Chris Eubank Jr will look to show continued improvement under Roy Jones Jr as he takes on domestic rival Liam Williams with a world title shot in sight… but his determined opponent is also longing to reach world level again
- Chris Eubank Jr and Liam Williams will finally get in the ring on February 5
- First scheduled for December 11, the enticing bout has been pushed back twice
- Eubank Jr is looking to progress towards a world title shot later in the year
- Williams is determined to bounce back after losing to Demetrius Andrade
Chris Eubank Jr can take another step towards a world title shot with victory over middleweight rival Liam Williams as the pair finally take to the ring on February 5 in an intriguing all-British dust-up.
The enigmatic fighter has shown clear improvement since partnering with trainer Roy Jones Jr but faces undoubtedly his toughest test yet under the stewardship of the legendary 53-year-old against a determined Welshman hell-bent on carving his own route to the top.
There have been verbal spars galore, both in person and online, during the build-up to the enticing event with seemingly genuine needle between the pair, needle that dates back circa 10 years, when the pair went toe-to-toe in an actual sparring session, ironically at Adam Booth’s gym.
Chris Eubank Jr (left) and Liam Williams (right) will finally go head-to-head on February 5
Around a decade after the swift but stormy encounter, Booth now finds himself in the center of the domestic grudge match, recently taking on the role of Williams’ trainer, while at the same time coaching Eubank Jr’s cousin Harlem, who’s also on the card. Safe to say the move hasn’t gone down well with Eubank Jr.
It only adds to the intrigue when the pair do eventually get in the ring in just under two weeks, in a fight that feels a long time coming, having been pushed back on two occasions.
Eubank Jr, 32, is coming into the prime years of his career and stands at the precipice of a world title shot, being the mandatory challenger for the WBA belt currently held by Ryota Murata – who will reportedly fight Gennady Golovkin in a unification fight this spring, after the pair’s initial bout was called of due to Covid.
As one of the central figures in Sky’s new Matchroom-less boxing regime, he now has the platform and backing to propel him towards stardom. And with newfound stability and direction under Jones Jr, having previously fluctuated between trainers, often training himself, perhaps also the ingredients to get there.
Inside the ring, 2021 was mostly a successful one for Eubank Jr, though also undeniably frustrating. He first in May showed real improvement with a measured, patient performance in an impressive points victory over Marcus Morrison in his first outing under his new trainer.
He then in October totally outclassed Wanik Awdijan having finally made it to ring, albeit two weeks later than planned, after initial opponent Sven Elbir tested positive for Covid and replacement opponent was taken out of the equation on fight day due to concerns over his medical records – all after his return was delayed having struggled with coronavirus himself.
A December showdown against Williams could have capped off the year perfectly, before it too was pushed back.
Eubank Jr showed improved calm and poise as he outworked Marcus Morrison in May 2021
He then totally outclassed Wanik Awdijan in five one-sided rounds five months later in October
Outside of the ring, 2021 was an extremely difficult year for the middleweight. He was left heartbroken after his brother Sebastian suddenly died in July of a heart attack while on the beach in Dubai, just a month after the birth of his son, Raheem.
In a social media post, Eubank Jr wrote: ‘I haven’t cried since I was 12 years old… yesterday I cried the whole day. I’m sorry I wasn’t there to watch your back like a big brother’s supposed to. Can’t believe you’re really gone man but you’ll always be in my heart, mind and spirit.
‘Now your legacy will live on through your beautiful new born son and I will treat him like my own. Watch over us until we meet again young lion. And to everyone out there reading this right now DON’T take ANY of your loved ones for granted. See them, speak to them, check up on them as much as you possibly can because you just never know if that one time will be the last time. Love you bro.’
Eubank Jr dedicated his win over Awdijan to his brother, with ‘Sebastian’ written on his shorts alongside an emblem of a lion to symbolise his boxing alias: ‘The Alka Lion’.
He now looks to put a year of frustration and pain to one side with a potentially massive 2022 ahead, starting with victory over Williams before a genuine mega-fight up next.
The Brit revealed towards the backend of last year that Golovkin is his No 1 target, but also indicated he would move up in weight to fight Canelo Alvarez. There are also possible bouts to be made with either Billy Joe Saunders, who beat him in 2014, or WBO champion Demetrius Andrade. The future looks bright – so long as he wins in February.
Eubank Jr posted an emotional tribute to his brother, Sebastian, who died in July of last year
Eubank Jr had his brother’s name embroidered on his shorts for his fight against Awdijan
Standing in Eubank Jr’s way is ‘The Machine’, who insists he has the style and ability to cause an upset.
‘We all know what his strengths and weaknesses are,’ Williams said of Eubank Jr at their press conference in November. ‘Anyone with a good jab and a bit of movement he’ll struggle with. If you stand in front of him with no head movement, he will punch holes in you. He’s very tough and durable.’
Crucially, after their first date was pushed back due to an injury suffered by Williams, the Welshman now insists he’s 100 per cent fighting fit and ready to go as he pushes towards his own dream of becoming a world champion.
The 29-year-old has held the prestigious Lonsdale belt both at super-welterweight and middleweight, but looked to jump up a number of levels as he took on Andrade while making his US debut in his sole outing of 2021.
Williams was clearly confident in the build-up to the event but fell short, having been hurt badly in the first round and dropped in the second, before showing great grit and determination to make it to the final bell. Though clearly losing via a unanimous decision, he did have some success throughout, rocking his American counterpart in the ninth.
Williams has since described Andrade (now 31-0) as the toughest opponent he has faced his career, but he proved he belongs at world level with the performance, having become mandatory challenger with a highly impressive seven-fight win streak, including over the likes of Karim Achour, Alantez Fox and Mark Heffron for the British title.
Williams fell short in his bid for a world title against WBO champion Demetrius Andrade
William’s upsurge in form came after a pair of 2017 defeats to Liam Smith at super-welterweight, since reinventing himself at middleweight. And after his defeat to Andrade, Williams will once again look to reinvent himself, this time with Booth in his corner.
The middleweight insists there was no falling out with former coach Dominic Ingle, but believes the change in trainers was essential for the sake of his career.
‘I’d become very stale in the gym with the things I was doing and the training methods,’ Williams told Boxing King Media. ‘I wasn’t enjoying it anymore – you can ask any boxer, if you’re not enjoying it, it makes the job 10 times harder. I was waking up every morning thinking, “S***, not another day of this”.’
He continued: ‘I’m with Adam now. He’s a fantastic trainer, I think he’s unbelievable.’
Regardless of the change in trainer, and though indeed a highly competitive and intriguing bout, it’s a fight most are expecting Eubank Jr to win.
Williams, 29, has changed trainers ahead of the fight, now working with Adam Booth (right)
It’s easy to forget that he claimed a career-best win over James DeGale in 2019, only for the outbreak of Covid to halt his momentum.
It’s also easy to forget that, in comparison to a DeGale, an Olympic gold medalist, or a George Groves, a double ABA champion, Eubank Jr had much less time in the ring as an amateur – and also much more pressure right from the off by virtue of his famous surname.
Boxing fans would have expected Eubank Jr to be further ahead than he is by the age of 32. But with the additional poise and increased boxing ability under the ‘genius’ Jones Jr, the Brit looks to be adding to his solid foundations, which largely consisted of an endless gas tank, furiously fast hands and a granite chin.
Before the middleweight rivals finally enter the ring in the main event, there will also be action in abundance on the undercard, most notably including Claressa ‘GWOAT’ Shields, who will be making her UK debut.
Shields will put her WBC, WBA and IBF middleweight titles on the line against the undefeated Ema Kozin, in most likely her final fight before an historic undisputed encounter against Britain’s Savannah Marshall.
Claressa Shields is also on the card as she builds towards a bout against Savannah Marshall
The American, 26, is yet to taste defeat in her 11 fights as a pro boxer, but did lose to Abigail Montes in her second MMA outing in October last year. Her one and only amateur loss in a boxing ring was actually inflicted by Marshall all the way back in 2012.
Dmitriy Salita, Shields’ promoter, insists a bout between the pair will be the biggest women’s boxing fight of all time.
Meanwhile, Caroline Dubois, sister of heavyweight star Daniel, will make her first professional outing on the undercard after signing for promotional team BOXXER.
There is high hopes for the 21-year-old prospect, who made the quarter-finals at the Tokyo Olympics, before losing out to Thailand’s Sudaporn Seesondee via split decision.
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