Well that didn’t go according to plan – if you happened to be in the James DeGale camp anyway. I’ll be honest, going into the fight, my prediction was that James DeGale would have too much skill and too much pedigree for Eubank Jr. The one concern was whether DeGale had enough left in the tank – the 33yr old has been involved in some wars and for someone with his style, 33 is closer to the end of his career. The build up to the fight had been going on long before the fight was ever arranged. DeGale had been critical of both Chris Eubank Jr and his father, Chris Eubank Sr, both fighters like to talk, DeGale is more brash and loud in his comments, Eubank Jr although he may be a little stone faced in his interviews, he is never one to mince his words or lack confidence.
Still, I didn’t think Eubank Jr had enough to take advantage of a declining fighter. DeGale has fought better opposition, has been a world champion as well as an Olympic champion. Every time Eubank Jr stepped up a level, he invariably was outclassed and the boxing lesson he received not too long ago from George Groves was still fresh in everyone’s mind. Eubank’s only hope in my mind was if DeGale began tiring in the latter rounds, allowing Eubank Jr to get on top of him because despite Eubank lacking in boxing fundamentals, you can’t argue that he always comes in fit and if DeGale hadn’t been living the boxing lifestyle for this fight, his poor fitness could work against him.
When the fight began though, it was clear something was different for DeGale. He was not looking his usual self, was not as slick as we are used to and the punch volume was lower – maybe he was working to a plan and would soon step it up? Not so, he continued to fight in the same fashion – throw a jab and then slide in to close the gap and end with a clinch. I’m not sure why this was a plan unless he knew he was unfit and would not be able to sustain a higher work rate – it also played into Eubank’s hands because Eubank does prefer fighting inside the pocket, freeing his hands for those signature uppercuts of his.
The fight quickly took the turn of a pretty boring and monotonous fight and at no point did it look like DeGale was going to step on the gas and up the pace. The result meant that Eubank Jr was allowed to settle into a rhythm and dictate the pace of the fight. He was allowed to stalk DeGale and then eventually it got to the point where it looked like Chris Eubank Jr was bullying James DeGale, culminating in a WWE wrestling style bodyslam – Eubank was now mentally not just physically on top of DeGale.
It made no difference to DeGale, he continued to jab and slide in for the clinch. Eubank was firmly in control and it wasn’t because he looked any better than he did against Groves, he didn’t look like he had learned from his shortcomings in that fight, he was simply facing a fighter who not the same boxer anyway. DeGale just did not have it in him to push the fight and force the pace – a DeGale from 2-3yrs ago would have had an easy night against a fighter with Eubank’s limited skillset and footwork but on this night he simply did not have enough in him to avoid Eubank’s punches or throw enough punches to keep Eubank off him.
The result was a predictable unanimous points win for Eubank Jr. I’m not sure how two judges scored the fight pretty close, the score of 117-109 was much more realistic. The fight was billed as the loser should be heading into retirement, after the way DeGale boxed, it looks like he should be the one seriously contemplating leaving the sport. He didn’t look great in his last couple of outings against Caleb Truax, and here now losing to what was really a middleweight fighter who does not possess elite level or world class boxing skills just confirms that DeGale should have a long hard think whether he wants to continue, he has led a successful career so if he does decide to leave the game, he can be proud of his achievements. For Chris Eubank Jr, he nabs the biggest win of his career but I am yet to be convinced he has changed much as a fighter and any world class opponent should not have too much difficulty putting him away.
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