British boxing opens its tally for 2023 with a strong middleweight main event that promises a clash of famous boxing styles and families. Chris Eubank Jr is, of course, named after his famous father, while Liam Smith is one of four wrestling brothers, all of whom have held British titles and at least been challenged at world level. This fight, while not for a title, should go a long way in deciding which of the two will look towards the major belts in the future. At the very least, it will decide some bragging rights on the British scene. With some heat (quite nasty, frankly, at times) in the buildup too, it should be spicy once both men get in the ring.
This card is available on DAZN in the US and other international territories, and from the Sky Sports Box Office in the UK. It will start at 1 p.m.
Chris Eubank Jr (32-2, 23 KOs) he is a recognizable name to most boxing fans, having used his father’s reputation and his own offbeat charisma to gain attention. However, it has been a strange race so far. A tendency to chase exposure rather than legacy means that while he has fought a number of experienced names on a global level, most of them (De Gale, Yildirim, Abraham) have far exceeded their best. The one time he’s fought an opponent of definitively proven class somewhere near his prime, he was given an education by George Groves in 2018.
One thing to note though, is that after long being known as untrainable (and even openly trained himself for a while), he most recently moved to the US. USA to work with Roy Jones Jr. He seems to be working out too, judging by the changes in his style. Whether that combination will work in the long term remains to be seen, but he is coming off a good win over Liam Williams last year, although in the end it was more difficult than it needed to be.
Smith (32-3-1, 19 KOs) he’s less of a star and less well known, but he’s been around for a while and has fought some very good opponents. That includes a 154-pound fight with Canelo in 2016, in which he did a great p4p job to win him, before a mid-round KO. Since then, he’s also had hard-fought losses to Jaime Munguia (much bigger than him) and Magomed Kurbanov (who he felt, along with many observers, should have gone for him). That last one in particular stung, as he seems to believe it’s been his ticket back to world-class fighting. After a run of three solid, albeit minor, he hopes to take that step again this year if he can pull off the high-profile win here.
Smith is also making a leap in weight. He has fought most of his career at 154 pounds, but he is moving up to 160 pounds for Eubank. That could work against him, especially since Eubank has fought at even higher weights in the past and is comfortably the bigger man, but we’ve seen older fighters find a new spring in their step by making moves earlier, so he be waiting for that.
At 33 and 34 years old, respectively, they are reaching the point in their careers where it really is a last push for that higher level, so it’s an interesting and significant crossroads fight for both their respective careers and the immediate future. middleweight as a whole. It should be a good fight.
On a technical level it is a real clash of styles. That’s true regardless of which version of Eubank turns up, which is an open question, since the overcoming style Roy Jones Jr. has been training him for differs greatly from the high-volume aggression he’s previously shown us. Whichever team he chooses, he’s a pretty unorthodox fighter. Whereas Smith comes with a confident, rounded, meat-and-potato style that he’ll look to punish any mistakes Eubank might make.
That description may sound derogatory, but it really isn’t. Smith doesn’t do anything flashy or unusual, but he does the basics very well. Eubank will have to work hard to find holes in the armor. The reverse will not necessarily be true. Smith has made a career of keeping things composed and tidy until opponents show a glitch he can attack, and for all his abilities, Eubank has plenty of technical glitches.
However, which ones Smith will take advantage of will depend on Eubank’s approach. Throughout his career, he has generally been a high-volume pressure fighter, attacking his enemies with jabs and jabs by the dozen. Under RJJ’s tutelage, he has become more of an outside fighter, looking to keep opponents at bay with a jab and moving in and out to land single punches or short combinations. Or, at other times, trying to lure your opponent into charged counters.
The latter is probably more likely, especially given that we saw him fight Liam Williams, a fighter with some similar tendencies as Smith, in that fashion last year. A fight that Eubank dominated early on the way to victory. However, there is a risk in that game. While he did knock Williams down several times early on, as the fight progressed the fight began to lean towards Williams. And Smith is one step ahead of the competition there.
The biggest problem for Eubank as an outboxer is that he simply doesn’t spread his punches well. He has had elbow injuries in the past. Whether or not his mechanical issues are a direct result, he’s never been convincing as a wide hitter. This means that even his jab is often not as long as it could be, and he has to go in and out of hook distance instead of throwing sharp straights. In other words, he’s trying to play a distance-based game with a set of tools built over the years for use up close, which he does quite well. He’s not the best player in the world either, probably because he only started learning this fighting style at the age of 30.
When he fought Williams, he needed to hurt him often to keep him at bay. That happened early on but, once Williams warmed up, Eubank didn’t really have the ability to keep him out for long. If he comes with the same mindset against Smith, the latter’s superior defensive skills, his better preparation to break through with feints and set shots, and slightly better power could see Eubank punished in a way Williams couldn’t handle. . Even if he chooses, or is forced to engage, in melee, Smith has a history of catching and countering opponents who throw wide punches at him, as he did against Anthony Fowler.
All of that doesn’t mean Eubank doesn’t have a chance here. For all his ordered solidity, Smith can display an inability to adapt. In particular, his high guard is nice and steady, but not reactive. That’s the kind of thing that could get you in trouble against Eubanks’ unusual shot selection. If Eubanks can find a home for his jabs and jabs, it may be difficult for Smith to adjust without completely breaking down his defense.
There’s also a pretty big speed advantage for Eubank, which should mitigate some of the distance issues and mean Eubank has a chance to beat Smith in even exchanges on the inside. He adds that he’s also quite a bit bigger, he’s fought most of his career at this weight or higher, and those could all be serious factors as the fight progresses and the wear and tear on the new Smith at 160 begins to lessen. . add.
However, there is one more thing to keep in mind, and that is experience. Although his records are similar on paper, and Eubank’s name is much more recognizable, Smith has spent more time at or near the top of his division. As mentioned above, most of Smith’s fights have been against world-class opponents in his prime, and he’s been most competitive in them when he’s been there. So we might see a bit more of a class difference in his favor than you might expect.
I’d say the mix of ingredients for the fight points towards Smith, then, but it should be an entertaining affair. Overall, he’d say it’s by no means a foregone conclusion and a good competitive reserve.
What’s on the billboard?
The biggest draw on the card, by far, is a welterweight clash, for the British and Commonwealth belts, between Ekow Essuman and Chris Kongo. Essuman is (usually) a relentless, tough hitting machine, nicknamed ‘The Engine’ for a reason, and Kongo isn’t afraid to take down. Both men are in their 30s and looking to progress quickly to world level, so the stakes are high. It should be a big scrap.
Richard Riakporhe takes on Krzysztof Glowacki in the cruiserweight division, a fight ostensibly designed to test Riakporhe’s readiness for the world level. That could be fun, though he’s been a sleepyhead before. Beyond that, there’s not much on the card. Jack Massey, who has never fought above the British or similar level at cruiserweight, will be stepping up to heavyweight against (for some reason?) Joseph Parker. Frazer Clarke, a heavyweight Olympian, continues his laughable introduction to the professional ranks with another outmatched opponent. Nor is he likely to be competitive.