James DeGale and Chris Eubank Jr are set to collide at the O2 Arena on February 23.
The grudge match between DeGale and Eubank Jr is a fight which has been brewing in British boxing circles for a long time, the The rivalry between the two Britons began a few years ago, a series of confrontations, verbal jabs and in-gym sparring has led the pair to a bout at London’s O2 Arena this weekend, presented by Showtime on ITV box office. The bout kicks off the new partnership between Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) and UK network giant ITV.
DeGale (25-2-1, 15 KOs) and Eubank (27-2, 21 KOs) are both former Super Middleweight champions. DeGale held the IBF title before vacating it in order to pursue this fight, and Eubank held the IBO title before losing it to the recently retired George Groves in February of last year, but bounced back with a victory over JJ McDonagh in Saudi Arabia in September. DeGale also has a loss to Groves in the past.
Groves recently gave his prediction on the fight between Eubank Jr and DeGale;
“I think Eubank [wins] because if they’re both in their primes DeGale would beat him pretty comfortably but DeGale never seems to be fully fit”.
DeGale is the better boxer when it comes to talent and technique, but he’s most likely too over the hill to present a problem to Eubank’s athleticism. Nor does he punch hard enough to pose a threat and stop Eubank coming into range to deliver his flurry of shots.
It’s also important to note that Eubank is moving up a weight class up from his natural size, and the size advantage is something DeGale can use to tilt the fight in his favour if used correctly.
But for all the technical flaws that Eubank possesses, he is extremely tough, game, and has a high pressure style with a high volume of punches which is likely to unsettle DeGale. Boxing is about timing and the continuous physical force that Eubank is bound to impose on DeGale is presumably going to upset his rhythm and wear down the older man.
It’s not a surprise to see that Eubank is being favoured here, but I think calling him an outright favourite might do a disservice to DeGale.
The fight is a must win for both fighters. Eubank needs to prove he can still compete with the elite boxers in the 168lbs division, and DeGale will be his latest test on his path back to a title shot.
DeGale is looking at this as his retirement fight and will be dying to leave the game with a big win over a rival and prove his doubters wrong.