Chris Eubank Jr takes to the ring this weekend as the new crown jewel of Sky Sports’ boxing coverage. The broadcaster intends to heavily promote the 30-2 middleweight as one of the marquee attractions of their re-jigged fight coverage. ‘Next Gen’ faces late sub Anatoli Muratov, after original opponent Sven Elbir tested positive for coronavirus.
Eubank Jr headlines the Wembley Arena card that also features a high-quality European welterweight title contest between David Avanesyan and Liam Taylor, as well as cruiserweight sensation Richard Riakporhe.
It is easy to see why Sky are banking on Eubank Jr. Not only is his father one of the greatest boxers this country has ever seen, but he has built a fine reputation for himself. He has only come unstuck at the highest level, losing to Billy Joe Saunders and George Groves and carries some very impressive wins. Victories over James DeGale, Arthur Abraham, Matt Korobov and Avni Yildirim suggest a world title win lies in Eubank’s future. He has held the lightly-regarded IBO bauble, as well as the WBA interim title, and is hoping a victory over Muratov can position him for a shot at either WBA super champion Ryota Murata or regular champion Erislandy Lara.
Eubank’s opponent, Anatoli Muratov, is ranked seventh in the world by the WBA. The reasons for this are unclear, as it would be charitable to even call his record mediocre. In their last five fights, his previous three opponents boast a cumulative record of 1-13-1. A late sub is a late sub, and Muratov deserves credit for stepping in at short notice. But the WBA deserves no such credit for having him anywhere near their top 10. Of course this is none of Eubank’s concern, you can only fight what is in front of you. As the WBA’s number one middleweight contender, a win here will only protect his ranking, and help him on his path to either Lara or Murata.
Alongside the innate marketability of a famous boxing son, and a fighter on the cusp of a world championship, Eubank Jr brings another coating of stardust with him on Saturday. Iconic four-weight world champion Roy Jones Jr will be in Eubank’s corner for the second time, having steered him to a 10-round decision over Marcus Morrison in May.
Great fighters do not always make great trainers, but it is impossible to be around a ring artiste of Jones’ calibre without learning something. One of the finest technicians of his day, the fighter they called ‘Superman’ was borderline unhittable in his glorious pomp. His presence as part of the Eubank Jr machine makes every step of the 32-year-old fighter’s career that much more fascinating.
Eubank Jr has said seeing his friend Anthony Joshua come unstuck against Oleksandr Usyk has made him more determined to realise his own dreams in the sport. For all his insistence that his two IBO title reigns should count as legitimate world championships, deep down the Brighton boxer knows they don’t. You do not pursue big fights with the hunger Eubank has in recent years if you feel your work is done. A victory over Muratov gets him a giant step closer, and while no win is a formality, you would expect him to beat the Kazakhstani comfortably.
Now fully out of the shadow of his incredible father, Chris Eubank Jr looks a world away from the fighter Saunders outscored in 2014. He has spoken of wanting revenge for a result that still haunts him, but the travails of his friend ‘AJ’ should serve as a warning. Do not look past your next fight. Eubank should put all his effort into turning back the challenge of Muratov on Saturday. Then, and only then, can he dream of world title honours and a possible Saunders rematch.
Betfred are offering 1/9 on David Avanesyan to beat Liam Taylor on the undercard. Taylor to win is 6/1, while you can get 20/1 on a draw.