“I’m coming for all the other belts in the super-middleweight division,” claimed a seemingly revitalised Chris Eubank Jr after battling to a unanimous decision over rival James De Gale in February.
Yet eight months on from a career-best win, Eubank appears in limbo with no update on his next move.
The 30-year-old had up until his bout with De Gale been essentially training himself, with the guidance of his father, Chris and Ronnie Davies in the background. In came Nate Vasquez, who successfully mastered the game plan which ultimately sent former world champion De Gale into retirement.
Eubank had long been questioned for his failure to beat the elite opposition, having come up short twice against Billy Joe Saunders and George Groves respectively. Nevertheless, he had seemingly found the winning formula at the O2, albeit against a declining De Gale, although he has since failed to accelerate his career and has parted company with Vasquez.
However, the Brighton man insists he will return to the ring before the end of the year, most likely in a tune up fight before looking towards securing the major, lucrative bouts in 2020.
With a profile as marketable as Eubank’s is, not just due to the draw of his former world champion father but more so as a result of his involvement in domestic clashes with the likes of Groves, should provide him with a clear path to nail down the legacy fights which he surely desires.
Here are the three fights Eubank Jr should target for 2020:
Billy Joe Saunders
It’s a no brainer of course. When you think about huge domestic match ups, perhaps Kell Brook and Amir Khan exceeds this, if that fight can finally be made. But the needle and spite still remains between Saunders and Eubank and a rematch of their 2014 battle which the former won on a split decision is inevitable and could very well take place at super middle, a weight class above where they fought for the British, Commonwealth and European titles. Saunders, the WBO titlist at 168 lbs has options at both super middle, with Callum Smith the natural unification or could undoubtedly drop back down to 160lbs to take on the like of Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez or Gennady Golovkin. At this stage, it appears more feasible and likely for this to take place at super middle with both men currently plying their trade there and Saunders only likely to drop in weight for a legacy-defining fight with ‘Canelo’ or ‘Triple G’.
Another huge domestic dust-up, which would make sense for both parties. Callum Smith is unequivocally the number one super middleweight in the world, after his stoppage of George Groves in the World Boxing Super Series final to claim the WBA ‘super’ title. However, despite this breakout win in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Smith’s momentum has halted somewhat since with only one defence since- a stoppage win over Hassan N’Dam on the undercard of Anthony Joshua’s shock loss to Andy Ruiz Jr at Madison Square Garden in June. Partly, due to the birth of his first child, although promoter Eddie Hearn claimed Smith’s success in the tournament was the best and worst move for his career.
Eubank Jr on the other hand has the profile and the big domestic win over James De Gale as mentioned which could provide the perfect basis for a match up between the pair. Smith and coach Joe Gallagher have called for a fight at Anfield next spring and whilst mouth-watering clashes have been mooted with Canelo Alvarez and Golovkin as well as Saunders, Eubank Jr could be the potential dance partner Smith seems to desire.
The win for Eubank Jr over De Gale was certainly impressive, however a victory over Smith in his backyard would be quite a statement and would rightly justify his father Chris’ unwavering belief, which some have often questioned.
Does a fight with Eubank Jr sell out Anfield? Perhaps with the right promotion and undercard. Before any talk of this can happen though, Smith must get through mandatory challenger John Ryder at M & S Bank Arena on November 23.
Caleb Plant/David Benavidez
A battle with either Smith or Saunders would be even bigger if Eubank claims a world title of his own. The current IBF champion Caleb Plant could be another option. The unbeaten American has 19 straight professional wins, however his one punch power is debatable, with just 11 KOs.
Plant, who has credible win over José Uzcátegui, may just appear an easier target than WBC titlist David Benavidez. The 22-year-old is a rising star of the division and has amassed 22 victories, with a formidable 19 KOs.
The Phoenix native knocked out former world champion Anthony Dirrell last month and has called for a unification with Plant, who has not fought since defending his IBF crown over Mike Lee in July, although Eubank Jr is rated as number two contender with the WBC meaning a bout with Benavidez could land sooner rather than later.
It remains to be seen what Eubank Jr, the current IBO champion decides to do next. At 30-years-old he is in the prime years of his career and he can surely only be on an upwards trajectory with the names all out there for him to face.