Billy Joe Saunders edged past Chris Eubank Jr. via split decision, retaining the British, Commonwealth and European middleweight titles, in their much anticipated grudge match at the Excel Arena in London, live on Boxnation HD.
During the pre-fight build up, the British boxing fraternity were somewhat split on who the victor would be in this high class match up. Some believed Saunders’ experience would be the decisive factor, with the defending champion having travelled the championship distance no fewer than five times prior to fight night.
On the other hand, there were many fans, fighters and pundits edging the heavy handed son-of-a-legend to rise to the occasion and pick up where his famous father left off.
Saunders settled into his boxing right away and worked with an accurate and persistent jab, whilst Eubank searched in vain for sharp left hand counters. When the inexperienced, yet highly thought of, Eubank stepped in to throw his trademark right hand power shots, the former Olympian simply took a step back and moved out of harm’s way, rarely finding himself on the receiving end of heavy blows.
The traveller boxed beautifully for the first third of the contest, but Eubank, being his father’s son, found a way to make his talented opponent fight his fight, and he gradually began to land his stinging swings to both head and body.
The middle rounds saw a change of momentum, as the enigmatic Eubank turned the tide on the slippery southpaw standing in the opposite corner. The same heavy duty combinations of jabs, hooks and uppercuts that were blocked and evaded by Saunders in the early exchanges, were starting to land far too frequently for the liking of Jimmy Tibbs (trainer of Saunders), and the scorecard deficit was seemingly narrowing with every passing three minutes.
Eubank grew more and more confident the longer the bout went on. During the time between rounds five and ten, the previously untested and undefeated Brighton resident pressed home his advantage in strength and took charge of the action. Nevertheless, Saunders is a quality boxer with skill and courage, and he fought gamely to keep the rounds interesting and to keep his foe honest at all times.
The pair fought at a furious pace right through the championship rounds, with Eubank arguably having the final say in the incredibly competitive altercations. At the final bell, the general consensus was that Saunders had just about managed to cling onto his belts, due to the slow start of the challenger. And the split decision verdict echoed just how hard fought the battle was.
Judge Phil Edwards turned in a score of 116-113 in favour of Eubank, whilst Marcus McDonnell (115-114) and Terry O’Connor (115-113) agreed that Saunders deserved to wake up on Sunday morning as champion.
Saunders is likely to go and challenge for the WBO world title against either Matt Korobov or Andy Lee, who will square off for the vacant belt on December 13th in Las Vegas. The Hatfield man even promised to give his nemesis a rematch if or when he wins world honours.
Eubank is expected to go on and again challenge for the British, Commonwealth and European titles, next time against Nick Blackwell.
Although the outspoken contender surrendered his undefeated record, he will be a better championship fighter because of the experience. He has now gone the full 12 rounds and he has stepped up in class and proven that he belongs at that level. Eubank in no way disgraced himself in London and he can take away a lot of positives.