Championship Play-Off Final: Michael Owen’s View
The first major domestic dust-up of the year takes place this weekend with James DeGale and Chris Eubank Jnr facing each other at the O2 Arena for the vacant IBO world super middleweight title with both British fighters’ futures on the line in the ring.
DeGale has admitted he could retire after this fight and the 33-year-old knows he cannot afford another defeat in the twilight of his career.
He has a record of 25 wins, two defeats and a draw from his 28 professional bouts. DeGale’s first setback came against recently retired George Groves after a unanimous points loss in 2011.
DeGale became the first Briton to win Olympic gold and a world title after beating Andre Dirrell on points in Boston in 2015.
After several defences of the super middleweight title, including a majority draw against Badou Jack in New York, DeGale suffered the worst night of his boxing career.
He was stunned by unheralded Caleb Truax at the end of 2017 after losing on points to the American at the Copper Box Arena.
DeGale regained the title by defeating Truax last year, by unanimous decision, in Las Vegas before stopping Fidel Monterrosa in September. Nevertheless his shock defeat to Truax is a major blot on his record and suggests he may not be the force of old.
Eubank Jnr has a 72 per cent knockout record although there have been some noticeable chinks in his armour against better opponents.
He has 27 wins, with 21 by KO, and two defeats from his 29 fights. Eubank Jnr was on a run of ten successive victories inside the distance when his unbeaten record was ended after losing a split decision to Billy Joe Saunders in 2014.
Eubank Jnr won the IBO world super middleweight title after stopping Renold Quinlan in 2017 but the 29-year-old lost the belt in a unanimous decision defeat to George Groves 12 months ago in Manchester.
His only fight since this loss was an easy victory over JJ McDonagh in September after his Irish opponent retired following the third round in Saudi Arabia.
Clearly both boxers have questions to answer and recent defeats have cast serious doubts about their ability to compete at the highest level in their weight division.
This is a clash of styles with southpaw DeGale’s array of combinations and slick skill set contrasting to Eubank Jnr’s explosive power and hand speed.
The younger fighter is a narrow 8/11 favourite for this fight but DeGale looks worth siding with to take the decision.
Both Eubank Jnr and DeGale have never been stopped as a professional suggesting odds of 8/15 on the fight going 12 rounds are perfectly understandable.
Assuming DeGale still has the sharpness and desire to compete, his greater versatility and ability to win rounds with a better work rate and eye-catching combinations could make the difference.
Eubank Jnr looked one dimensional in the defeat to Groves and if his power fails to hurt DeGale then he could find himself behind on the scorecards.
A bet on DeGale to win by decision or technical decision, in a fight which should go the distance, looks generously priced at 7/4.
James DeGale to win by decision or technical decision 7/4