The former two-time Super Middleweight World Champion has heard the criticism from British legend Chris Eubank Sr. and plans to take it out on his son, Chris Eubank Jr., when they meet Saturday night on PBC on ITV.
The seeds for the ongoing rivalry between James DeGale and Chris Eubank Jr. were planted months before either man began punching for pay.
On Saturday, February 23, the warring super middleweights finally collide in a highlight anticipated grudge match at London’s O2 Arena, televised on ITV Box Office in the UK and on Showtime in the US (3:45 p.m. ET/12:45 p.m. PT).
The headliner marks the first UK event of the new partnership between Premier Boxing Champions and ITV. This heated battle, 11 years in the making, started when DeGale becoming the darling of a nation by winning gold at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China.
Chris Eubank Sr., a British boxing legend and father of Chris Jr., was unimpressed. He told reporters that he wasn’t convinced London’s DeGale could successfully transition to the professional ranks.
When DeGale, 25-2-1 (15 KOs), turned pro, Eubank Sr. claimed he had been given too much too soon, as the recently-crowned amateur king had been the subject of desirable offers from various promoters. Despite Eubank prophesizing that the finances placed on DeGale’s lap in the infancy of his career would interfere with his hunger and dedication, “Chunky” became a British, European and world champion during a decade-long career that has scaled great heights in both Britain and America.
On Saturday, DeGale has the chance to silence Eubank Sr. forever by defeating his ultra-talented and brash son. DeGale, now 33, says the comments from the former middleweight champion were without substance and had no impact on him whatsoever.
“Since day one that family has had it in for me and I don’t know why,” said DeGale. “I’d just come back from the Olympics with a gold medal against all the odds and the first thing that the old man can do is criticize me and tell me I’m going to struggle as a professional. That’s not the right thing to do.
“No one expected me to get that gold medal,” he continued. “I was an underdog at the Olympics and that should’ve proved to a lot of people that I had the heart to go in there and prove everybody wrong. It takes a certain type of character to do that and after winning a gold medal, there was no way I was going to fail as a professional because I had backed myself with everything I had.”
“ Since day one that family has had it in for me and I don’t know why. ” Former two-time World Champion — James DeGale
But it wasn’t just these comments that fueled the rivalry. After DeGale suffered a tight points loss to another bitter rival, George Groves, he climbed back in the rankings with a win over Piotr Wilczewski in October 15, 2011. The following night, he went to the nightclub to celebrate and ran into Eubank Sr., who was there socializing with the friends.
The senior British boxer decided this was a good time to offer more unsolicited advice.
“I was happy and wanted to celebrate and I’ve got the old man in my ear telling me that I shouldn’t be partying and that I was damaging my career,” DeGale recalled. “I told him I was out because I wanted to celebrate my title win and then I asked him why he was in a nightclub on a Sunday night at his age. I can take advice from most people in boxing and you don’t get anywhere by not listening, but like other times he’s said stuff about me, I just felt like he was trying to antagonize me rather than be concerned about my career.”
With the fight only days away, the war of words concerned is about to reach its natural conclusion. DeGale, a two-time world champion, is once again back under the spotlight as he prepares to deter what he deems a consistent nuisance who has promised threats for years. The boisterous Londoner is no stranger to well-documented rivalries, thanks to his previous exploits with Groves, but says this one versus Eubank Jr. (27-2, 21 KOs) motivating him like never before.
“I want this so bad. Believe me. I’ve taken every step imaginable to make sure that this camp has been perfect,” DeGale said. “I’m fully healed after a few injuries, my shoulder feels brand new, and my sparring has been something else. I’m on the final stretch of my career now and it’s all about having big fights.
“Eubank is a big fight and despite his losses to Billy Joe Saunders and George Groves, he still talks a good game. He’s under so much pressure to win this fight as he’ll have nowhere to go. It’s going to be so sweet for me to send him off into retirement as I go onto bigger things.”
For a closer look at DeGale vs Eubank, check out our fight page.