Lemieux looks for answers
by Dave Spencer, FightNews Canada

It was supposed to have been the warning bell that would serve as a caution to a young contender that had seen everything come easy in a brief four year career. But when the alarm clock went off following his shocking knockout loss to Marco Antonio Rubio in April, middleweight contender David Lemieux merely turned over and hit the snooze button hoping everything would fall his way.

It didn’t happen.

Lemieux shot from the gates like an early speed horse in a stakes race versus what was supposed to have been faded opposition in former world champion Joachim Alcine. But once the stallions hit the quarter poll and headed for home, it was the veteran Alcine who charged down the stretch, sweeping the last four rounds and crossing the finish line well ahead of his younger rival and taking a 116-112, 116-112, 114-114 majority decision into the winner’s circle.

Many at ringside thought it was a closer decision with votes for both sides including a large number who saw it as a dead heat scoring it six rounds a piece. Include the fighter himself and his promoter Yvon Michel as those who saw it for Lemieux, even Alcine’s promoter Ron Rizzo acting on behalf of Lou DiBella thought it was going to the way of the twenty-two year old when he heard the scores.

It would have been a moot point to argue scorecards and both fighter and promoter knew that after the fight and neither complained. More of a concern was what happened in the latter course of the fight where an aging ex-champion who had won two of his last five and was moving up in weight was able to out-box and out-hustle somebody he gave away thirteen years to.

“I know that Lemieux can hit,” said Alcine after the fight, “But I was able to take his punch and it gave me more confidence and wanted to show him that if he can throw more, then throw more and I’ll catch them, I was playing with him mentally. He was never able to get in the game.”

While many awed at Lemieux’s physique in pre-fight preparation and knowingly nodded approval when he made known that he now had a nutritionist helping out, and was reassured that he was in the best shape ever, the fact was that Lemieux barely had time to wipe his lips after being kissed goodbye from his former trainer and long-time mentor Russ Anber who had known and guided the fighter since he was nine years old.

The pair had an arduous summer, fighting, splitting up, getting back together, splitting up until Anber called it a day stating irreconcilable differences and to officially pull the plug on the long-standing relationship in mid-October.

With the man who had been in his corner for his entire boxing career and more than half his life suddenly gone and out of the picture, Lemieux turned around and signed on with new management, a new trainer in Marc Ramsay and signed on to fight Alcine almost immediately.

It was a fight Anber didn’t feel the youngster was ready for, not at the level he was training at. The opponent didn’t much matter, Alcine was thought by most to be an easy touch, but the longtime coach didn’t want his charge going in with anybody before they had effectively corrected the problems from the Rubio fight, to address the problems of what happens at a championship level where your opponent doesn’t go down with your first right hand and where after taking your best shot, he comes back to fight.

Anber wanted four months of solid work. To have a camp where an array of world class opponents would test the youngster’s stamina, his will, and push him to a level he hadn’t yet experienced inside a boxing ring.

“We took him to Sergio Martinez’s training camp in California ,” said Anber to Fightnews days after the break-up was made official. "I think he viewed the whole process as a punishment instead of a chance to see, train with, and be around the top middleweight in the world. We definitely did see some improvement, but you can view it two ways. He might have made a thirty percent improvement, or you might view it that there was a seventy percent short-coming.”

It wasn’t the first time Lemieux had balked at going away and setting up training camp at foreign locale. While most fighters thrill to the idea of going away to concentrate on a fight, Lemieux often talked of “sacrifices” he had to endure in his post-fight press conferences referring to camps in such places as Florida , the Dominican Republic and Spain .

Anber felt he knew what had to be done but often wasn’t on the same page as his fighter. An animal inside the gym once he is training, the coach simply wanted a more committed and more regular schedule so certain goals could be reached.

But getting through to the fighter was getting tougher and tougher and it is generally believed that the Elvin Ayala fight was turning point where the message being delivered was not getting through. It was to be the definitive litmus test for a fighter who had only heard the scorecards read once at the end of a fight. Ayala who had been into the twelfth with Arthur Abraham and fought to a draw with Sergio Mora was going to be the one to finally stick around and help push him to the next level. Only thing is the Connecticut fighter got starched in a single round and every message every warning ever issued to the powerhouse was now about to fall on deaf ears. ‘This was your test? This was your challenge?’ you could almost hear the fighter say, quite simply he had this boxing thing figured out, just point him to the ring and keep the meter running, this wasn’t going to take long.

Two more early destructions of Hector Camacho Jr and Purnell Gates would take place before the meeting with Rubio. But despite hammering away at the Mexican like a carpenter with a new nail-gun, the former world title challenger refused to go down. Lemieux’s only plan ‘B’ that night was to lock and reload and if he didn’t go down early, he just needed to be hit harder.

Lemieux’s performance Saturday wasn’t nearly as destructive as the early rounds of the Rubio fight, Alcine employed some rope-a-dope tactics in the early going but soon abandoned them after possibly figuring standing still and taking bombs may not be the best strategy to employ for any length of time with a hard hitter like Lemieux. It did however serve to jumpstart the psychological and mental taunting that Alcine used in the early rounds of the fight.

“I think if he had of fought like this the last time against they guy he lost to the last time, David Lemieux would have beat this guy,” said Alcine after the fight. “David Lemieux showed a lot of heart, he tried to fight more with his head this time.”

An emotional Lemieux was looking for answers after the fight. While the Rubio fight turned on a dime, this time out things were more systematic in a fight that was up for grabs entering the championship rounds. “I know now what it is to do twelve rounds,” said Lemieux looking for a silver lining in a heavily oxidized black cloud. “It’s not easy, I have to keep mentally strong and I have to keep disciplined, I can’t give up, I gotta keep working. Kepp my head up and I’ll be winning, sooner or later. I thought I did good, but there’s I got to improve on and keep working hard.”

The immediate future for Lemieux will be a step back. A soft touch is likely for either February or March in a bout that will be away from headline status.

Coming back from the Martinez training camp former trainer Russ Anber told Fightnews that for six rounds, he had no problem putting his fighter in with the very best the world has to offer. After Saturday’s result, that still seems to the case as Lemieux will have to show he can excel over the course, not just complete them.

Going forward the task for new trainer Marc Ramsay seems very clear, he has to both enlarge the gas tank to a bigger capacity and fine tune the engine to get better fuel efficiency.

If you wish to contact the author of this article, email Dave Spencer at FightNews Canada