Two domestic rivals with a lot to say about each other will finally meet on the 23rd February, as former IBF Super Middleweight Champion, James DeGale (25-2-1, KO15) and Chris Eubank Junior (27-2, KO21) face off at the O2 Arena in London.
It’s been a badly kept secret for a while now, with the pair rumoured to meet in December 2018, but the match-up now has a date and a venue confirmed.
The fight is a box office attraction, with ITV Box Office picking up the rights as part of their recent exclusive agreement with Premier Boxing Champions. Also, as now seems tradition, a spurious belt in the form of the vacant IBO Super Middleweight Title will be on the line.
DeGale: The loser of this fight retires
DeGale has described the contest as a “retirement fight” with the loser seemingly having nowhere to go going forward. St Albans based DeGale relinquished his IBF World Title last year, after avenging a shock 2017 loss to Caleb Truax in April last year. Rather than face a dangerous mandatory in Jose Uzcategui for little money or reward, “Chunky” decided to return the belt in pursuit of money spinning fights. He has only fought once since the Truax rematch, a three round knockout win way down the card on a small bill in California in September.
What makes the match even and interesting, is that DeGales last few performances have been below par, and he has shown signs of decline, and Eubank will see this as an ideal opportunity for a significant win to be added to his ledger.
After an up and down draw against then WBC Champion, Badou Jack in a unification fight in January 2017, DeGale disappointed in dropping his IBF belt in a shock loss to Truax in December the same year at the Copper Box Arena in London. DeGale was flat throughout, and allowed Truax to push him back and dictate the pace of the fight, and the Minnesota man took the IBF belt with a deserved majority decision. The rematch saw DeGale cut in the third, and was troubled while he adjusted. He managed to do enough to regain his Title by one point on two cards, and by seven on the third.
Eubank Jr believes he will be too much for DeGale
Eubank Junior will see weaknesses in DeGale that he hopes he can exploit, but will also know that this is a must win fight for him too. The 29 year old Brighton resident suffered the second defeat of his career in February 2018, when eliminated at the semi-final stage of the World Boxing Super Series. Eubank worked hard throughout the contest with George Groves, but “The Saint” was always in control and took a deserved comfortable points win in defence of his WBA (Super) Super Middleweight Title. He returned in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on the undercard of the final of the tournament, retiring the limited JJ McDonagh in three rounds.
The weight may also prove key, as Eubank is a small Super Middle, and more naturally a Middleweight, with DeGale a bona fide 168 pounder. DeGale hopes a win will secure a trilogy fight with Groves, but must first take care of Eubank, which will be no easy task. At this point, I believe if the best DeGale turns up, it should be enough to see off the relentless pace of Junior.