For five rounds it was all David Lemieux.
Lemieux, a 22-year-old middleweight KO artist who earned a RING ranking just four years into his pro career, had his way with Marco Antonio Rubio, brutally pummeling the Mexican contender during their scheduled 12-round WBC title elimination bout that took place in Montreal on Friday.
Lemieux, a Montreal native who is already an attraction in his hometown, appeared to be on his way to scoring his 25th knockout in his 26th pro bout, but Rubio did what a 30-year-old veteran with 55 pro bouts should be able to do in rough situations — he survived. And when the time was right, which turned out to be the seventh round, Rubio (50-5-1, 43 knockouts) struck back and Lemieux (25-1, 24 KOs) never knew what hit him.
Rubio had suffered two early rounds knockouts early in his career, which made many observers believe that he was tailor made for the power-punching phenom. However, his other three losses were extended fights against quality opposition. Two losses were 12-round decisions, in which he scored knockdowns, and his last loss was a ninth-round TKO to then-middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik. Rubio, who won a hard-fought 12-round battle with Enrique Orneals in 2008 to earn his shot at Pavlik, clearly knew how to survive rough spots.
Rubio, who had won six consecutive bouts (five by knockout) since losing to Pavlik, covered up and blocked as many punches as he could whenever Lemieux pressed him against the ropes. Rubio spun himself off the ropes whenever he could and then continued to move about the ring in an effort to neutralize some of Lemieux's power and momentum.
After a big fifth round, Lemieux, who usually stops his opponents in the first two rounds and has only fought past five rounds once, began to slow down and reach with his punches. Rubio was prepared to take full advantage of his opportunity, and after a few even exchanges at the start of the sixth round the rangy boxer-puncher caught Lemieux with a pair of right hands that buckled the hometown favorite's legs.
Lemieux, who retreated for the final minute of the sixth round, continued to back away from a now-stalking Rubio at the start of the seventh, a strategy that did not serve him. Rubio landed a well-timed right hand to the upper side of Lemieux's head that sent the younger man sprawling into a neutral corner. Referee Marlon Wright stopped the action and issued an eight-count to Lemieux since the ring post was the only thing that kept him on his feet.
Rubio advanced on Lemieux with less than a minute left in the round but he wouldn't need that much time to finish off his bloodied and bewildered opponent. After Rubio landed a few follow-up power shots that sent Lemieux into the ropes, the Canadian's trainer Russ Anber threw in the towell in order to spare his young fighter a possibily career-shortening beating.
The loss is a big set back for Lemieux but he's young enough to bounce back. If he needs any inspiration he need only look at the man who beat him. Rubio began his career as a feared KO artist but he developed into a more-complete fighter after he was knocked out in one round by Kofi Jantuah in 2004. Lemieux can do the same.
Rubio can now look forward to a WBC-mandated match against the winner of the Sebastian Zbik-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. match on June 4.