James DeGale vs. Chris Eubank, Jr. Predictions 2/23/19
James DeGale (25-2-1, 15 KOs) vs. Chris Eubank, Jr. (27-2, 21 KOs)
When: Saturday, February 23, 2019
Where: O2 Arena, London, England
TV: ITV Box Office
Weight Class: Super Middleweight: 168 Pounds
Betting Odds: James DeGale (+130), Chris Eubank, Jr. (-150)
James DeGale battles countryman Chris Eubank, Jr. is a super middleweight bout from the O2 Arena on February 23. This is a high-stakes domestic battle, reminiscent of some of England’s great 168-pound battles of the 80’s and 90’s—some of which involved Eubank, Jr’s father. We’ll see if it lives up to that, as the winner is in line for some huge fights. DeGale, who will be 33 by fight-night, is more of the veteran, a former gold medal Olympic champion whose world-class resume at 168 pounds goes back the better part of a decade. Eubank, Jr., 29, has enjoyed some fine moments in the ring, but now looks for a signature win to boost his career.
They have both been through some ups and downs of late. DeGale holds wins over good fighters like Lucian Bute and Andre Dirrell, but a shock-loss in 2017 to massive underdog Caleb Truax slowed his progress, which came off some uneven performances, including a draw against Badou Jack. He beat Truax in the rematch and stayed busy with a warm-up quickie KO in September, but some wonder if he’s the same force of old. Eubank, Jr. saw an 8-fight win streak end in February 2018 with a tough loss to George Groves, who beat DeGale in 2011. He has fought just once in the ensuing year, also a perfunctory victory. His career highlights include wins over Gary O’Sullivan and Arthur Abraham. His only other loss was a split nod to the excellent Billy Joe Saunders.
Let’s get the bad stuff about DeGale out of the way. When you’re betting on a guy, it is painful when he underachieves. That’s the risk in backing DeGale. Skills-wise, there is no way he should be in this spot. He should be riding high atop the division. But the guy simply suffers from the worst disconnect I’ve seen at this level in some time. He seems to have no vision of where he stands in a fight, which leads to him taking odd tactical turns mid-fight. When you watch him, with his unique skills and versatility, a path to victory is easy to envision—for everyone except DeGale.
At this level, a fighter needs to know where he stands in a fight and how to act accordingly. DeGale sometimes shows no aptitude in these areas. He typically employs a painfully low work-rate, allowing himself to be outhustled by far less-talented fighters. That’s just brutal when you’re backing a guy and he should be outclassing an opponent, and it’s as if he’s actually trying to make it hard on himself. His effort sometimes lags far behind his ability. A look at his recent record shows a litany of close fights that shouldn’t have been close. He had the Jack fight in the bag until a mental lapse in the final round. Against Truax, he again phoned it in with his 25-punch per round nonsense and lost the fight. He did better in the rematch, but that’s just the point—he shouldn’t be in rematches with marginal guys like Truax. By now, he should have tangled with the best and even have some hallmark wins on his ledger. There’s just something missing—call it drive, hunger, a killer’s instinct, or what have you. And recent talk of retirement certainly doesn’t assuage these issues any.
With all that said, DeGale is such a better boxer than Eubank, Jr. that it makes these odds look almost too tasty. Eubank, Jr. is more of a manufactured fighter—a better athlete perhaps, but not nearly as innate in his skills as DeGale. The former Olympic champion can do it all from an ambidextrous style. He is a difficult man to fight with all his little wrinkles. Boxing is second-nature to DeGale, whereas Eubank is more a smoke-and-mirrors guy. And whatever issues DeGale suffers from mentally are not areas from which Eubank, Jr. is immune.
Eubank, Jr. isn’t a terribly imaginative fighter and his vision of where he stands in a fight isn’t the best, either. Against a one-armed George Groves, he couldn’t summon the wherewithal late to close the show, losing the fight in the process. He doesn’t have the presence of mind in the ring. Things don’t come nearly as naturally to him as they do for DeGale. He’s just not a terribly-skilled fighter, and his style lacks the aggressiveness and punch-count to trouble a guy like DeGale.
Eubank, Jr. is younger and perhaps fresher. DeGale is still young enough, having just turned 33, but he certainly hasn’t looked his best in the past year or two. This is a bottom-line business. DeGale’s skills have seldom been commensurate with his results, so should we look at ability or results? From a class-standpoint, DeGale has labored with worse fighters than Eubank, Jr. Let’s also mention that in terms of raw punching power, Eubank, Jr. holds the edge. He has some nice elements of his offense, including a really nice uppercut. Eubank, Jr. has more athleticism overall, and against this version of DeGale, it might be enough. We also have to consider the setting. While both are domestic fighters, the younger guy with more perceivable upside sometimes gets the benefit of the doubt from judges. And since it’s been a while since DeGale created any separation from a good opponent, you have to ask yourself how easy it’s going to be for DeGale to win a decision.
It’s just difficult to ignore the gap in craft in this battle. DeGale’s defense is real defense, not just a set of reactions. He has the type of instinctive know-how that Eubank, Jr’s can only dream of having. DeGale will employ his expert distance-control to keep his opponent in knots. He will out-think Eubank, Jr. from a tactical standpoint and put his greater boxing gifts to use. He will switch stances seamlessly to keep Eubank, Jr. from establishing any momentum. Meanwhile, Eubank will try to knock out DeGale and hope his opponent is listless. The majority of his hopes are wrapped up in the notion that DeGale has spoiled over time. I see DeGale outboxing Eubank, Jr. Whether he gets credit for it is another issue, but I see some solid betting value on DeGale.
My Prediction to Win the Fight:
I’m betting on James DeGale at +130 betting odds at BetOnline. There are issues, as DeGale doesn’t always get the most of what he has, but when you get the better fighter at an underdog price, you sometimes have to take the leap-of-faith. He’s the better boxer by a fair margin, and it’s easy to see a path to victory for the ex-champion.