Eubank outpoints DeGale in ugly wrestling match

By Robert Ecksel on February 23, 2019
Eubank outpoints DeGale in ugly wrestling match
“It’s belt season. It’s collection season. It’s my time now, it’s my time. I’m ecstatic.” (Getty)

Saturday night at the O2 Arena, Chris Eubank Jr. outpointed James DeGale to win the vacant IBO super middleweight title…

Saturday night at the O2 Arena in East Greenwich, London, England, Chris Eubank Jr. (28-2, 21 KOs), the former IBO super middleweight champion from Brighton, Sussex, outpointed former two-time world champion James DeGale (25-3-1, 15 KOs), the southpaw from Harlesden, London, to win the vacant IBO super middleweight title.

It was unanimous after 12 rough-and-tumble rounds. The final scores were 114-112, 115-112, and 117-109.

Fighting out of the blue corner in white trunks, Eubank was dominant from the opening bell. But the grappling, a strategy initiated by his opponent, started immediately, who was bleeding a cut above his left eye from the first of many headbutts to mar the bout as the round was drawing to a close.

By round two it had gotten even uglier. DeGale, fighting out of the red corner in black trunks, was determined to rely on dirty tactics. Eubank pressured DeGale and sought to box, landing a straight right which staggered the two-time champ. He followed that up with a right cross that bounced DeGale off the turnbuckle in the corner, forcing him to take a knee. The ref ruled it a knockdown. The wrestling continued, however, again thanks to DeGale, so Eubank began throwing and landing rabbit punches, for which he was warned, when the fighters were in close.

By the third round a pattern had developed which remained consistent throughout the bout. DeGale would lunge in, often head-first, looking every inch like a wily veteran willing to use every trick in the book to unsettle his opponent. That DeGale was a lefty and Eubank a righty may have compounded the problem, but more rabbit punches were thrown as a result, and the grappling continued as the clock wound down for round three.

DeGale had his best round in the fourth. He landed a low blow which brought the action to a halt for 30 seconds. He also landed a couple of straight lefts leads that hit the mark. It wasn’t enough to win the round, but his strategy, such as it was, appeared to be working.

As the match progressed it was a fight fought almost exclusively on the inside. Both fighters appeared overexcited, perhaps for different reasons, and their corners’ entreaties to “stay calm” were as often ignored as not. It was that kind of fight, a phone booth fight where neither fighter could box as they might have wished and might once have been capable of doing.

Eubank dropped DeGale a second time in round 10. He was deducted a point in the 11th for lifting and throwing DeGale to the canvas. It wasn’t pretty, but DeGale had it coming, and Eubank deserved the victory by wider margins that two of three judges indicated.

“I knew he was going to come in there and run,” said Eubank after the fight. “He’s a very slick southpaw. He’s a helluva fighter. He caught me a few times. He was using some dirty tactics. But I used smart pressure, not getting ahead of myself, and did the job. My heart and tenacity won the fight, but he didn’t quit. He was man enough to stay in the ring and take it for the 12 rounds. Now I’m coming for the other belts in the super middleweight division. It’s belt season. It’s collection season. It’s my time now, it’s my time, and I’m ecstatic.”

In the co-main event, 33-year-old Joe Joyce (9-0, 9 KOs), the undefeated contender from Putney, London, slaughtered Bermane Stiverne. (25-4-1, 21 KOs), the 40-year-old former WBC heavyweight champion from Las Vegas, by way of La Plaine, Haiti, at 2:20 of round 6, to win the WBA Gold and Commonwealth heavyweight titles.

Fighting out of the red corner in black trunks with blue trim, Joyce is a work in progress. But having sparred with Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua, and having Abel Sanchez working his corner, he continues to improve. He had size and reach advantages over his opponent, who aside from a few moments in the first round, was never in the fight. Joyce was busier than the man opposite him. He was composed and let his hands go. He also varied his attack against a stationary target who has lost three of his last four fights.

Stiverne, fighting out of the blue corner in black trunks with multicolor trim, can take a punch. But he came into the fight at a career-high 273 pounds, took the fight on five week’s notice, and had not fought in 15 months. He was staggered in round two and knocked down in the third. He fought back, at least initially, but ate punches like it was going out of style, while ineffectively languishing on the ropes. To say he was overmatched is an understatement. The fight was lost before the opening bell.

“He’s very tough, very game, but I was just too much,” said Joyce after the bout. “He’s a seasoned champion. He wasn’t going anywhere. I managed to land a lot of shots. He took all the shots, no problem. But I managed to land everything, including the kitchen sink, and the tub.”

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  1. nonprophet 08:48am, 02/25/2019

    DeGale’s approach to fighting Eubanks reminded me of B-Hop in his last couple of fights….only DeGale was much worse. Hardly the stuff one would expect from a former champ and Olympics medal winner. 

    I began watching that fight not as a fan of DeGale, but definitely with a very negative attitude about Eubanks.  But that dreadful performance by DeGale had me rooting for a one punch knockout of James by Chris.

    That was not a boxing display put on by DeGale and I would have gladly taken the loss of a point just to enjoy the pleasure of slamming DeGale to the floor as Eubanks did during the fight.

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