Chris Eubank Jr. squares off against Liam Smith in a crossroads matchup on Saturday at the AO Arena in Manchester to determine who will improve their chances of getting a world title shot later this year.
The 33-year-old Eubank returns to the ring following an 11-month layoff that was not of his own making. He was initially set to face Conor Benn last October in a 157-pound catchweight affair at the O2 Arena in London. However, the event was canceled after the latter twice tested positive for the performance-enhancing drug clomifene, which Benn blamed on bad chicken eggs.
Last February 5 in Cardiff, Eubank (32-2, 23 KOs) floored Liam Williams four times en route to a 12-round unanimous decision. The 33-year-old Englishman has won six consecutive bouts since losing a competitive 12-round unanimous decision to George Groves in February 2018.
Unlike his counterpart, Smith (32-3-1, 19 KOs) is a former world champion. The Liverpool native won and defended the WBO junior middleweight title twice before Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez knocked him out in the ninth round of their September 2016 bout in Texas. Since that night, ‘Beefy’ has gone 9-2 with six knockouts, including three straight over the likes of Anthony Fowler, former welterweight titleholder Jessie Vargas, and Hassan Mwakinyo.
Can Eubank Jr. and Smith deliver an explosive fight that will captivate fans around the world? That will be an arduous task. Nonetheless, this is a fight that has been highly anticipated amongst English audiences for some time now.“Liam Smith is going to get a serious lesson,” said Eubank Jr. in an interview with BoxingScene. “All these guys say all the same things leading up to these big fights, and then when it actually comes down to the crunch time, when that bell goes, all the words flutter away, and they just end up getting dominated by the better fighter in me.
“I don’t think it’s going to be too much of a challenge, so I don’t think I need to spar any more than eight rounds. That’s probably how long the fight is going to last. Guys that are a little bit more dangerous than Liam, I’d probably be sparring 12 rounds, but I think eight’s more than enough for Liam Smith. I’m not being disrespectful; I’m just very confident.”
While not as garrulous as his opponent, the 34-year-old Smith is unimpressed by his résumé.“He’s somehow developed himself a big name in British boxing,” Smith told Sky Sports. “The name he is, the money he’s made in boxing is crazy because I think he’s won a British title. He’s never won a world title, and he’s made stupid money out of boxing, and he’s a big name. So they’ve obviously done something right. But I think the name’s helped that massively.”
Eubank is the naturally bigger man, and Smith has a significant edge in experience at this level. Furthermore, Smith has been more active than Eubank at this stage, which could play a factor on fight night.