Chris Eubank Jr claimed UK bragging rights over a faded version of James DeGale on ITV’s Saturday night pay-per-view offering. Take nothing away from Eubank -who entered with a sheen of bruising under the left eye- but the version DeGale that boxed the likes of Badou Jack and Andre Dirrell would surely have offered sterner opposition. DeGale’s left eye was trickling blood after an early nick, but that was the least of his worries. Eubank turned the tables in the second stanza (as commentator Ron McIntosh would call it) when some scrappy action saw DeGale pulling back in straight lines and leaving himself open to the left hook in particular. Dropped and buzzed by his marauding IBO co-challenger, DeGale was issued a count from referee Michael Alexander in that same session.
One of Eubank’s main assets is his ability to employ a high pace. His corner admonished him after the fourth for slowing down too much and working at DeGale’s more pedestrian preference. It was unusual to see a fighter of DeGale’s maturity and experience diving in and falling short so often; instead of attempting to step back and counter the Brighton man’s lead shots. DeGale was hurt again and nearly finished in the 10th; going to ground after a relentless Eubank Jr assault.
Eubank had a point deducted in the 11th-round for a wrestling-style throwdown. Fighting not to get stopped, calls for DeGale to find the ultimate come-from-behind punch were wide of the mark. Not getting knocked out was DeGale’s moral victory in what must surely be his final contest. As for Eubank, he has the name and the game to garner a few more pay-per-view opportunities. Middleweight would be more suited to his frame than super-middleweight, but with the IBO title proudly wrapped around his waist, Chris can trouble, if not beat, some of the better names in either of those divisions.
The scores of 114-112 and 115-112 were slightly generous to DeGale who never lacked effort. The third score of 117-109 to Eubank Jr seemed a more reasonable tally after 12 hard-fought sessions.
Joe Joyce has never overly impressed as a pro. Not the best talker in the world, he lets his fists speak on his behalf, and adopts a prodigious work rate to his credit. Given that this was only the Londoner’s eighth pro contest (all wins, all knockouts) perhaps a bit of context is required. Manager Sam Jones was duly provided that later on Twitter as he compared the respective eighth opponent of Wilder, Fury and Joshua in relation to Joe’s foe (Bermane Stiverne). It must be an eye test thing with Joyce who often seems like he is robotically pumping out rights and lefts as if desperately trying to surface after an unfortunate dip in the ocean.
In the current climate, Joyce could find himself in a title shot against one of the division’s kingpins. If Fres Oquendo can be moved out of the road, then a WBA ‘Regular’ shot is looming. Joyce is capable of beating holder Manuel Charr (who next faces unheralded Trevor Bryan) but will need to tighten up the defence a little.
On the evening, wobbly foe Stiverne landed a few right hands which Joe Joyce literally laughed off. He probably won’t be doing that when a true puncher is in the opposite corner. Stiverne, bizarrely, comes out with some credit for his staying power when it looked for all intents and purposes that the 40-year-old would bail out early. Stiverne managed to make it to round six when referee Howard Foster decided that the Haitian’s bloated frame had taken enough pounding for one evening.
Further down the card, Lee Selby won, which is the main thing. Not vintage stuff from the Welshman, who showed grit and resilience through the turmoil of two cut eyes to prevail over plucky fringe contender Omar Douglas. Selby’s lightweight debut was nearly over as quickly as it started, but he battled through the pain barrier. Whether he will be able to mix it with the top talent at this new weight remains to be seen.
Over in Minneapolis two potential future, Eubank Jr foes were duking it out for the WBC 168-pound crown. Anthony Dirrell won it (for the second time in his career) after a technical decision win over German-based Turk Avni Yildirim following ten bruising rounds. Dirrell’s more refined technique probably had him rightly ahead. As sure as night follows day, a Dirrell fight once again ended in some level of controversy as Anthony suffered a terrible cut to the left eye, forcing the doctor’s early intervention. Referee, Mark Nelson, ruled an accidental butt had caused the cut, so it was off to three wise men to decide the fate of these two pugilists. Yildirim was incensed but realistically he’s not world level despite bulldozing forward all night, and more than playing his part in an engaging brawl. Dirrell’s not much better if truth be told.