British boxing fans were left shocked and excited last month when Eddie Hearn announced Welterweight Champion Kell Brook will step up a weight division to fight unified Middleweight Champion Gennady Golovkin, who is one of the most feared punchers on the planet and widely regarded as the top pound-for-pound boxer in the sport.
For a long time, it seemed British Middleweight Champion Chris Eubank Jr. was in pole position to fight Golovkin. But after talks with the Eubank party broke down, Brook seized his chance and secured the super-fight.
Eubank Jr. has been very outspoken about the fight on social media. Claiming Golovkin never really wanted to fight him and that Brook will be too small and won’t be strong enough to handle the step up in weight.
But where does Eubank go from here? His British title victory over Nick Blackwell made headlines for all the wrong reasons and his last fight against Tom Doran was very one sided, with Eubank stopping his challenger in the fourth round. Many possible opponents have been suggested for his next fight, but I think the fight he wants most, and what the British boxing public craves, would be a rematch against Billy Joe Saunders.
There was clear animosity between the two in the build-up to their first fight in 2014, reminiscent of the saga Eubanks father had with Nigel Benn, which captivated boxing fans during the 90’s. It was the first big fight Eubank Jr. had been involved in and it looked like the occasion had got the better of him, starting the fight slowly as Saunders cruised through the opening rounds. Eubank Jr. started to find his feet as the bout went on and looked the more dangerous boxer during the second half of the fight. However, it wasn’t enough to make up for his nervy start and Saunders eventually won the fight via a split decision.
Since that fight, Saunders has remained unbeaten and claimed the Middleweight title when defeating Andy Lee last December. That defeat to Saunders remains the only blemish on Eubank Jr.’s record so far and he has often spoken about his desire for a rematch.
Both boxers have exchanged words very publically on several occasions over the past few years, both in press conferences and after each other’s fights. Eubank Jr. taunted Saunders, who was sitting at ringside, during the final few rounds of his fight against Blackwell, with Saunders entering the ring after the fight to stare down his potential challenger.
There is no doubting Saunders in the more accomplished boxer and may have his sights set on bigger, world-wide fights against the likes of Golovkin and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. But if the opportunity arose to square-off against Eubank Jr. again, I don’t think he would turn it down. He would see it as an opportunity to shut Eubank Jr. up once and for all, whilst retaining his world title in the process.
However, if Eubank Jr. was to come out victorious in the rematch, then a third fight would be inevitable and it could see their conflict flourish into one of the most spectacular rivalries in the history of British boxing.