James DeGale vs. Chris Eubank Jr. fight prediction, Showtime boxing start time, card, live stream
This British showdown could mean retirement for the loser on Saturday night
It has often been said that desperate times call for desperate measures.
When a pair of exciting and brash British super middleweights square off on Saturday in London (Showtime, 3:45 p.m. ET) -- with both badly in need of a win to retain their viability in the 168-pound title picture -- one can expect that same level of desperation to equal fireworks inside the ring at the 02 Arena.
"It's retirement time," former two-time titleholder James DeGale said. "Whoever loses this fight is finished. It's do or die on Saturday."
While it would seem the specter of retirement entering this fight is more dire in the case of DeGale (25-2-1, 15 KOs) considering the 33-year-old has been through the wars and shown signs in recent years of decline, the future could also be in doubt for Chris Eubank Jr. should he lose in a one-sided manner.
"His retirement fight is here," DeGale said. "It's his last fight, I promise you that."
Although Eubank (27-2, 21 KOs) is just 29, the lifeless nature in which he was defeated last February by George Groves in their title bout saw Hall of Famer and broadcaster "Prince" Naseem Hamed openly call for Eubank to retire in the aftermath.
Even Eubank's father, the flashy former two-division titleholder Chris Eubank Sr., has been candid in sharing his fears for his son's future entering this fight.
"This is a 50/50 fight and for the first time I am petrified of what the outcome can be," the elder Eubank said. "I am petrified that Junior may not win this fight.
"My son looks at the physical aspect of boxing and, from a physical point of view, I don't think there is anyone who can stand with him. But boxing isn't just physical – it's also spiritual, and that's where Junior lacks. I don't know whether he has that."
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The build to Saturday's card, which also features an intriguing heavyweight co-main event between unbeaten prospect Joe Joyce and former titleholder Bermane Stiverne, has featured a predictable level of vitriol between the two boxers.
DeGale has referred to Eubank as "a diluted idiot" and has added claims that "if I can't beat Chris, that means I'm shot, that means I'm over the hill." Eubank countered by calling him a "bum," although he did agree with how much was at stake entering the fight.
"We are both at a stage where we can't lose," Eubank said. "We are both fighting for our careers. He knows he can't handle me. He's asking himself, 'Can I survive?' And the answer is absolutely not."
Eubank, who was widely criticized for his lack of strategy against Groves, took one step further in order to show how serious he is taking the fight. For the first time in his pro career, he hired a full-time trainer in Nate Vasquez.
"I've got a full time trainer now. For the first time in my career, I have a trainer day in and day out focusing on strategy to prepare me for what James is – a slick southpaw," Eubank said. "That's why I'm so confident. If he wants to run, we have the gameplan. If he wants to stand and swing, we have the gameplan. We have a plan for everything."
DeGale, meanwhile, will need to prove not only to critics but to himself that a 12-round war against Badou Jack and a pair of hard-fought battles against Caleb Truax which followed haven't robbed him of his fighting prime.
"The fear of losing is because I know what's on the line," DeGale said. "This is do or die. If I can't beat him, if I can't beat Chris Eubank Jr., I'm done."
The fact that DeGale likely should win this fight from a tactical and talent standpoint doesn't necessarily mean he will. If both men are equally desperate, there's a good chance youth will be served.
If DeGale can channel the "Chunky" of four years ago, when impressive wins against the likes of Andre Dirrell and Lucian Bute first placed him in the conversation of rising pound-for-pound star, a fight against an athletic-yet-crude slugger like Eubank would be a much easier proposition.
There's not guarantee, however, that "prime DeGale" will ever walk back through that door again. And when it comes to the theme of desperation that lingers over this bout, Eubank has much more to prove from the standpoint of validating his own fame with a big-time victory.
The fact that Eubank is younger should favor him here, especially if he's able to use effective pressure to lure DeGale away from boxing and into a fight. Recreating his efforts from recent years by blindly stalking forward won't work, however. Eubank will need to show a much more mature gameplan in how he will close distance and lure DeGale into a pace he's uncomfortable with.
Establishing the jab (and using it as a weapon) will be key for Eubank, even with the fact that DeGale is a southpaw. But it ultimately comes down to mentality for Eubank and whether he can execute a plan without getting discouraged to give him a shot at breaking down DeGale's will.
Given Eubank's natural talent and pedigree as the son of a British legend, there's plenty of reason to believe he still has a great performance inside of him ready to come out. Although DeGale will hold advantages in categories like speed, timing and guile, he may be just faded enough to fall into a trap in which this becomes the kind of firefight that favors Eubank's power.
Pick: Eubank via TKO10
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