Chris Eubank Jr won was what dubbed by his opponent James DeGale as ‘the retirement fight’ with a wholly dominant points victory at the O2 last Saturday night. As the slight bookies favourite beforehand, Eubank hurt DeGale in the early rounds and never really let up the pressure on the 2008 Olympic gold medalist. DeGale and his team had boasted pre-fight that Eubank Jr simply wasn’t on DeGale’s level yet ‘Junior’s’ usual ferocious work rate and aggression supplemented by improved technical work meant that DeGale was made to look a complete shadow of this former self.
So much so that DeGale has since stuck to his word and decided to hang up his gloves after essentially receiving a beat down in last his professional bout. Despite showing incredible grit to make it to the final bell, it’s clear that continual injury issues and subsequent spells of ring rust meant the Indian summer of the former British, European and two time World champion’s career has not been one to remember. Many will wonder what DeGale could have become if he had taken a Eubank Jr type fight a few years earlier in his career rather than opt to have most of career defining bouts across the pond well away from a increasingly booming UK boxing scene.
As for his opponent on Saturday, Chris Eubank Jr can finally respond to his doubters (some of whom will be fairly unmoved even after Saturday’s fight) as he has now defeated a world class fighter, even if it was one who was clearly well past their prime. Yet you cannot take anything away from Eubank Jr, who under outrageous amounts of pressure due to two previous high profile defeats versus Billy Joe Saunders and more recently George Groves, did not replicate past mistakes in front of a DeGale favouring London crowd. Though still raw and wild at times throughout the fight, his technical improvement under new (and first!) trainer Nate Vasquez was evident. And now with the ‘never beaten anyone that good’ monkey off his back both the super middleweight and middleweight divisions suddenly open themselves back up for him.
Saunders has already called him out a rematch and is one of many names being mentioned in regard to future fights. One being Canelo Alvarez, yet in truth if Eubank Jr has any chance of victory versus that level of opponent he will need to firstly listen to his trainer for an elongated period and also leave the vulnerable emotion he showed versus DeGale well away from the ring. Though if he can hone that raw fighting ability and spirit properly he may well still have time to emulate the feats of his father, whether he craves to or not.
Meanwhile, the heavyweight division continues to make Brexit look like a wholly straight forward process. Tyson Fury’s recent reported £80m five fight deal with ESPN has lead to his highly anticipated rematch with Deontay Wilder being delayed by at least one tune-up fight each for the two men. Fury, who was apparently reluctant to fight on Showtime again after the controversy surrounding the decision in the first fight, in his own words is now ‘the daddy’. Which has nothing to do with his newborn child but the fact that he feels that he can control his own destiny now he has secured such a lucrative deal with the huge media force that is ESPN. As good as this deal looks for Fury, it looks like it will serve as another barrier to the big three in the heavyweight division fighting one another any time soon.
Fury, Wilder and Anthony Joshua already all have different promoters, media machines and now contracted media platforms on which they fight. In America for instance, Fury is now contracted with ESPN, Joshua with streaming platform DAZN while Deontay Wilder fights have shown been on Showtime for the majority of his career. In essence, red tape, genuine logistical problems and the colour of money are all doing their bit to stop these fights from happening, as on face value the three fighters actually seem up for a scrap with each other basically any old time.
Whoever is to blame, it looks as there won’t be another heavyweight super fight until the end of 2019 at the earliest and if contemporary boxing politics has its way then that time frame is probably somewhat optimistic, especially as Fury and Joshua look to spread their appeal stateside. Which will likely only increase the amount of demanding stakeholders involved in their careers.
Despite the current paper jam within the division there is still plenty to look forward to in the short and medium term. Anthony Joshua’s arrival to the US proved to be a fiery one has his opponent at MSG, New York on June 1st Jarrell ‘Big Baby’ Miller decided to the stoke for fires for their fight nice and early. A well below the belt press conference was followed by a large media circus surrounding the fight meaning that pre-sale tickets for the bout went like hot cakes. Though Joshua is a heavy (perhaps over 300 pound) favourite to win, there’s already enough there to keep even the most frustrated boxing fan interested for the time being.
One fighter who continues to search for his shot at glory is Dillian Whyte, who will be furious at the fact that Wilder will now likely steal next his opponent in Dominic Breazeale. Whyte was scheduled to face Breazeale to finally put himself in pole position for a shot at Wilder’s WBC strap but it looks like, to no fault of his own, he will have to wait even longer to get his chance at glory. His decision to decline domestic showdown offers from long time rival Anthony Joshua at late notice may seem foolish but in reality, getting into the ring with Wilder represents Whyte’s best chance at a world title. And if he can get it, a proper seat at the negotiating table if a fight with AJ ever comes back around.
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