Malignaggi's Musings: Eubank Jr's capable of avenging Smith defeat

Most of the time, if the losing fighter has a rematch clause, he’ll take it, so it wasn’t a shock when Chris Eubank Jr announced he was exercising his for another fight with Liam Smith.

What was a shock was how easily Smith hurt him in January. In the past he’s shown himself to be very, very durable, and Smith’s not the level of puncher you’d expect to hurt a guy with that sort of chin, so I’ve wondered if making weight was what got to Eubank Jr.

That fight had been made to keep pushing Eubank Jr. Smith has been a champion and had a very, very good career, but though dangerous, before the fight he was looked at as past his prime. If Eubank Jr had struggled to make 160lbs then his energy levels and ability to take a punch would have been affected – struggling to make weight can weaken fighters in a number of ways.

His willingness to fight Conor Benn at 157lbs is interesting, and makes me wonder if Benn could have hurt him. By quickly going from one training camp into another Eubank Jr’s weight should have been more managed than it would have been if he’d taken time off, but if his weight was lower in preparation for fighting Benn and he decided to keep it lower than it normally would have been then that could have made the difference. Some fighters can’t hold their fighting weight for long without being weaker – some need to quickly make weight and quickly regain it. Activating his rematch clause means he’ll have to make weight again, but he’s the one who knows his body best.

We also can’t be certain how much he was affected by concerns surrounding his father Chris Eubank Sr’s mental health. Things happen with fighters, in the same way they happen with other people, and they can have those things on their mind from one training camp to the next. It’s possible Eubank Jr didn’t want to think about it but that constantly being asked about it kept it on his mind and made it a distraction.

Malignaggi's Musings: Eubank Jr's capable of avenging Smith defeat
I certainly don’t think his trainer Roy Jones Jr was the problem with his performance. Nothing in that outcome suggested a problem with his trainer, or stylistically, or anything that was different from before. There were no drastic changes imposed on him that he wasn’t comfortable with. He simply got hit and couldn’t recover. Even when Eubank Sr and Ronnie Davies, and not Jones Jr, were preparing him to fight Benn, it just seemed another case of Eubank Jr’s unpredictability.
It’s been said that his best performances came under Nate Vasquez, but he beat up a declined James DeGale, which perhaps was his best win, and beat Matt Korobov in a fight I thought was going to be very, very difficult, but when Korobov dislocated his shoulder. He still hasn’t performed at the very highest level, and he hasn’t been a world champion with one of the four recognised sanctioning bodies – but in the right circumstances he may still be able to.
Heading into a rematch I could still see Eubank Jr being stronger than Smith. If it was making weight that was the issue and it affects him again then we’ll see him get hit and hurt again, but if he makes weight the way he needs to and is more resistant to Smith’s attacks, his intensity and natural size advantage could trouble Smith, so I’m interested in seeing it.
This wouldn’t be a rematch like between Devin Haney and George Kambosos Jr, when Kambosos Jr’s style meant he couldn’t make the adjustments to be at Haney’s level. Smith-Eubank Jr II is a good fight, and barring somebody getting caught again is a good fight for a television audience.

The competitive streak in the losing fighter makes him want to get back and prove he’s better than he’s shown, but he may also be apprehensive, having been hurt. He may take a clean punch in a fight and overthink it, because he got hurt the last time he did. The circumstances, similarly, could help Eubank Jr as much as they could hinder him.

Malignaggi's Musings: Eubank Jr's capable of avenging Smith defeat
Smith will be confident that he can stop Eubank Jr again, and he deserves to be, but I don’t think he’ll see it as easy. He’ll know he’s again fighting someone who’s previously shown himself to be capable.
Rematch clauses, regardless, are a growing trend. I don’t remember hearing about them to this extent when Muhammad Ali or Ray Leonard fought. A rematch would develop on its own if it made a lot of sense and a lot of money. When Leonard lost to Roberto Duran, Duran wanted that rematch because the money was there. The market should demand these rematches - sometimes they’re moronic, and hold the sport back.
I can remember winning every round against Lovemore Ndou and having to give him a rematch because of a rematch clause, and we had to put it on the undercard of Ricky Hatton-Juan Lazcano because nobody wanted it as a main event. Nobody expected a difference in Haney-Kambosos Jr II, either.
This fight, though, is a good rematch – it’s not in that bracket. Anyone can get caught. It’s when somebody gets outclassed that rematches are moronic.
After another defeat people would talk about Eubank Jr like he’s finished. But until then, this is the kind of fight I want to see on TV.