The once-promising super middleweight aims to fulfill his long-touted potential when he faces two-time world champion James DeGale Saturday night in the first PBC on ITV event on UK soil.
For Chris Eubank Jr., Saturday night isn’t just about demonstrating James DeGale isn’t close to the fighter he was when he defeated Andre Dirrell in May 2015 to win the IBF super middleweight title.
Eubank, the son of one of England’s most beloved boxers, also realizes he is running out of opportunities to prove he can accomplish at least some of what his ever-confident father has repeatedly predicted for him. Seven years and 29 fights into his professional career, Eubank is viewed as an underachiever who lost his two biggest fights – both to domestic rivals in world or domestic championship matches that could’ve changed the course of his career.
A year before Billy Joe Saunders won the WBO middleweight title, he edged Eubank by split decision in a 12-round middleweight fight for two British 160-pound championships. Three years later, George Groves, then the WBA super middleweight world champion, beat Eubank more convincingly than Saunders in another 12-rounder during which Eubank failed to adjust and often missed Groves by loading up and swinging wildly.
Fifty-three weeks following his loss to Groves, Eubank has yet another chance to use a more established Englishman as a springboard to big things in the boxing-loving United Kingdom.
The scheduled 12-round battle between DeGale (25-2-1, 15 KOs) and Eubank (27-2, 21 KOs) will headline a “Premier Boxing Champions” show on ITV in the UK.
Their main event at O2 Arena in London also will be broadcast live in the United States by Showtime as part of a doubleheader that’ll include unbeaten British heavyweight Joe Joyce. The 6-feet-6, 260-pound Joyce (7-0, 7 KOs) is set to face former WBC champ Bermane Stiverne (25-3-1, 21 KOs) in the 12-round opener of a 3:45 p.m. ET/12:45 p.m. PT telecast.
DeGale defeated Caleb Truax in his last fight, an immediate rematch of perhaps boxing’s biggest upset of 2017. At 33, the London native intends to prove versus Eubank that all those grueling fights and accompanying injuries haven’t quite eliminated everything that made him one of the sport’s elite super middleweights relatively recently.
The 29-year-old Eubank expects the DeGale that defeated Dirrell to enter the ring Saturday night.
“He’s the type of fighter who rises to the occasion,” Eubank said. “If he’s got someone he doesn’t respect or fear, then that shows in his performance. He respects me and knows what is coming, so he is going to be on form.”
“ He knows I’m a livewire and that I’m dangerous. ” Super Middleweight Contender - Chris Eubank Jr.
DeGale doesn’t think Eubank has much form. The 2008 Olympic gold medalist considers his confident opponent the overrated byproduct of a hype machine made possible by the good will his father deservedly engendered among British fans and media.
“Come February 23rd, the smile will be wiped off his face,” DeGale said. “He’s all show. If I’m honest, if his surname was Smith, you wouldn’t know who he was. He’s riding off his dad’s name. There are levels in boxing and I’m on a level above him. Come fight night, it’s going to be a schooling. Eubank Jr. is gonna get schooled. I’ve dubbed this a ‘retirement’ fight. When he loses, he’s finished, he’s done. This will be his last fight.”
Eubank has promised that it’ll be DeGale, not him, that retires following their meeting. Over the past two years, DeGale has suffered debilitating facial fractures and a shoulder injury he claims he didn’t allow to heal properly prior to rushing into his first fight against Truax (30-4-2, 19 KOs), who won a majority decision over the former IBF champion in December 2017 in London.
“He’s had some hard fights, that’s for sure,” Eubank said. “It is one of those things – a fight like this, especially against me, could be career-ending. … I’m relentless. I don’t stop. Volume, speed, power, it is all a dangerous combination, and he knows that. But the fact he knows that is why we’re going to see the best James DeGale we’ve seen for a long time.”
London’s DeGale has fought just once since topping Truax in their April 7 rematch in Las Vegas.
That tune-up fight resulted in a third-round knockout of overmatched Fidel Munoz (39-19-1, 31 KOs, 1 NC) on September 30 in Ontario, California. By then, DeGale had given up the IBF super middleweight title he had won back from Truax.
Eubank also has boxed only once since his loss to Groves a year ago. In that fight, Eubank recorded a technical knockout of JJ McDonagh (16-5, 8 KOs) after three rounds September 28 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
DeGale’s harsh words notwithstanding, Eubank believes DeGale understands he is in for a difficult fight.
“He knows I’m a livewire and that I’m dangerous,” Eubank said. “He knows being ill-prepared is dangerous for his health. I don’t think he’s going to put himself in that position.”
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- DeGale vs Eubank