Niall Hickman wonders if the bookies are right to favour Chris Eubank Jr over James DeGale
RARELY has a fight of this magnitude had such a Brexit-vote split decision. Rewind two years ago and the figures were around 52-48 percent in favour of Britain leaving the EU and ask boxing fans around the country who is their choice from James DeGale or Chris Eubank Jr and you would receive a similar response.
DeGale would probably just about shade it as he has performed at a higher, elite level than his opponent for longer, but his gradual downhill trajectory has continued apace, despite back-to-back victories over Caleb Truax and Fidel Munoz. OK, so the 33-year-old Londoner won both, but that is pretty much the only positive element which came out of the bouts against low key boxers. Munoz had actually lost five of his previous six fights before stepping into the ring with DeGale.
So is Chunky on the slide? All the evidence since his world title draw against Badou Jack two years ago suggests an emphatic yes. Defeat to Truax was a shocker and there has been precious little since then, despite a re-match victory over Minnesota’s journeyman.
Again, go back a couple of years and DeGale had a rightful claim to be regarded as the best 12-stone fighter in the world, following eye-catching wins over Andre Dirrell and Lucian Bute. Both were across the pond as well, underlining DeGale’s status as the No1 in the division. The fact that DeGale was willing to travel showed admirable belief in his ability, but the Londoner has never suffered from a lack of self-confidence.
So what has happened? It could just be that age has caught up with him as he has been boxing as a pro since 2009 following a glittering amateur career and that famous loss to George Groves happened way back in 2011. Tough fight after tough fight means boxers have to go to the well time and time again and in DeGale’s case, maybe the well has dried up.
Eubank was taken apart by Groves last year and his loss to Billy Joe Saunders in 2014 gives plenty of ammunition to those who say the Brighton boxer falls just below elite level. Certainly a repeat showing against DeGale of the Groves display will end his involvement in globally ranked bouts.
That is why this contest is so eagerly awaited, as both fighters have so much to lose. Victory for one will see them back in contention amongst the big boys, while defeat could and possibly should spell retirement.
It also evokes memories of great British match-ups of the recent past, especially at super middleweight. Nigel Benn’s 1993 re-match with Eubank’s father immediately springs to mind as boxing hit the back and front pages and Joe Calzaghe-Eubank Snr in 1997 hailed the arrival of the Welshman on the world scene.
More recently we had the two Carl Froch-George Groves bouts, with 80,000 packing out Wembley stadium for the re-match. It is a division which has delivered so much.
Eubank or DeGale? Probably DeGale shades it on past form, rather than current achievement. But boxers, when they go, tend to go very quickly and DeGale has looked a pale shadow of his former self in recent bouts. As for Eubank, was Groves just a poor night in the office, or further proof that he is lacking at the highest level?
The bookies are in the younger man’s corner.
Surprisingly, in my opinion, Eubank is a slight favourite and his odds are generally around 5/6 on. DeGale is a marginal outsider at 11/10. My best bet would be the draw at 18-1. Good odds on two fighters who have both looked vulnerable in recent bouts. The most popular bet has been on DeGale to win, with some bookies offering up to 13/10.