Chris Eubank Jr. clearly outpoints James DeGale in untidy UK showdown
LONDON — “This was the career-defining fight for me, this was make or break, do or die, I had to make a statement and that’s exactly what I did tonight,” said a happy Chris Eubank Jr. following his breakout victory over James DeGale.
He declared that his next fight would be at either super-middleweight or middleweight having weighed just 160 pounds on fight night.
He hurt DeGale several times during the contest, flooring him twice, and he had not expected his bitter rival to weather the storm.
“I’m very surprised he was able to continue,” Eubank added. “I’ve knocked guys out with some of the shots I hit him with. He was hurt in the very beginning and I don’t think he fully recovered. I’ve got a lot of respect for James, I didn’t think he had that in him.”
When pressed, Eubank said he would happily rematch Billy Joe Saunders, who defeated him earlier in his career, or take on Ring No. 1 Callum Smith.
His father and manager, Chris Eubank Sr., seemed to imply he wanted his son to move back down to 160 pounds.
“Anyone who has a belt is on the radar,” insisted Eubank Jr.
DeGale did not attend the post-fight press conference.
Eubank, now 28-2 (21 knockouts), enjoyed the contest far more than DeGale had in running out a clear winner despite two narrow scorecards, 114-112, 115-112 and 117-109.
“I’m sure it looked a little ugly in certain areas,” agreed Eubank Jr. “He’s a slick, awkward southpaw and it’s very hard to pin a man like that down so I had to drag him into the trenches and pin him down.”
From early in the fight, having been dropped in Round 2, former IBF champion DeGale struggled to do anything other than jab and either grab or fall in behind single shots.
He could not find a rhythm, or Eubank would not let him find one. Referee Michael Alexander was constantly splitting them yet as messy as the fight was it was never dull.
In fact, DeGale (25-3-1, 15 KOs) was cut by the left eye in the first session and in the next all hell threatened to break loose.
Caught by a cuffing right, DeGale was forced into a rapid retreat. Eubank swarmed in to finish him. Mutual rival George Groves, working ringside for ITV, jumped to his feet in anticipation and DeGale wilted to his knees for a count.
He managed to make it back to his feet and as Eubank piled in DeGale’s longtime trainer Jim McDonnell climbed onto the ring apron. By now, Eubank was sporting a cut by his right eye.
He was talking to DeGale as the third opened. It was unclear whether DeGale was trying to make it untidy or if he could do nothing but try to make it scrappy as Eubank began to turn the screws.
It was being fought with ferocity and spite and DeGale landed a sweet long left in Round 4 but could not follow it up with anything meaningful.
They grappled through the fifth, arms tangled in a messy stanza with DeGale getting clumped by short right hands while they were in close. In the sixth he was caught retreating by Eubank who thumped home a clean right. The Brighton man was outworking and outfighting the former two-time world champion and 2008 Olympic gold medallist, particularly sparking to life in the final 30 seconds of each round to put them out of the Harlesden man’s reach.
DeGale was again clipped on the back foot as the fight entered the seventh and it began to look like he would need a punch from nowhere to turn the tide. But it never looked like coming and in Round 9 he chewed down several chopping right hands that had Chris Eubank
Senior applauding his son from the corner. There were few meaningful exchanges, but DeGale was second best almost every time. That was certainly the case in the 10th. DeGale was shaken by a left hook and his legs betrayed him. Eubank beat his chest, certain victory was his, and as he followed in with thunderous shots DeGale was again forced onto his knees.
The bell sounded and DeGale had to persuade referee Alexander that he was fit to continue when he rose.
Eubank introduced his left uppercut in the 11th but as DeGale clumsily fell in behind another shot Eubank ran out of patience, lifted his rival onto his shoulder and then slammed him to the canvas with a thud. It was straight out of the WWE and cost Eubank a point.
Both had their moments in the last and both held one fist aloft at the end but the result could not be disputed. DeGale had one last ditch attempt to curry favor with the judges, climbing onto the ropes to celebrate, but it was over – and now boxing may be all over for Britain’s first Olympic and professional world champion.
He had said a loss would spell the end of his career beforehand and he gave his opponent credit at the end.
“I left my mark in boxing,” concluded DeGale, who said he was ‘pretty sure he’d scaled the heights in the sport’ indicating that he would retire. “I just didn’t do enough. He was nicking the rounds. I just didn’t do enough.”
Eubank will look to world title fights, perhaps with the likes of Callum Smith or perhaps with IBF champion Caleb Plant and he will be confident that he will be able to lift a world title at a third time of asking.
“I needed to prove that point wrong [that he was not world class] and he [DeGale] got a lot of people to believe that, so now hopefully I’ve turned some of the doubters into the believers,” he said.