Trussed in talk of Olympic pedigree, of retirement and fresh beginnings, James DeGale–Chris Eubank Jr. was imbued with the kind of gravity American commentators are invited to and typically don’t conjure. And yet, with all due respect to our mates across the pond, who sing their plumbing hoarse despite marathon efforts of sudsy lubrication, whose boisterous dedication is unlike anything an American fighter can hope to inspire, DeGale–Eubank fell well short of its own billing. Although maybe American disbelief about UK fighters best clarifies that response.
Eubank, 28-2 (21), today owns a title whose beauty is in the eye of this beltholder, the hardware equivalent of a tryst fastened as the lights go on in the pub. It’s a title befitting a fighter of the meager (for there is nothing just little about Eubank, is there?) ability. But for anyone out of people who like watching him the inanimate opponents (Everlast, Ringside, Lonsdale) who sway and spin defenseless against his telegraphed anger, he offers little of consequence. His signature triumph, after all, he came against his very best competitor –either George Groves or B. J. Saunders holds this distinction–but against the simulacrum of DeGale, a fighter close enough to the end to speak about embracing it.
And DeGale is without question that near his end; he could thank a combination of injuries and tough fights for that. The Hammersmith fighter won his first world title against Andre Dirrell in Boston and made the initial defense of the title in Quebec against hometown favorite Lucian Bute. DeGale, 25-3-1 (15), defended his name on British land but after, dropping a decision–later avenged at Las Vegas–to Caleb Truax. Prizefighters follow the cash, and DeGale did, passport in hand, since the money was better anywhere but home.
In his peak, DeGale would have confounded Eubank, something clear even in his twelve-round struggle on Saturday, in which his once-superior strategy and increased ring wherewithal shone by its faltering application. Unable to prevent the punches or exploit the openings that he can see, DeGale was reduced to a switch-holding attack, lunging in feebly from either stance before falling on Eubank such as an octopus trying to open a jar. It was an unwatchable although not ineffective way for a fighter who seemed to understand early that he had left the capacity to victory in some other ring on another night, one that also knew that asking his opponent to adjust to such a draping would purchase him a few, even a rounds.
Which it did, but not without a few harrowing moments. While short on champion talent, Eubank has of a winner’s arrogance, and he channeled it to the counters and long-lived bombs he banged home if DeGale slipped . He scored a knockdown in the second, hurting DeGale with a left hook, and another in the tenth after snapping DeGale’s head back with an uppercut. In each instance, the follow-up barrage that produced the knockdown was feverish, mindless, the product of a man who thinks in his power over his competitors do. But DeGale dropped nonetheless, which is the type of result that will bolster the confidence of any fighter, but notably one easily delighted with himself. And Eubank appeared confident during, even menacing over DeGale after pitching him into the canvas (and dropping a stage ) from the tenth.
Eubank is an avid fighter: a tragedy of strategy, he compensates for this weakness with what he called in the aftermath of his success Saturday his”heart and tenacity”–but which appears more to be the accoutrement of arrogance, a grab bag of nerve-steeling strategies he learned from his dad, committed to memory, also calls upon to silence the self-doubt real resistance amplifies in him. He’s the type of fighter to swagger over a man he’s tossed to the canvas in a fight he isn’t good enough to end, betraying his frustration at more than the holding. Finally, neither heart nor tenacity will serve him well as prudent matchmaking. If it is indeed”set season” as Eubank states, he’ll place guards, not names, in his crosshairs.
Worn and exhausted, DeGale should find himself in the crosshairs when he decides to further walk his retirement back conversation. Many one of his fraternity suggested he hang up his gloves Saturday night, citing his glaring physical deterioration. And he should: not since he can not conquer the likes of Eubank but because less than a Eubank could turn the trick, and because the price of learning just as far, coming as it does with all the toll not just of the struggle but with all the fight’s prep, is more than DeGale need pay. However,”Chunky” is likely to fight on because Callum Smith, or Caleb Plant, or David Benavidez may use the scalp (along with the daylight’s) of the first British fighter to win Olympic gold and a domain. Or perhaps because a rematch with Badou Jack at light heavyweight beckons and also a trip up the scales will be DeGale tells himself he wants to locate his legs . He’d be wrong, but he has earned the right to find out as much.