Two careers that have gone unfulfilled? Or two careers that have been carried as far as they were ever meant to go?
James Degale and Chris Eubank Jr have enjoyed much of their respective careers in the spotlight, thus unnecessary pressures and expectations have been heaped upon both British boxers.
Both have come through the traditional routes in boxing. One through his father – once a boxing icon – following in the footsteps to escape the shadows. The other through an established amateur system that led him all the way to the greatest prize in the unpaid code.
It seems that Degale 25-2-1(15KO’s) is at the tail end of his fine career. An early loss to arch-rival George Groves led to many improvements in his game, but the rematch failed to materialise. Quality wins over Andre Dirrell, Lucian Bute and a revenge win over Caleb Truax have led to Degale becoming a two-time IBF Super Middleweight champion of the world.
Eubank Jr 27-2(21KO’s) may have already dug the very best out of his talents that saw him learn on the job after a near non-existent amateur career. His finest performance still came arguably in the second half of his narrow loss to the excellent Billy Joe Saunders, but stoppages of Dmitrii Chudinov, Gary O’Sullivan and Avni Yildirim should not be sniffed at.
Toughness has been a trait of both boxers, the two coming through horrendous cuts in their most recent defeats, seeing out their respective bouts to the final bell.
There have been weaknesses aplenty too, but it’s which weakness can be taken advantage of best that will determine the winner in this clash at the O2 Arena.
Degale has made many nights tougher than necessary with his approach of sitting too long on the ropes. But in between those lapses in concentration – or signs that he needs to conserve energy – his hand speed and punch picking is near faultless, and did help lead him to an impressive draw with Badou Jack.
Since failing to get going for 6 rounds against Saunders back in 2014, conserving energy has not been an issue for Eubank Jr. Quite the opposite as Eubank continues to put too much emphasis on causing maximum damage with energy punch he throws that isn’t a jab. And the jab – for all the good it does – is not used often enough.
A wildly swinging Eubank should be child’s play for Degale’s approach off the back foot, but Degale sitting on the ropes will make Eubank’s task of inflicting maximum damage that much easier.
At the peak of his powers this would be a much easier pick to make. Degale would be too slick, and while his lapses would allow the ever enthusiastic Eubank to stay within touching distance, he would come up short in similar fashion to last February when beaten by Groves.
But should – at this stage of his career – those 10, 20 seconds stints on the ropes become more like 1 or 2 minutes, the scales will begin tipping further and further towards the younger man.
The opening rounds will go just as planned for Degale. His movement will be crisp and the odd combinations will be more than enough to solidify a decent lead by the halfway mark.
It is from this moment that the fight will begin to change. In fact it may be a few rounds earlier, as Eubank edges in closer, and Degale dangles tantalisingly close to the ropes.
There will come a point when Eubank will time an attack to perfection and Degale will feel the full effects. From that point the lead will begin unravelling, and the all-action fight that the millions watching will have come to see will begin.
Degale will not lie down, and his efforts on the counter will be picked up by many, but the raw and relentless attack from Eubank will leave the greatest mark.
As he always does, Degale will overcome the turbulence, but just as he did in late 2017, it will cost him dearly on the scorecards.
At the end of 12, it will be unanimous in favour of Eubank Jr, a career best win, and another opportunity to reach the goals that his opponent has already grasped.
TV Channel for the fight this weekend:
UK: ITV Box Office
Eubank vs DeGale fight time:
10pm local time in the UK (2pm West coast in the US 5pm in the East)