Do or die time for James DeGale and Chris Eubank Jr.
By John J. Raspanti
Oh, Chris Eubank Jr. He seems to relish playing the villain. His posing, arrogance, and braggadocio are all part of the Eubank image. But how real is it? George Groves, who fought and defeated Eubank last year, recently said that despite their bickering, he actually liked the 29-yer-old Eubank.
He understood what he was doing. For once Groves, who often played the brat, could sit back and let someone else do it, leaving Groves to focus on their fight.
Eubank appears to enjoy playing the bad guy. But wait. Is he a thespian or a fighter? He’d probably say both. Let’s get serious. Eubank CAN fight. He’s lost only two of 30 pro fights. Those losses, though, revealed a lot. Billy Joe Saunders and the aforementioned Groves, outboxed him.
Eubank, for all his athletic ability and condition, couldn’t handle the subtleties that Saunders and Groves possess. He marched after them aggressively and threw punches. That works against lessor fighters, but add a little movement, and Eubank is in trouble.
Saunders and Groves won by wide decisions.
Soon after, I wrote what I called a “get real memo” to Eubank. He needs people to be honest. Tell him like it is. No sugar coating. Eubank likes to brag that he trains himself. Dumb. That decision hurt him in his losses.
Why? Because he had no gameplan. And no plan b. He keeps doing the same thing, hoping that something will fight. Hoping is dangerous in boxing. I suggested that Eubank hire a trainer. Not that Eubank gives a flying you-know-what about what I think. But, he eventually did hire a trainer.
The question now is, how much influence will said trainer, Nate Vasquez, have on Eubanks’ performance? He can’t make the same mistakes he did against Groves, and expect to win.
This Saturday, Eubank will face another fighter who has a much more impressive resume. James Degale is a former Olympic gold medalist and two-time IBF world champion. His skillset is deeper than Eubank’s. He can box and slug, move, jab and parry. He can be unorthodox and hard to figure out. DeGale (25-2-1, 15 Kos) is also 33 years old. He’s been in some tough battles in the last few years. Is he past his prime? It sure looks that way. DeGale hasn’t been able to sustain any consistency lately. He was shockingly defeated by heavy underdog Caleb Truax in 2017.
To his credit, he won the rematch. His latest fight, a third-round knockout over Fidel Munoz, didn’t impress anybody.
Degale, though, is confident.
"This is going to be a 12-round schooling," DeGale told ITV boxing a few days ago.” I’ll beat him and I’ll beat him well. A fit, healthy self with skills, ability and fitness beats Chris Eubank Jr.”
DeGale has looked fit in training. But can he sustain enough firepower over 12 rounds to keep the hungrier Eubank Jr. off him?
Eubank doesn’t think so.
"I’m relentless, I don’t stop," Eubank said during a media workout on Monday. "Volume, speed, power, it’s all a dangerous combination, and he knows that, but the fact he knows that is why we’re going to see the best James DeGale we’ve seen for a long time.
"He knows I’m a livewire and that I’m dangerous; he knows being ill-prepared is dangerous for his health. I don’t think he’s going to put himself in that position."
Logic indicates that DeGale should be able to outbox Eubank and win a decision. But in boxing, logic can go out the window.