Chris Eubank Jnr scored two knockdowns en route to a unanimous victory over domestic rival James DeGale at the O2 in London on Saturday night
By Steven Bateson
Chris Eubank Jnr produced a career best performance as he outhustled, outfought and dominated James DeGale over twelve rounds to win the IBO Super Middleweight Championship and propel himself into the upper echelons of the 168lbs division.
The talk beforehand was whether Eubank’s style, of which he has been much maligned in the past, would be able to cause any issues against the slick southpaw style of the Olympic Gold medallist but he blew all those questions out of the water as he showed improvements under his new trainer.
DeGale began brightly and found success with his lead left hand as Eubank pushed forward but struggled to find the openings of his own. DeGale was boxing and moving, as expected, but one the first occasion that both men clashed centre ring it was the former world champion who ended up with a cut over his left eye.
DeGale, no stranger to cuts and injuries, didn’t seem affected by the cut but he was soon affected by the onslaught of Eubank Jnr. A right hand detonated on the chin and as the Londoner tried to back away he was rocked by a sharp left hook. DeGale staggered back into the ropes, barely standing, and Eubank swarmed him with another left hook and then a thumping short right that dropped him to a knee. DeGale looked stunned but was able to beat the count only to take another big right hand from his possessed opposition. Eubank, himself cut during the melee, now knew he could hurt his man and was determined to become the first to stop him.
Given DeGale’s tremendous amateur and professional pedigree it would have served him well to get behind his jab and move but time and again he neglected the jab and refused to throw anything of note. Eubank was winning the rounds off of pressure alone and another right hand counter at the end of the fourth round seemed to hurt DeGale once more.
The lead left was DeGale’s punch of choice and he found a little more range in the fifth whilst holding in close and trying his best to smother Eubank’s work. But the Brighton man was strong and relentless, launching attacks to head and body in the clinch and forcing DeGale back to the ropes on a frequent basis.
DeGale was posturing and switching stance plenty but he seemed to be confusing himself more than his opponent. He couldn’t find any kind of rhythm and looked completely devoid of a plan as Eubank shocked him with another short range right hand counter and then snapped his head back with a long range punch of the same variety.
By halfway DeGale already had a mountain to climb and he still wasn’t throwing anywhere enough to swing the fight in his favour. Eubank was stilling missing wildly at times and demonstrating that there is plenty of work to do but his blistering combinations, whether landing or not, were making a much bigger impression than anything coming back at him.
The jab was finally found by DeGale in round eight and he was making Eubank miss a little more before landing a solid left hook counter of his own. But soon Eubank was back on the front foot and snapping DeGale’s head back with right hands as he desperately tried to retreat to safety.
This was a shell of the James DeGale who defeated Andre Dirrell and Lucien Bute and it was clear that his best days were behind him. He was unable to adapt to the pressure game of Eubank and was watching the rounds slip away without even making a contest of it. It was clear what he had to do in order to win but he just didn’t look capable of making it happen.
A huge left hook as both men traded in the tenth took DeGale’s legs away from him and Eubank sprinted after him across the ring before dropping him to the deck with two bludgeoning right hands. DeGale complained that he was pushed but the referee correctly ruled it a knockdown and DeGale was now staring at career ending defeat. He was just trying to survive in there now and even that was looking less and less likely.
Eubank started the eleventh with a devastating right uppercut and seemed to be on the verge of putting his rival away but instead chose to pick DeGale up and slam him to the deck in a move more at home in a WWE ring than in boxing. Eubank was rightly deducted a point and that seemed to take his momentum away in the stanza and allowed DeGale to hang on and skirt the perimeter to reach the final round.
It was clear DeGale needed a hail mary knockout but he had shown nothing to suggest he was capable of such a thing. He gritted his teeth and toughed it out, something he’s become renowned for, but was almost knocked down again by a huge left hand from Eubank. The final bell sounded and although DeGale raised his arm in the air there was only one winner.
DeGale hinted at retirement in his post-fight speech and that’s probably the correct decision for a fighter that has achieved so much in the sport but isn’t at the same level he once was. For Eubank Jnr (now 28-2 with 21 KOs) now is the time to show just how far he can go in a division that is wide open. Later tonight Anthony Dirrell will meet Avni Yildrim for the vacant WBC Super Middleweight Championship and Eubank Jnr (who has already knocked Yildrim out) will be desperate to meet the winner later this year.
Scorecards read: 114-112, 115-112, 117-109 (the first two scorecards were far too close in a fight Eubank dominated)
Joe Joyce hammered Bermane Stiverne into a sixth round submission to defend the Commonwealth Heavyweight Championship and win the WBA Gold belt in the process.
Stiverne, a former WBC Champion, almost spoilt the party in the first round with three consecutive right hand counters whilst Joyce was teeing off, the third of which momentarily stiffened the Briton’s legs but Joyce was relentless, as always, and brushed off any damage he may have sustained to walk through his stubborn and durable opponent.
Joyce was on his man with his clubbing shots, occasionally looking as though he fights in slow motion, and constantly smashed Stiverne’s head back with a punishing left jab. Stiverne was back on the ropes, looking to tuck up and counter, whilst Joyce slammed heavy body hooks to the flabby midsection of the Haitian.
It looked as though it was only a matter of time before the end as Joyce punched his opponent around the ring for the whole of the second round. Stiverne’s legs were barely keeping him upright as Joyce winged away with hooks and uppercuts but somehow the Las Vegas based fighter was able to withstand the onslaught.
Stiverne, stopped in one by Deontay Wilder last time out, was down on the deck in the third after finally succumbing to another big time right hand but instead of throwing in the towel he gamely got back up and continued to take his punishment. Joyce continued his robotic approach and battered his rival from pillar to post, Stiverne’s face was swollen and bloody and it would have been merciful for his corner to pull him out.
Stiverne had a brief moment of success with a right hand counter in the fifth but he wasn’t able to pull off the miracle and win the lottery but it was a reminder that Joyce needs to work on his defence. Joyce was given clear instructions by his trainer Abel Sanchez to continue hammering the body and head and he did exactly that in the sixth round.
Once again he drove Stiverne back to the ropes and crunched home sledgehammer blows to the head with both lefts and rights. Stiverne’s head was frequently snapping back and he was offering nothing in return which prompted the referee to wave the white flag and pull Stiverne from the contest.
Joyce (now 8-0 with 8KO’s) is entertaining and will bring excitement no matter who he fights but there were plenty of signs here that against the top tier in the Heavyweight division his defence is going to cause him issues. He is all action and gung-ho but he was caught several times early and against a more dangerous puncher and craftsman he could come unstuck. But this victory has propelled him right into the mix and his relentless approach and workrate will be extremely difficult for many opponents to overcome, he doesn’t stop throwing punches from the first bell to the last and if you can’t find the power to hurt him then he is going to prove a huge obstacle. It is likely he’ll be facing world champions or at least final eliminators by the back end of 2019; the talk is that the Olympic Silver medallist will face Manuel Charr next for the WBA Regular strap.
Lee Selby overcame the adversity of two cut eyes as he boxed past the gritty Omar Douglas to win the IBF Inter-Continental Lightweight Championship.
Selby, who was cut twice whilst losing his IBF Featherweight Championship to Josh Warrington last May, jumped two weight divisions to take this fight with Douglas and reignite his career but was looking down both barrels after suffering the same injuries once again. He displayed his heart and composure to eek past an opponent who poured it on him from bell to bell and will be looking toward bigger and sterner tests in his new weight class after this tough learning curve.
It was a quickfire start from Douglas who came out hunting for his trademark left hook. The American was looking to settle quickly but Selby was on the backfoot and using his jab as a rangefinder, keeping his right hand high, and only took one partial glancing blow from Douglas at the end of the stanza.
Douglas had plenty of success in the second, though, with stiff bodyshots that landed directly on the beltline of the former world champion. He then hammered a hard right hand down the pipe of the Welshman before a clash of heads in close left Selby sporting a dreadful cut around his left eye, the same injury he sustained in the loss to Josh Warrington last year.
The blood was streaming and hampering the vision of Selby as Douglas continued to pursue his man around the ring, swinging the left at every opportunity, and he was now being caught by the right of the American. Selby was trying to box and move but was struggling to get his punches going, for a boxer known for his defence he has already shipped plenty in the opening three rounds.
Selby’s corner gave him a talking to and he began to find his rhythm in the fourth as he brought the long range right hand into play behind his popping jab, finding Douglas an easy target as he maraudered forward with little head movement. Selby continued to box back into contention in the fifth and he snapped Douglas’ head back with a solid inside left uppercut before finding a home for yet more long range right hands.
Douglas, however, was not put off by Selby’s grit and began to brawl his way back into the fight from the sixth. He landed a hard left hook before yet more inside scrapping led to Selby sustaining a cut to his right eye now; it was the Warrington fight all over again.
Selby was allowing himself to be pushed back against the ropes and at times bullied by the compact and bullish Douglas. Douglas was demonstrating terrific handspeed to the body and then shooting upstairs with overhand hooks as Selby struggled to keep his opponent at bay. There were glimpses and flashes of Selby’s talent in the mix however every time he seemed to be garnering a foothold he then left the door open for Douglas to fight his way back in.
Selby was back to bobbing and weaving down the straight and was picking off Douglas as the visitor struggled to pin down the movement, for the first time Douglas looked a little bamboozled by the footwork as Selby put together tremendous counterpunching combinations.
A big right hand snapped Douglas’ head back to start the eleventh and "Super O" was showing serious signs of fatigue, the first time he’d been beyond ten rounds in his career. Selby was looking light on his feet as he got off his own work and then danced out of danger, a hark back to the game plans that made him such a stellar Featherweight.
Douglas came out with a sense of urgency in the twelfth but was now struggling to pin Selby down with the same success he’d had in the earlier stages. Selby, bleeding profusely from both eyes, was showing his veteran experience to hold up close and stifle the work of his American visitor. Douglas never stopped pouring forward but ate a left/right combination from Selby on the counter to end the fight.
There were plenty of difficult rounds to score and many of the mid stanzas will have come down to whether a judge preferred the constant pressure fighting of Douglas or the slicker movement of Selby. Too often Selby allowed rounds that he had been controlling to slip away from him whilst Douglas certainly faded in the championship stage and allowed the former world champion to come on strong in the back end.
Selby (now 27-2 with 9 KO’s) deserves great credit to box through the cuts and grind out a win against a very tough and game operator. There will be calls for him to consider dropping to Super Feather, perhaps Lightweight is too much of a stretch when it comes to the elite level, but with his pedigree there will be plenty of offers for big fights no matter what division he chooses to compete at.
Scorecards read: 116-112 x2, 115-114
Andre Sterling was forced to climb off the deck to slug out a ten round decision over Ricky Summers in an entertaining Light Heavyweight matchup.
It was a close fought first round but Summers took charge in the second when he dropped Andre Sterling off a sharp inside right hand. Sterling went down hard but wasn’t too badly shaken, more taken off guard, and was able to beat the count and return to the fray, even smiling at his own error as he climbed up. Summers looked to put the pressure on but the work in close resulted in West Midlands fighter sustaining a nasty cut over his right eye.
Summers’ team did a great job with the cut and their man was able to get back to his work in the third, but Sterling was unperturbed by the knockdown and chose to meet his man centre ring in an extremely physical contest. Sterling was having plenty of success of his own as the blood began to spill from Summers’ cut once more.
Summers was trying to use his jab to get inside but Sterling was whipping crunching shots to the body and as the fight progressed he was finding his target with much more frequency. A multitude of left hooks to head and body in the sixth from Sterling underlined his desire to swing the momentum in his favour but Summers was not to be budged and continued to plough forward with relentless ferocity.
Sterling burst from the blocks in the seventh and crashed home a heavy right hand that snapped Summers’ head back. Summers was continuing his forward march but he was walking onto heavier and more persistent fire from the Londoner. Summers answered back in the eighth as both men traded leather and went toe to toe but it was Sterling landing the more telling punches as Summers began to fade slightly down the stretch.
Sterling ended the fight strongly with more eye-catching work to the body whilst catching Summers with a left hand that presented the first dip in his legs. Summers was able to smother the danger and see the fight out but he looked like the fight had slipped away from him after such a blistering start. It was a tremendous all-action affair between two domestic contenders and once again proof that these kind of fights will deliver if managers, promoters and fighters work together to make them happen.
Sterling (now 10-0 with 4 KO’s) is the current Southern Area champ and it now looks like a shot at the British title may be in the offing at 175 lbs. Joshua Buatsi and Liam Conroy are scheduled to contest the Lonsdale belt next month and Sterling will have a keen eye on who is victorious in that one.
Scorecards read: 97-92 x 2, 97-93
Anthony Cacace took a hard fought victory over the rugged Alan Castillo in an eight round Super Featherweight contest.
Cacace, fighting for the first time in fourteen months, looked a little sluggish and rusty at times but there were certainly flashes of the skillset that have led many to believe he can achieve plenty in the sport. Castillo was spirited and constantly on the front foot but was punished with hard body blows and momentarily taken off balance by a left hand counter in the fifth. There was never a point when the Argentinian was badly hurt, in spite of the gulf in class, and he had moments of success himself during an entertaining, toe to toe affair.
Celtic champ Cacace (now 17-1 with 7 KO’s) will be looking to push himself back into contention for domestic honours, his sole defeat coming into 2017 for the British strap, but on this evidence he may need one or two more tuneups before tackling the likes of Sam Bowen. When he utilised his jab he was able to dominate the range and snap off impressive combinations but they were too few and far between to send out any notice to his rivals.
Both men boxed to an impressive pace and the workout will serve the Northern Irishman well for his next bout after such a long hiatus; a ten rounder would be logical ahead of a title fight.
Referee’s scorecard read: 79-74