The British boxing programme returns in February fronted by the absorbing contest between Chris Eubank Junior and Liam Williams. This headline attraction has been rescheduled on several occasions, due both to injury and to the administrative ills of the coronavirus pandemic, but on Saturday 5th, at Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena, the contest looks set to finally occur.
Whilst from the outside this fight may appear – and indeed is – a credible contest between two top 10 middleweights, it is only in unpicking the foundational subplots of this encounter that we are truly able to confront the fascination behind it.
With that lofty ambition in mind, allow us to take each fighter in turn, before discussing the prospect of both men intermixed. We shall then provide a collective impression of how we at ESBR predict the fight shall sway, through the medium of unconferred individual team-member analysis. Okay.
Chris Eubank Junior is a fighter of surprise; we are not alluding to his ringcraft here but talking to the fact that he continues to be considered as a prospect of ever-promising potential, despite being 32 years old and the graduate of 33 professional fights. And whilst his record does boast several reputable names – James DeGale, Matvey Korobov, Arthur Abraham, Gary O’Sullivan and Avni Yildrim – it is a legitimate caveat to say that he fought the better of these opponents when their ‘halcyon days’ were best behind them. Furthermore, it is the name of one of the opponents that he has lost to – Billy Joe Saunders – which seems to (unfairly perhaps) continually define him.
In many ways the Saunders fight encapsulates Eubank’s career; he is arguably the better overall fighter of the two. Yes, Saunders looks unbeatable on occasions, but he lacks the stamina to carry this over a 12-round distance, whereas stamina and conditioning are two qualitative boxing buzzwords that one never questions Eubank of lacking. Had he of – to lean again on boxing parlance – ‘got going sooner' in that fight, he would likely have won, and thus may have enjoyed the championship career subsequently afforded 'Billy Joe'.
The second opponent that Eubank lost to was George Groves; and, again, whilst it can be said that Groves was nearing the end of his bruising career, Eubank mounted a creditable challenge at a weight that is arguably beyond him. Occurring at super middleweight, he deserves credit for entering the version of the World Boxing Super Series tournament that also included the potential to collide with the significantly larger Callum Smith. One thread of intrigue coming into this fight, therefore, is the fact that it will be taking place at Eubank’s favoured and appropriate 160lb weight limit.
Liam Williams, at 29 years old, is marginally younger than Eubank, with his amorphous career defying obvious categorisation. I suppose one could say that it exists best in two parts, the former where he fought anywhere between super welterweight to super middleweight, and which ended in two consecutive losses to Liam Smith; the latter encompassing the rebuild at middleweight, the collaborative training relationship with Dominic Ingle and the unlikely description of Liam Williams as a world level fighter.
This contemporary reputation was earned by Williams’ concussive 5th round KO of revered championship contender Alantez Fox; from which followed an opportunity against WBO middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade. And herein lies the second thread of intrigue, as during that fight it became clear that Andrade was a level above Williams. His speed, both in movement of hand and foot, was simply too much. However, Williams was able to narrow the deficit in physical disadvantage by dragging Andrade into an ugly encounter of strength. Holding and convincing Andrade to dispense with his superior tactics of the early rounds, to instead fight rather than ‘box’, Williams enjoyed moderate success. The towel should arguably have come in at periods down the stretch, but Williams again showed his toughness, hearing the final bell and losing only via unanimous decision.
In combination, it would appear that Eubank again holds the superior speed advantage. Fighting at his preferred weight would also seem to benefit him, however Williams has shown that he is durable and resistant to the power of a middleweight opponent. Stylistically, Eubank likes to come forward; Williams likes to come forward, however one feels that in fighting this style of fight, Eubank would be demurring to the wishes of his opponent. The unknown is therefore whether Eubank will choose to fight this way regardless, whether Williams can engage and manipulate him to do so, or whether Eubank’s trainer, Roy Jones Junior, will have Eubank using his physical advantages to the tactical detriment of Williams.
Our team is currently split as to whether the Jones Junior inclusion is a help or a hindrance – some favouring Eubank when he was an aggressive, front foot fighter; others sensing that he now appears confused and indecisive under Jones; and others believing that with the added time that the two men will have now spent together, that Eubank will be a polished and versatile world level middleweight. One guesses that time shall simply tell…
As promised, and as is customary for the larger fights, esteemed members of the team have been moved to share their predictions of the outcome, and these are thus:
Doey (@xDoey): As stated by others here and across boxing media, I'm not convinced that the relationship with trainer Roy Jones Jr has advanced Eubank Jr. In fact, I'd go as far to say as it has hindered Eubank, who seems to now box with an uncertainty of what he should be doing. Williams on the other hand, despite trainer changes himself, hasn't veered from what he has become known for - as a come forward fire-with-fire type fighter. Blindly by patriotism maybe, I feel that Williams, with a raucous following, might just have that spiteful edge needed to spur him onto victory. Williams, anyway at all
Eliot (@EliotStott1): Like many, I’ve got doubts about the longevity of the relationship between Roy Jones Jr & Chris Eubank Jr, and I think this will truly test Jones as a Trainer as well as Jr’s ability to listen to who’s in his corner. Having said that, and although I rate Williams highly, I expect Eubank to have to much for him on the night. Eubank Points
Greg (@GND1989): For a full breakdown of the fight, as well as Greg's predicted outcome, please see:
Laurence (@gillington1881) Eubank hasn't particularly impressed me over his career yet outside of maybe a few rounds against James DeGale. So Williams is the better fighter in my book. However I just think Eubank will win by mid-stoppage on sheer confidence and career momentum, just a gut feeling. Eubank KO
Paul (@Paulkelly98): Although it is a very intriguing fight and seems to be splitting the boxing community down the middle, I firmly believe Eubank will be far too strong for Williams. Jr’s engine and relentlessness will be the telling factor for me and I think Williams will get totally overwhelmed by Eubank and eventually fold. Eubank stoppage in the mid to late rounds. Eubank KO
Date: February 5th, 2022
Time: Ring walk approx. 22.00
Venue: Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff
Channel: Sky Sports
Elsewhere on the card, Chris Jenkins faces the distinguished Julius Indongo in a testing welterweight encounter, Claressa Shields defends her middleweight titles against Ema Kozin, and Samuel Antwi and Conah Walker fight for the English welterweight title.