FORMER undisputed world super-middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe is backing southpaw skills and a touch of class to prevail when James DeGale and Chris Eubank Jr collide this Saturday (February 23) in London.
That he is siding with DeGale, the southpaw with a touch of class, should come as no surprise, but Calzaghe, a classy southpaw in his own right, has seen enough of both to make a fair assessment and believes the discrepancy in natural size could also be a factor on fight night.
“It’s an interesting fight,” Calzaghe, who retired in 2008 with a 46-0  professional record, told Boxing News. “Eubank Jr has obviously come up in weight and based on his last big fight he has a lot to prove as a super-middleweight. James DeGale also has a lot to prove. Has he still got anything left in the tank?
“If I had to pick one, I’d probably go with DeGale, but it’s a close fight. Eubank Jr is a big puncher, and he’s younger and probably fresher at this point. I just think Eubank Jr is a bit predictable and can be outboxed by good boxers and bigger men and DeGale has always had good boxing skills. He’s also a southpaw and can be awkward when he wants. He should have enough left to outbox Eubank Jr. They’re both quality fighters but I just think DeGale has that touch of class.”
Calzaghe’s own touch of class saw him capture WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO versions of the super-middleweight title and go on to defend the latter some 21 times. Since his retirement, the division has breathed a sigh of relief, the belts have been widely distributed, and only Andre Ward and Carl Froch can claim to have left their mark at 168 lbs in Calzaghe’s absence.
“I still would have cleaned up and won all the belts,” said the Welshman. “Who are the champions? Nobody really knows.
“I’m impressed with [WBA champion] Callum Smith. He has one really well but it’s still early days for him. He’s got a long way to go and he needs to find himself in some big fights. So far, though, I’ve been really impressed by him. In his last fight [against George Groves in September], he was really impressive, and it makes me think he’s going to go on and do big things.
“The problem is, I don’t even know anything about the other champions. So, where are the big fights? You need some big-name opponents if you’re a champion.
“That was my weight division for so long. I’d love to see a superstar come along and really bring the division back into focus again. Maybe Callum Smith can be the person to do that, but he will need other good fighters to help him. I don’t see that happening at the moment.
“When you haven’t got any big names in the division and the belts change hands all the time, it’s very difficult to make the public care about what is going on in the division. It’s a bit sad, to be honest, because I do love the super-middleweight division.”
The feeling, one assumes, is mutual.
*** Twenty years ago, Joe Calzaghe and Robin Reid fought to a close split-decision in a WBO world super-middleweight title fight. The pair revisit the clash in this week’s Boxing News [digital, February 19; print, February 21] ***