Boxing: Big fight preview for DeGale v Eubank Jnr

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BOXING analyst Nick Munday (@NM_Sport) shares his betting thoughts on Saturday night's big bout between James DeGale and Chris Eubank Jnr.

James DeGale v Chris Eubank Jnr | Saturday 23rd February 2019, 22:00 | ITV Box Office

James DeGale and Chris Eubank Jnr settle their bad blood at the O2 Arena on Saturday night, in the first big British match-up of 2019.

Their rivalry dates back to sparring sessions in 2012 where the Brightonian – who’d only recently turned pro – claimed to have schooled DeGale. Seven years on they’re finally getting in the ring.

Surprisingly, Eubank is a slight favourite at 10/11, but the price on a DeGale win (13/10) has been snipped at all week.

Let’s be clear, DeGale (25-2-1, 15 KOs) in his prime would deal with Eubank without too much trouble. Eubank isn’t technically gifted enough to compete with the DeGale of a few years ago, who became Britain’s first Olympic gold medallist to win a world title in the pro ranks in 2015.

However, I say ‘a few years ago’ because the 33-year-old hasn’t looked the same man recently. Plus he's 2-1-1 in his last four fights.

Is DeGale done?

DeGale made three defences of the IBF 168lb strap but then had a significant operation on his shoulder after a brutal war with Badou Jack (majority draw) in January 2017, where his two front teeth were knocked out and he touched the canvas in round 12.

As well as the shoulder issue, the Londoner had problems with his achilles too. He claims he rushed back from surgery too quickly, subsequently losing his world title to Caleb Truax in the biggest upset of 2017. The belt was reclaimed in a rematch last April but the once slick, skilful mover looked flat-footed and slow.

Eubank (27-2, 21 KOs) has performed well at fringe world level, but his two losses came against top class Brits Billy Joe Saunders (split decision) back in 2014 and George Groves (unanimous decision) a year ago. He looked one-dimensional against Groves, so hopefully he’s taken the criticism on board and improved his jab and footwork.

For Saturday’s showdown, he’s teamed up with new trainer Nate Vasquez from the Mayweather Boxing Gym. Bizarrely the 29-year-old says this is the first time he’s actually had a full-time coach.

Close fight to call

Whereas DeGale has already achieved a lot, this is Eubank’s last chance to prove he can mix with the best. ‘Chunky’ has labelled this the “retirement fight”, and you don't really want to hear a boxer considering calling a halt to his career before such a big contest. Are his previous injuries still playing on his mind?

There are question marks around both men so I’m not willing to put too much faith in either in the outright market.

If Eubank is on top of his game – which admittedly is a big if – then he can really stick it on his rival and grind him down in the second half of the bout. He’ll most likely have to turn this into a dog fight and triumph on the scorecards, because DeGale has never been stopped before and Eubank isn’t a natural super-middleweight, so doesn’t carry as much power.

Eubank needs to put the pressure on for every single round, banking on his impressive engine and replicating Truax’s tactics in the first meeting. I’m backing the younger, fresher and more aggressive fighter to earn a possibly controversial split decision at a huge 16/1 (Ladbrokes).

DeGale is known for going missing in fights after starting on the front foot, so we could see a momentum shift with Eubank taking over and catching the judges' attention.

Taking that into account, it’s also worth having a go on DeGale to win either a split decision or a majority decision at 11/2 in Sky’s RequestABet market.

Best Bets

James DeGale v Chris Eubank Jnr – Chris Eubank Jnr to win by split decision (16/1 Ladbrokes)

James DeGale v Chris Eubank Jnr – James DeGale to win by split decision or majority decision (11/2 SkyBet)

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