A few weeks ago the fight that has been rumoured for months and months was finally confirmed as James DeGale & Chris Eubank Jnr were confirmed to lock horns at the O2 in London on February 23rd via ITV Box Office.
Perhaps used as a way to promote the fight that will be viewed on a less known platform or to put a bit more pressure on his opponent, James DeGale named his fight against Chris Eubank Jr as a ‘retirement fight’ explaining that ‘Whoever loses can knock it on the head.’ Eubank Jr disputed the claim by responding – ‘James talks retirement but it has never even come into my mind.’
Whether the comment was used as an attempt to get into the head of Eubank Jr or not, it’s gotten the Boxing public talking about whether they agree with DeGale or to what extent.
Neither fighter had an amazing 2018 as DeGale looked unconvincing whilst winning his IBF world title back against Caleb Truax after losing to the American in a shock defeat in 2017. 3 months after winning his title back, DeGale relinquished his championship stating that he had ‘some very big & exciting news to announce soon.’
However for whatever reason, this news didn’t arrive for 7 months as the Eubank Jr fight was announced after a bout against Billy Joe Saunders at Super-Middleweight was rumoured. Eubank Jr on the other hand suffered the 2nd loss of his career in 2018, losing a points decision against George Groves in the WBSS semi-final which also had Groves’ world title on the line.
Although with no world title on the line and no guarantee of a world title shot for the winner, the stakes are still high not necessarily because retirement is mandatory for the loser, but a difficult journey back to world level is ensured.
Where Does the Winner Go?
As mentioned before, the winner of this fight isn’t guaranteed to fight for a world title in their next fight which would probably be in the summer of 2019.
However, you’d imagine that the most recent world title winner in the division Caleb Plant will be looking to fight in the summer although may have to face Jose Uzcategui in a rematch instead.
On the same night, Anthony Dirrell takes on Avni Yildrim for the vacant WBC strap which could see the winners of both fights face off against each other later in the year. Subsequently, the WBC body ranks both DeGale & Eubank Jnr highly so this matchup could be most likely.
The WBO champ Gilberto Ramirez who last fought in December against Jesse Hart could also be a decent shout despite rumours of moving up in weight to Light-Heavyweight.
Fellow Brit Callum Smith became WBA world champ in September 2018, stopping George Groves in the final of the WBSS and may be prepared to wait to fight the winner if he isn’t able to secure a bigger fight.
On the other hand, if a world title shot isn’t on the cards for the winner, a big domestic clash could be next on the agenda with a few Brits names on the table.
Recently dethroned world champion Rocky Fielding is likely to relish the idea of getting back into a big fight against a fellow Brit and the winner of DeGale vs Eubank could be just the ticket. After suffering a heavy loss to P4P star Canelo Alvarez last year, Fielding may struggle to take a step down in regards to the size of his next fight.
If all else fails, the likelihood is that the winner of this fight will aim to fight in some sort of final eliminator that will put them into a position to fight for a world title this time next year.
Where Does the Loser Go?
As highlighted, DeGale has called the fight a ‘retirement fight’ in which the loser won’t have anywhere to go.
However, this is arguably only true for himself rather than Eubank Jnr. ‘Chunky’ who will be 33 come fight night hasn’t had an impressive performance in over two years, making the world title win over Andre Dirrell back in 2015 feel like a very long time ago.
DeGale has also gone the distance in 12 round fights a total of 11 times in his career, 2 of those bouts ending in defeat. Boxing a total of 198 rounds over a professional career which will have almost its exact 10 year anniversary on the 23rd of February, DeGale undoubtedly has a fair amount of mileage and this fight may be his retirement fight win, lose or draw.
Eubank Jnr however although has suffered the same amount of defeats in his career as DeGale, has gone 12 rounds 3 times in his career, being on the losing end twice.
Making his debut in November 2011, Eubank Jnr is still only 29 and is likely to have quite a few more fights left in him whether they are up against world level fighters or not.
At time of writing, many bookmakers have Eubank the slight favourite with odds of 3/4 compared with odds of 6/5 for DeGale.
However, this may be based on the assumption that DeGale is on the decline due to the quality of his performances in the last couple of years as well as his age. Whether DeGale is or isn’t in decline is a different debate altogether but many would agree that the best James DeGale beats the best Chris Eubank Jnr.
Meanwhile, many are commenting on Eubank Jnr’s record at the top level in which he hasn’t disgraced himself but has ultimately come up short against the likes of George Groves and Billy Joe Saunders.
All in all, it will largely come down to DeGale’s decline and personally I feel that in the last 12 months DeGale has shown low quality performances rather than decline.
Therefore, I’m picking DeGale to win this fight via a close points decision. Eubank Jnr will without a doubt be a handful as he always is and may test DeGale’s underwhelming stamina towards the end of the fight but won’t quite do enough to convince the judges.