In just under a month’s time, Britain’s much talked about Middleweight prospect Chris Eubank Jr will step back in the ring against the current British Middleweight Champion Nick Blackwell. This will be Blackwell’s third defence of the crown, and a win would make sure he secures this coveted prize when he leaves the ring. The question many people are asking however is, why has Eubank Jr taken a step backwards to go after the British belt, when his recent success had him closer to a world title belt.
At yesterday’s press conference, Eubank Jr hadn’t really provided onlookers with a definitive stance on this question, however did state that the British Middleweight title was something he wanted before he went for a world title. As much as I respect his decision here, I can’t help but think had a potential showdown which enabled him to take a step closer to a world title been offered, he most probably would have taken it. With that being said, this should be a highly entertaining fight and one that both fighters will take something away from.
After his loss to Billy Joe Saunders, Eubank took a step back and began the rebuilding process, acknowledging that this just wasn’t the right time in his career to be fighting for a world title. With subsequent wins over Dimtry Chudinov and Tony Jeter, he got himself back in a position of confidence to take another step up in opponent quality. That fight saw him fight on the Joshua v Whyte undercard against Irelands Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan, where after a slow start, he gradually picked apart his opponent forcing O’Sullivan to throw in the towel at the end of round 7.
Although continuing to divide opinion, this performance had again shown fans that he had the ability to fight at a high level. Venezuela’s 12-0 Alfonso Blanco was an obvious choice, the current holder of the Middleweight interim belt, however nothing developed here, and the decision was made to go after the British Crown. In light of Eubanks previous performances, this is certainly a step down for him, however one that I am somewhat pleased to see. Many Boxers get criticized for taking big pay day fights and climbing the rankings undeservedly, and although this seemed like the initial route Eubank Jr was taking, a loss to Saunders and undoubtedly humbled him.
Whether he then decides to defend the crown (should he get the win) is another matter, as im sure the other middleweight prospects around the world will come knocking, but for now it’s refreshing to see someone take a step back to make sure any unfinished business at domestic level is settled. Eubank Jr goes into this fight the clear favourite and just like many other critics, I feel a middle to late round knockout is likely. Blackwell seemed to peek in May of last year when he picked up the win over John Ryder, however with the 2 fights he rounded the year off with, he demonstrated very little and Eubank Jr will not be worrying over any potential floors in his game plan any time soon.
There is clearly further reasoning behind this decision, notably contractual issues with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom. In what seemed to be an obvious decision between the 2 camps, things clearly weren’t right for the men from Brighton as they decided to pave their own way to the top. To be clear Eubank Jr will not be leaving the ring on March 26th with any change in opinion, the love – hate relationship the fans have with him will remain, and he will have to do more than win a British title to get more people on board. But for now, and whatever the reason, I have admiration for Eubank for taking this fight, and hope the feud already created between these two men, builds to a great fight on March 26th.