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James DeGale faces Chris Eubank Jr. on Feb.23

Chris Eubank Jr James DeGale DeGale vs. Eubank Jr.

By Scott Gilfoid: It’s now official that James DeGale and Chris Eubank Jr. will be facing each other on February 23 on ITV Box Office at the O2 Arena in London, UK. It’s believed by some that the idea behind this fight being put on PPV is due to the large purses DeGale and Eubank Jr. required to make the fight happen. It’s going to be interesting to see if the boxing public in the UK are willing to pay to see two non-champions, both of which were exposed lately in defeats.

The DeGale vs. Eubank Jr. fight is one that should have taken place in 2017 after James fought Badou Jack. DeGale lost some of his front teeth during the Jack fight. Afterwards, Eubank Jr. took a shot at DeGale, saying that he wants to fight him and he’s coming for the rest of his teeth. DeGale-Eubank Jr. would have been perfect if it had taken place in late 2017, before DeGale was beaten by Caleb Truax in December 2017, and before Eubank Jr. lost to George Groves in February 2018. With those recent losses, it’s not a good time for Eubank Jr. and DeGale to face each other in a PPV fight on ITV. However, you can understand perfectly well why the DeGale vs. Eubank Jr. fight was made now rather than waiting for the two fighters to get some wins under their belt.

DeGale looks like a faded fighter since his fight with Badou Jack in 2017, and he clearly can’t be counted on to beat any of the talented fighters at 168. Heck, DeGale probably can’t beat even the bottom dwellers in the super middleweight division any longer. Caleb Truax was a bottom dweller when he was picked out for DeGale to fight in 2017, and he beat him with ease. If the management for DeGale and Eubank Jr. decided to wait until the two fighters beat a few quality fighters before they put them in with each other, it would likely backfire on them with one or both of them losing to someone.

Eubank Jr. at least has the talent to defeat fringe contenders at super middleweight, but not the top five elite guys obviously. DeGale doesn’t have the ability to beat even the fringe contenders at this stage of his career in this writer’s estimation. DeGale proved that he can’t beat bottom dwellers in his two fights with Truax. He should have lost both fights, and looked horrible.

This is a deal between Haymon Sports’ Premier Boxing Champions and ITV to make this fight happen. It’s debatable whether DeGale vs. Eubank Jr. is a pay-per-view worthy fight. Both guys were recently beaten, and neither of them are world champions at this time. The prospects of DeGale and Eubank Jr. winning world titles anytime soon are slim to none.

Unless an opening occurs where a fighter vacates one of the belts at 168, the odds of DeGale and Eubank Jr. (27-2, 21 KOs) winning a major world title at 168 are low in this writer’s estimation. DeGale (25-2-1, 15 KOs) is a former 2-time International Boxing Federation super middleweight champion, holding the belt in two stints. He recently vacated the IBF belt on July 4 of this year when the sanctioning body wanted him to defend it against the talented knockout artist Jose Uzcategui (28-2, 23 KOs).

That’s a fight that DeGale would have likely lost badly had he taken it. Uzcategui s fighting a much higher level than DeGale. It’s a good thing DeGale didn’t take that fight. Uzcategui is looking out of this world good right now. In contrast, DeGale struggled recently to defeat former fringe contender Caleb Truax by a controversial 12 round decision last April.

“I believe Eubank doesn’t have the pedigree, the size and skill to beat me,” DeGale said.

Eubank Jr. is a flawed fighter to a large degree, as we’ve seen in his losses to George Groves and Billy Joe Saunders. But the way that DeGale has fought in his last four fights, Eubank Jr. has more than enough talent to defeat him soundly. DeGale looks beatable against almost anyone in the top 15 at super middleweight. For example, DeGale’s first fight against Caleb Truax in December 2017 was supposed to be a tune-up fight for James. At the time of the fight, Truax was selected from rock bottom of the IBF’s rankings at #15. Truax had already been recently beaten by Daniel Jacobs and Anthony Dirrell. The loss for Truax to Dirrell was a first round knockout. As such, Truax was supposed to be a safe pick for DeGale to get an easy win in a voluntary defense of his IBF 168 pound strap.

Unfortunately for DeGale, he was unable to let his hands go during the fight, and he ended up getting trounced by Truax in losing a 12 round majority decision. In the rematch, it was the same problem for DeGale. He wouldn’t throw punches. Instead, DeGale held and ran all night long. The judges shockingly gave DeGale a horribly controversial 12 round unanimous decision in what this writer feels was decision he’s ever seen. At best, DeGale deserved to win one round in that fight. Traux was the far superior fighter on the night. DeGale looked like he could no longer throw punches for some reason. Some believe that DeGale’s grueling fight with Badou Jack in January 2017 took something out of him, leaving him an empty shell as a fighter.

All you can say for sure is DeGale has fought poorly ever since his match with Jack. You can give DeGale a break for his two fights with Truax by saying that he had shoulder surgery, and perhaps he was still recovering from it. However, DeGale didn’t look good in his last fight either against journeyman Fidel Monterrosa Munoz last September. It looks like its’s clear that DeGale is not the same fighter he once was, and he’s not going to find his way back to being the guy that defeated the likes of Andre Dirrell, Lucian Bute and Rogelio ‘Porky’ Medina during his best years of his pro career.

“Eubank is a decent fighter but every time he has stepped up he has been found out. He has called my name for a long time so now I’ve finally got my chance to zip his lips,” DeGale said.

Eubank Jr. lost to Groves in the World Boxing Super Series 168 lb tournament last year in February. It was a one-sided 12 round schooling by Groves. Eubank Jr. lacked the size and the boxing skills to compete in that fight. Groves proved clearly that Eubank Jr. is too small, too raw as a fighter, and too flawed for him to beat the top super middleweights. It’s unclear why Eubank Jr. didn’t move back down to 160 after the loss to Groves. You can stubbornness or perhaps him not being willing to cut weight. It’s hard to know for sure why Eubank Jr. isn’t moving back down to middleweight. All we do know is Eubank Jr. is going nowhere fast at super middleweight. He’s never going to beat the lions at 168 with his lack of size, and his rudimentary boxing skills. Eubank Jr. won his last fight against domestic fighter JJ McDonagh by a 3rd round knockout last September. McDonagh is the type of fighter that Eubank Jr. has always done well against. If Eubank Jr. goes back to fighting those type of guys, he’ll do well. But he’s going to do well when he’s asked to take on a top guy at 160 or 168.

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