DeGale-Eubank Jr. to fight for vacant IBO 168 lb title
By Tim Royner: James DeGale and Chris Eubank Jr. will be fighting for the vacant IBO super middleweight title when they meet up on February 23 for their grudge match on ITV Box Office PPV at the O2 Arena in London, England. This is the old IBO strap that Eubank Jr. previously held before his fight with George Groves last year.
The International Boxing Organization strap wasn’t on the line for Eubank Jr’s fight with Groves last year, which he lost by a one-sided 12 round unanimous decision. This means the IBO stripped Eubank Jr. following his loss to Groves, and then left the title vacant.
DeGale vacated his IBF super middleweight title last year when the sanctioning body was going to order him to face Jose Uzcategui. DeGale will now be fighting for the IBO belt rather than the arguably more prestigious IBF title. It would have been hard for DeGale to keep his belt by defending it against a puncher like Uzcategui. DeGale will get more money fighting Eubank Jr. for the IBO title on the line than he would have if he had defended his IBF belt against Uzcategui last year. Never the less, it still looked bad that DeGale decided to vacate his IBF title instead of defending it.
Despite being perceived by many boxing fans as a completely shot fighter just looking for a quick cash out payday, DeGale says he’s going to send Eubank Jr. into retirement on February 23 by schooling him. A prime DeGale would likely have too much talent for a fighter as flawed as Eubank Jr., but unfortunately James is no longer in his prime at 32. That’s not an old age for a fighter, but it when they fight the way DeGale has in his last three bouts.
“On February 23 I get my chance to deal with this guy good and proper and finish him. After Eubank has lost to me I don’t know where he is going to go,” DeGale said about Eubank via Sky Sports News.
It would look bad for Eubank Jr. to lose to DeGale right now, especially if ‘Chunky’ fights like he did in his two matches against Caleb Truax. If that version of DeGale beats Eubank Jr. by a decision, not controversial, decision, then it’s going to be bad for him. DeGale beating Eubank Jr. despite fighting poorly for 12 rounds, it’s going to further the belieft that Chris Jr. lacks the talent to be a major player in boxing at 168. But it still wouldn’t be the end of the road for Eubank Jr. as far as his career is concerned. He’s already fighting out of his natural weight class in competing at super middleweight, so he would have the option of moving back down to 160 to compete against guys his own size.
You have to remember that before Eubank Jr. moved up to super middleweight title take the IBO strap off Renold Quinlan in February 2017, he had been in negotiations for a fight against former middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin for a contest that would have taken place in September 2016. That was a situation where Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn, who Eubank Jr. was working with at the time, stopped the negotiations between him and GGG, and inserted one of his own Matchroom fighters Kell Brook into his place for the fight.
The rest is history. Golovkin destroyed Brook in five rounds in a competitive fight, but one that ultimately was a costly one for Kell due to him having his right eye socket shattered. Eubank Jr. then moved up to super middleweight and took the IBO title from little known belt holder Renold Quinlan in stopping him in the tenth round in February 2017. Eubank Jr. then successfully defended the IBO title twice, beating Arthur Abraham and Avni Yildirim in one-sided fights before losing to Groves last year in the World Boxing Super Series super middleweight tournament.
“I’m calling this the retirement fight and whoever loses can knock it on the head, it’s game over. He’s got heart and big set of balls but that’s not going to be enough to beat me,” DeGale said.
It’s unlikely that either fighter is going to retire if they lose on February 23. There’s still a lot of money DeGale can make in fighting Groves in a rematch. DeGale is already getting an early start in trying to lure Groves into face him. DeGale would like to face Groves next if he had his way. Thus far, Groves hasn’t said anything about wanting to fight DeGale again.
George has been keeping a low profile since his seventh round knockout loss to Callum Smith last year in September. But with the big money that Groves can make fighting DeGale in the UK, it’s quite possible that he’ll take the fight if he has few options ahead of him. Groves vs. DeGale 2 would likely bring in more money than a rematch between George and Callum. It doesn’t matter if DeGale lose to Eubank Jr. on February 23. A lot of boxing fans will still want to see Groves and DeGale do it again. Groves beat DeGale by a 12 round majority decision in 2011 in a close fight that could have gone the other way.
“This fight has been four or five years in the making and it’s going to be a painful lesson for him,” Eubank Jr. said. “James talks retirement, but that has never even come into my mind.”
Eubank Jr. is not going to retire if he loses to DeGale, considering that he will still have a lot of options available to him. All it’ll take to rebuild Eubank Jr. is to put him in with three or four domestic level opponents in quick succession, and have him training with a new trainer. The hype that will come from the combination of Eubank Jr. mowing down lower level fighters and having a new trainer will create enough excitement for him to be right back where he was before he was beaten by DeGale and Groves.
For some guys, it’s easy to rebuild them if they have a good promoter and manager that can make the right moves with their careers. Eubank Jr. has a better chance of being rebuilt than DeGale, because he’s younger, faster and he has an arguably more entertaining fighting style. Eubank Jr. throws a lot of punches, and he’s fun to watch. Those type of fighters are easy to rebuild when they lose. The guys that are tough to rebuild are the finesse fighters, the guys that move a lot, and clinch constantly. That’s DeGale. It’ll be hard to rebuild him, but his management likely won’t even try. They’ll just look to match him against Groves, and hope that enough casual boxing fans will be unaware of his recent loss to Eubank Jr. and choose to purchase the Groves-DeGale rematch anyway.