by Cliff Rold
There have been some great UK fights in the super middleweight division since the birth of the division in the 1980s. Saturday’s was not one of them.
Sometimes, a fight is just another fight for the viewers. For the fighters in the ring, it’s always more than that. Chris Eubank Jr. needed a win a badly. So did James DeGale. In the end, Eubank’s need was expressed in more punches of consequence in a fight where neither man seemed to consistently be able to find openings.
To his credit, Eubank did more of the looking. James DeGale never seems to have recovered from a trio of physically demanding fights with Lucian Bute, Rogelio Medina, and Badou Jack. Every fighter accumulates wear differently. At 33, with what looks like relatively few professional fights, the wear has added up quickly for DeGale.
Eubank did what he had to do to win even if it wasn’t always a pretty affair. Winning doesn’t have to be pretty. Even ugly, it tastes better than defeat.
Let’s get into it.
The Future for Eubank: The big, marquee win Eubank has been looking for may ultimately have been as much a curse as it was a blessing. He had a fighter in front of him offering very little in terms of offense or resistance but Eubank couldn’t completely solve the riddle. Despite closer than reasonable official scores, he scored two knockdowns, probably should have had a third, and forced his way to a win by moving his hands. He’s still only 29 and has plenty of physical talent but he is a fighter who appears to still have much room to grow. Later in the day, Avni Yildirim came close to upsetting Andre Dirrell for the vacant WBC belt in the division. Eubank stopped Yildirim in three rounds in October 2017. He’s clearly among the better fighters in the class and the double dose of DeGale and the Dirrell-Yildirim fight showed it. His only losses are to Billy Joe Saunders and George Groves. But the DeGale win, and his struggles again to find a consistent jab or cut off the ring, are problems he’ll have to correct if he wants to make a real run on the top of the division. It still feels like he’s almost but not all the way where he could be. Lucky for him there are fights to be made. A showdown with WBA titlist Callum Smith would be a big money fight in the UK. Whether it’s next or not, that’s the fight Eubank should want and a fight fans could get invested in.
The Future for DeGale: DeGale hinted toward a loss meaning retirement before the fight and press accounts from the UK have him leaning that way afterwards. It’s not for anyone to say when a fighter must retire. This would be a case where it’s fair to hope the fighter follows his instincts. DeGale has had a hell of a run in boxing. For a moment, it looked to some (this writer included) that he might be moving into the next tier of elites in the game. He never quite got there but few do. DeGale won a Gold medal at the Olympics, two IBF titles at 168 lbs., engaged in a memorable unification fight, and had title fights in three different countries. That’s a rare career for anyone. DeGale didn’t offer much resistance on Saturday but he endured some big shots and refused to finish short of the final bell. He gave of himself to the game and showed a champion’s pride to the end. What more can we ask?
Rold Picks 2019: 12-5 (Including Dirrell-Yildirim and Soto-Rios)
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]