This Saturday sees former two-time world champion James DeGale take on long-time British rival Chris Eubank Jr – as both men look to revive their careers and launch one final attack on the super middleweight division.
Last year saw “Chunky” get his career back on track by regaining the IBF title that he lost in a shock defeat to Caleb Truax at the back-end of 2017.
His second reign would be short-lived, though, surrendering his belt rather than facing mandatory challenger, José Uzcátegui. Whilst planning his next move, he kept busy with a routine victory over Fidel Monterrosa Munoz in September.
Eubank Jr, on the other hand, faced another setback early last year, suffering his second career loss at the hands of George Groves in the semi-final of the World Boxing Super Series.
Despite the Champion dislocating his left shoulder in the final round, Eubank was still outclassed from the offset. He returned in September with a stoppage win over JJ McDonagh.
This fight has been a long time coming. The rivalry initiated a few years back when Chris Eubank Sr. made comments about the professionalism of DeGale, and his son claimed to have schooled James in sparring.
Both men ventured down different avenues, though, and the fight never came to fruition. DeGale turned his attention to the world scene and pursued the champions, eventually winning the vacant IBF title against Andre Dirrell in Boston.
Eubank was still trying to make a name for himself down at middleweight but suffered his first career defeat against Billy Joe Saunders for the British, Commonwealth and European titles, which prompted his move up to 168lbs.
As their career paths finally converge, both men find themselves fighting for the right to remain relevant. DeGale has competed at the highest level but hasn’t looked his best in recent outings; whereas Eubank is running out of opportunities to win a world title.
A defeat may spell the end of the road for DeGale, but at least he would be able to bow out having secured world honours. If Eubank Jr. were to lose, it’s unlikely that he’ll ever reach the pinnacle of the sport.
It’s an intriguing fight, but who are we picking to win? Let’s find out.
Jamie’s Prediction (@JayTB__):
Styles and Breakdowns –Eubank Jr’s weaknesses are there for all to see. His lightening hand-speed and crushing combinations can be destructive against weaker opposition but tend to be ineffective against more talented fighters.
Whether it’s a refusal to conform to a conventional style – or a failure to master the basics, he insists on plodding forward with his hands held high, making himself target practice for world-level contenders. When on the front-foot, he consistently falls short of landing cleanly because of a failure to employ the jab to close the range.
Eubank has been fortunate enough to inherit his father’s iron chin and unbreakable will to win. He sets a fast pace from the opening bell and looks to maintain the high tempo for the full twelve rounds. Although he was completely outclassed against Saunders and Groves, he never stopped trying to win until the final bell sounded.
Now onto DeGale, whose key asset is his versatility and his awkwardness, making him a tricky opponent to prepare for.
He switches between orthodox and southpaw, whilst boxing just as effectively on the front-foot as the back-foot. He achieves a lot of success by surprising opponents with powerful shots from awkward angles. He is a fast starter, who looks to build an early lead and set the tone from the outset.
However, his biggest flaws are concentration and lack of stamina. Once he feels that he has the upper hand in a fight, he has been guilty of taking the foot off the gas. His punch output decreases, which can allow his opponent to work their way back into the fight.
Fight Outcome –I am picking DeGale to win. If this was taking place before his two fights with Traux, I would fancy him to deal with Eubank pretty efficiently. But it does seem that all of his injury troubles and tough fights throughout his career have begun to take their toll.
I think we will see glimpses of the old James DeGale in the first half of the fight. Quick, sharp punches coming from all angles as he switches between stances and bounces around the ring.
I see Eubank conserving his energy during the early rounds, with the plan to up the ante at the midway stage and force DeGale to engage and tire himself out.
By round six or seven, I see the judges scoring the fight heavily in favour of Chunky, but as we head into the latter stages of the contest, his legs will become heavy as Eubank’s relentless work-rate will set a demanding pace on the 32 year-old.
Although he will have reduced the deficit slightly, DeGale will still be in front as they head into the closing minutes. Pride and determination will dictate that neither man concedes but I see DeGale utilising his extra experience to carry him through to the final bell.
DeGale via Majority Decision
Charlie Prediction (@Charlie_Griff90)
This fight, if made 24 months ago, would have been seen as one of the best all British fights at that present time. James DeGale was sitting pretty with a world title and seen as “the road warrior” due to his title win against Dirrell and defence vs Bute in America and Quebec respectively. Chris Eubank Jr had recovered well from his early career loss to Billy Joe Saunders and had picked up the IBO strap, which although not seen as a recognised world title, was proof that he was at least heading in the right direction to be challenging for one soon. However, now due to losses for both in the last year or so it very much feels like a last chance saloon fight which as we know in this game can sometimes serve up something quite special.
The Build-up –James seems to be enjoying himself in the press conferences and the gloves are off type conversations. We’ve seen in the past with the right dance partner he thrives in selling his fights by playing the joker. Jr has been his usual calm and relaxed self that although doesn’t seem to enjoy the trash talk as much now seems to have quite the history for lively press conferences and weigh-ins in one way or another, it does seem rightly or wrongly that his opponents believe you can get under his skin before getting in the ring with him. I thought DeGale won the war of words, but I also think Eubank is always happy to give them up as his self-belief in his abilities in the ring are unmatched by even the very elite fighters at times.
The Outcome –I feel a bit like my prediction should come with an Asterix which I always worry looks like I’m trying to cover both bases but I do believe if this fight was made two years ago DeGale at the top of his game would have found a way to beat Eubank and beat him well.
Now though, two years on and the dreaded shoulder injury is clearly taking its toll. If the two Truax performances are anything to go by his slickness on the ropes in years gone by where he could make a fighter look like they were chasing shadows may well just play into Eubank’s hands with his high-pressure style and that is exactly what I see happening.
DeGale will revert to what he knows by sitting on the ropes and looking to counterpunch and spin-off, but I think he will be met with a relentlessness and upper body strength that doesn’t allow him to get away.
Eubank has said in the past that he doesn’t really plan for his opponents and that he does what he wants to do in training because he backs himself over anybody. But with a new trainer and after the Groves loss, he would have only had to watch one of DeGale’s recent fights to know every main attribute he has in his own arsenal looks like James’ worst nightmare at the moment.
He should look to walk James down and throw his shots from all types of angles and bank on throwing enough bombs that connect on the ageing and injury prone body of Degale.
He will, of course, eat a few as DeGale is still easily good enough to connect cleanly on most fighters in world boxing, let alone a guy who has a bit of a history of being clocked due to his lack of head movement. Although his chin seems to be holding up, even after the one-sided beat down from Groves, where he never looked like quitting. If he can take DeGale’s best shots and keep up his good work I see him winning.
The Ending – I’ve had this feeling for the last couple of weeks that Eubank stops DeGale and I can’t shake it. I think he will connect enough times that James will either quit or the ref will step in. I’ve never been convinced of Eubank’s power, but he does throw a lot of shots and if DeGale’s reactions aren’t up to it anymore, the sheer amount that could land may just be too much.
EUBANK JR VIA TKO
The Aftermath – Unfortunately for me, I think this will be the end for James DeGale. I’ve enjoyed his career a lot but the shoulder injury just like his old foe George Groves really seems to have finished him off at the very highest level. Chris Eubank will surely get one more crack at the big time. There’s a big fight for him with Callum Smith in Liverpool but he really does need a big win here against James DeGale to justify that.
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