Longtime rivals James DeGale and Chris Eubank Jr will face each other on February 23rd at the O2 arena in London, in quite an intriguing and exciting bout that can see either fighter off the ring.
DeGale spent 2018 reviving his career as he rebounded from his shock decision defeat to American Caleb Truax by regaining his IBF super-middleweight title in an immediate rematch, and believes he will have far too much skill and experience for Eubank Jr. But bookmakers seem to disagree.
Eubank Jr was soundly beaten by George Groves at the beginning of 2018 in the World Boxing Super Series semi-final, and even though he got back to winning ways with a third-round stoppage of the domestic-level JJ McDonagh in September, the pressure sits firmly on his shoulders in this fight.
DeGale, former Two-Time IBF World Super-Middleweight Champion
• Fights: 28
• Wins: 25
• Wins by KO: 15
• Losses: 2
• Draws: 1
Eubank Jr, former IBO World Super-Middleweight Champion
• Fights 29
• Wins: 27
• Wins by KO: 21
• Losses: 2
The odds suggest this will be a close fight that either man is capable of winning, so tactics and a sound game plan will be key to victory. Chris Eubank Jr, despite being well beaten by George Groves, is the slight favourite at odds of 1.68, DeGale is priced at 2.19.
The total rounds is set at 9.5, with over 9.5 rounds priced at 1.28, which suggests bitcoin bettors can potentially expect a fight that goes the distance. (Odds at the time of writing and subject to change - for the most up-to-date values, check our odds page on the bout).
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Analysing the strengths and weaknesses
Analysing both fighter’s strengths and weaknesses is key to potentially finding a betting edge in this fight. Chris Eubank Jr has come under heavy criticism for his losses against Billy Joe Saunders and George Groves but the defeats have not stopped bookmakers believing in his ability.
DeGale, is the better boxer, but recent performances and overall condition will play a key role when the pair meet. For all his skill and technical ability, DeGale doesn’t punch as hard as George Groves. The one thing that dictated the pace of the fight between Groves and Eubank was his jab and his punching power, which made Eubank Jr reluctant to come in so much; it wasn’t so much his movement. It is likely DeGale will try to move against Eubank Jr whilst punching in combinations to keep him off, but this tactic could potentially play into the younger fighter’s hands.
Skills and talent will often make the bookmaker favour a fighter in their odds but there are many ways a less skilled fighter can beat a more gifted one. Skill-wise DeGale is the better boxer, but what makes this fight close and intriguing is that DeGale is potentially damaged goods. The former two-time world champion has had a lot of hard-fought 12-round wars since he became champion and this is one of the main reasons for the betting edge in Eubank Jr’s favour.
Eubank has a point to prove
Without a recognised coach in his corner giving him instructions, Eubank Jr was unable to solve the George Groves puzzle. His output was strong late into the fight, but his footwork and positional sense was extremely poor and he ultimately became desperate as the fight progressed. The Brighton fighter notably left it too late, in his defeat to Saunders in 2014, proving he hadn’t learnt any lessons from his previous loss.
But at 29, the son of former legend Chris Eubank still has time on his side to cement his mark among the top fighters at 168-pounds. Now, under the guidance of American-based trainer Nate Vasquez, Eubank may have learnt his lesson. And with this fight somewhat being a last chance-saloon for a shot at a major world title, he should be more focused than ever to box to a plan and prove his doubters wrong.
DeGale past his best?
DeGale brings a 25-2-1 record into the fight and has plenty of world championship experience, but the wear-and-tear signs have been there in his last few performances. The 33 year-old battled through to scrape a narrow point’s victory against Caleb Truax - nevertheless it was deserved, but the full 12 rounds were untidy, with a lot of holding and clinching, but for DeGale it was job done.
Bookmakers have installed Eubank Jr as slight favourite in the fight due to this, but are also not ruling out a triumphant homecoming for the Londoner, and odds of 2.19 on a fighter with superior skill, experience, and ring craft could prove a value bet.
Where is the value?
The key factor in this fight is how well Eubank Jr can hold things together once the first bell sounds and how far gone James DeGale is at this stage of his career. The two times Eubank Jr has stepped up to world level he has been beaten, and it is worth bitcoin bettors noting that he was the betting favourite in both those fights.
Eubank is more of a fighter than a boxer and if DeGale is smart he will follow the Groves blueprint, stick the jab, and hurt him as he comes in using lots of lateral movement. However, the former Olympic champion has a worrying tendency to get drawn into a fight whether intended or not. Also worth taking into consideration is his widely publicised shoulder problems.
DeGale undoubtedly has the superior pedigree of the two, winning Olympic gold in 2008 before claiming the IBF super middleweight title in 2015 and reclaiming it last year, but boxing is often about timing and this could be a key factor in how the fight plays out.
DeGale has been known to tire in the championship rounds and if Eubank Jr will need to use his velocity and work rate to come on strong in the second half of the fight, in what is most likely his best chance of victory.
A safer bet would be for the fight to go the distance. Both have good chins, and also both lack one punch KO power at the highest level, but the odds suggest the bookies are expecting this also so the value pick has to be DeGale to win the fight on points together with Eubank Jr via stoppage between rounds 9-12.