James DeGale and Chris Eubank Jr go head-to-head at the O2 this Saturday night in a huge grudge match.
Two-time world champion DeGale and former IBO world super-middleweight holder Eubank Jr have exchanged various verbal insults in the build-up to this eagerly anticipated fight.
FIGHT NIGHT ON talkSPORT
James DeGale vs Chris Eubank Jr is live on talkSPORT, February 23 from the O2 Arena, including a stacked undercard featuring fellow British fighters Joe Joyce and Lee Selby
‘Chunky’ has dubbed it the “retirement fight”, insisting his rival is “not good enough” to beat him.
Eubank Jr, who has appointed his first full-time trainer in preparation for this fight, admits it is a”do or die” moment in his career, with his father revealing he is “petrified” of his son getting defeated.
Ahead of the crunch showdown, talkSPORT.com sat down for a Q & A with DeGale’s long-time trainer Jim McDonnell…
James has achieved everything he could have possibly ever wanted to in the sport. Where does he rank among the boxing greats, Jim?
“At James’ best, I’m looking round at Tommy Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard. He’s at the same level.
“When he’s on it he can mix it with anyone I’ve ever seen – he is that good.
“People might find that hard to believe considering his last two performances, but I’m telling you he is right up there. James DeGale is a top class boxer.
“It’s like some people forget the calibre of opponent he has beaten in the past. Lucian Bute and Andre Dirrell are top class operators.
“It will only be at the end of his career when people stand up and realise what a great boxer James DeGale was.”
How has James been around camp in the build-up to this fight? After a couple of disappointing displays, what James DeGale can we expect to see on Saturday night?
“James DeGale is a buzz fighter. Eddie Hearn was spot on when he said that many years ago.
“James is absolutely buzzing for this fight. He knows what is on the line. It’s do or die.
“When he was fighting [Caleb] Truax there was a different feeling around camp. He underestimated him.
“He also rushed back from injury, so was nowhere his best in either of those fights.
“This is a huge fight in comparison. James knows he simply cannot afford to lose.
“He’s feeling edgy and nervous about. That to me as his trainer is a good sign.
“He knows what is at stake. He has to produce.
“When you’ve got a 10-week camp, that means 10 weeks of nights in, early morning sessions and training.
“Every single thing I’ve asked of him over the years he’s done.
“Look at the shape he’s in now! That’s never been an issue of his, but he genuinely looks the best I’ve ever seen him in his entire life.”
What were your thoughts on Chris Eubank Jr deciding to hire his first-ever full-time trainer ahead of this fight?
“I think it’s incredibly disrespectful to Ronnie Davies who has been with him his whole life.
“How is he supposed to feel? The guy has over 40 years experience in the business.
“Ronnie is a fantastic coach, a decent fella and had a huge impact on his father’s career.
“I definitely think it will be more detrimental to him than advantageous.
“You’ve now got new voices in your corner, and when it gets hard after 10 rounds are you still going to listen to them? I don’t think so.
“I think Junior has made a big, big mistake. In fact I know he has.”
What do you make of Chris Eubank Jr as a fighter?
“He’s tough, strong and has a good chin. There’s no doubting his heart and desire, but it isn’t just about that in boxing.
“If we’re talking facts here then could Eubank beat Badou Jack? No chance.
“Could he beat Lucian Bute, who held the IBF super-middleweight title for five years? Again, no chance.
“Then there’s Andre Dirrell, an absolutely brilliant boxer, someone James and myself have huge respect for.
“Could he beat him? Absolutely no chance. At the end of the day it’s all about levels, James has been there and done that, Chris hasn’t.
“James has proved himself at the highest level, Junior hasn’t.
“You look at Eubank’s record and who has he really beat where you can go ‘you know what fair play?’
“Who has he beat that James can’t beat?
“George Groves, a very good fighter in his own right during his career, was well past his best for his fight with Eubank Jr and it was still an easy night’s work for him.
“Eubank isn’t like Groves, [Callum] Smith or [Badou] Jack – he hasn’t got it.”
How do you see this fight going?
“I see it being a fairly one sided affair in James’ favour for the first six rounds.
“I expect Eubank Jr to have a few moments in the fight after then, but nothing of any real danger to James.
“James will come strong towards the end of the fight and secure a unanimous points decision.
“With Eubank Jr you’re wasting your time trying to take him out unless he runs into a shot.”
Do you think James will call it a day after Saturday, irrespective of the outcome?
“When you’re at this stage of your career you don’t even think of how many years you have left in boxing.
“What you’re thinking is how many fights do I have left.
“I think this could possibly be James’ last fight in all honesty.
“If he boxes brilliantly he might think that this is the perfect time to bow out on a high.
“He’s got to look around and go can I get motivated for A,B, C or D – who might not even be on Eubank’s level by the way.
“It will be interesting to see if he does retire. I personally think he’s got a bit more left in him, but we will see.
“At the end of the day it’s got to be what’s right for James.”
What did you make of the timing of George Groves’ retirement announcement? Could you see him making a return to the ring?
“Everyone knows James and George don’t see eye-to-eye. That happens in life, you can’t get on with everyone.
“What you’ve got with those two is two quality boxers who have been there and done it and performed at the highest level in this sport.
“I think everyone would have liked to have seen them fight again.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for George, I haven’t got a problem with him.
“I did think the timing of the retirement announcement was a bit bizarre though and disrespectful to James.
“If it was the other way round and James did that to George it wouldn’t sit right with me either.
“I know it didn’t sit well with James, nor George’s comments that he hoped it would unsettle him preparing for this fight.
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“If James goes and turns on the style this weekend, would Groves come out of retirement to fight him? It’s very unlikely, but you never say never.
“Groves is a business man at the end of the day. He’s not dumb, that’s for sure.
“Stranger things have certainly happened in the world of boxing. We shall see.”
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