55 overall, 71-30 power), out-jabbed Lemieux 25-19 and landed 35% overall, 28% jabs and 44% power, all numbers that should raise red flags defensively.
Against the mobile lefty Rios, Lemieux was briefly shaken by an overhand left at the end of the second round and momentarily stunned in the third before settling down and dominating the rest of the contest. Lemieux's body attack was particularly impressive as it accounted to 107 of his 195 power connects and 109 of his 212 total connects. Also, Lemieux landed 46% of his power punches while absorbing 32%, a better number for someone who is so aggressive.
Stevens has fought five times since his brutal destruction by Golovkin, and his fortunes have swung just as violently. Stevens proved he remains the most dangerous early-round fighter in the sport by scoring a 46-second knockout over Patrick Majewski and a second-round demolition of the previously undefeated Patrick Teixeira. But when he doesn't get the early knockout, Stevens tends to throttle down and become an eminently beatable fighter. Tureano Johnson had Stevens all but beaten entering the final rounds but a massive hook to the jaw stunned the undefeated Bahamian in the opening moments. Though most of Stevens' follow-ups missed, referee Gary Rosato still chose to leap in at the 51-second mark, which rendered moot Johnson's 235-223 lead in overall connects and 231-210 gap in landed power shots. That said, Stevens landed 40% of his overall punches (to Johnson's 38%) and 45% of his power punches (to Johnson's 39%).
Less than six months later, Stevens faced tall southpaw Hassan N'Dam, a former WBO titlist, in a title eliminator. Hassan used his legs and science to thoroughly out-box the frustrated Stevens, floor him in round eight and out-point him over 12 pedestrian rounds. N'Dam led 134-96 overall and 58-13 jabs to off-set Stevens' 83-76 lead in power connects, but in terms of ring generalship, it was no contest. Most recently, Stevens fought James de la Rosa and, again, Stevens' early thunder surfaced as his left hook scored a first-round knockdown. But Stevens then injured his potent left fist and was compromised for the rest of the fight. Stevens gutted out the fight and led 148-123 overall and 117-57 power because he was more accurate (32%-18% overall and 45%-31% power). So, in effect, Stevens won with defense.
Inside The Numbers: In his last 5 fights, Lemieux landed 46.2% of his power shots, while opponents landed 42.2% of their non-jabs. (GGG landed 58% of his power shots vs. Lemieux and 49% of his power shots vs. Stevens.) In his last six outings, Stevens averaged just 39.8 punches thrown per round, the second fewest among active championship- caliber fighters (Pascal 32.7). Stevens landed 40.9% of his power shots while his opponents landed 39.7%. Further, 85% of Stevens landed punches (11.7 of 13.7 per round) were power shots (CompuBox average: 71.6%).
Prediction: Lemieux is bigger, a bit more versatile and can hit hard with both hands while Stevens primarily relies on the hook. If Stevens is to win, it'll likely be in the first three rounds. If Lemieux can hurt Stevens early while also avoiding the big hook, his two-fisted power will hold sway and score the mid-rounds TKO.