The British boxing calendar kicks off with a box office blockbuster this Saturday when Chris Eubank Jr squares off with former world champion Liam Smith at the AO Arena in Manchester.
The pair will collide over 12 rounds with no margin for error as both men look to secure world title fights with victory. One fighter has tasted glory on the world stage, as the other has come close but not reached the top as we document the road to this huge 50/50 domestic dust-up.
Eubank Jr is still in search of world title glory but has certainly made a name for himself since he made his pro debut in 2012.
Eubank Jr tore through the division and would be undefeated for 18 fights. Eubank went for his first titles when he challenged Billy Joe Saunders for the British, Commonwealth, and European middleweight titles in 2014, Eubank Jr came up short on this night, but wouldn’t let it hold him back as he picked up the WBA ‘interim’ title with a 12th round TKO victory over Dmitry Chudinov next time out.
The Brighton man picked up the British title three fights later as he defeated Nick Blackwell, Eubank Jr defended the title once against Tom Doran, before looking to step up to world level. Eubank Jr became IBO super middleweight champion in his next bout, defeating Renold Quinlan. Eubank Jr went on to defeat Arthur Abraham, a win that secured him a place in the World Boxing Super Series.
Eubank Jr reached the semi-final of the series after a big knockout victory in the quarter-final over Avni Yildirim. Eubank Jr’s semi-final opponent would be WBA champion, George Groves. Eubank Jr came up short on that night and was handed the second loss of his career. Eubank Jr came back to defeat JJ McDonagh before securing a career-best win over former world champion, James DeGale.
Eubank Jr looked to continue momentum following his victory over DeGale and did so as he became WBA ‘interim’ champion for a second time as he stopped Matvey Korobov in two rounds following an injury to Korobov. A wide points win over Marcus Morrison followed, before a fifth-round stoppage of Wanik Awdijan.
Last time out, Eubank Jr entered enemy territory as he travelled into Cardiff to take on tough Welshman and domestic rival, Liam Williams. Eubank Jr dominated Williams, dropping him four times on his way to a wide points win.
The Brighton man was set to reignite one of the biggest rivalries in British Boxing history when he was pencilled in to collide with with the son of his fathers nemesis, Conor Benn. However, an adverse finding in Benn’s drugs test led to the fight being cancelled on fight week.
Liverpool’s Smith comes from a fighting family and looks to reach the pinnacle of the sport again.
Smith is one of four brothers who box, as his brothers, Callum, Paul and Stephen have all stepped through the ropes. Smith’s professional debut came in 2008, and he made a statement on the domestic scene when he defeated Erick Ochieng in his 16th fight to become British super welterweight champion.
After two successful defences, ‘Beefy’ embarked on gate-crashing the world rankings, as he defeated Zoltan Sera in three rounds to pick up the WBA Continental title. Smith headed down the WBO route, as he stopped David Ezequiel Romero in seven to pick up the WBO Inter-Continental title to line himself up for a world title shot.
Demetrius Andrade had vacated the WBO super welterweight world title and Smith would be in line to face John Thompson for the vacant belt. Smith grabbed this opportunity with both hands as he stopped Thompson in seven rounds to become world champion in Manchester. Smith returned to the arena in which he defeated Thompson for his first defence against Jimmy Kelly.
Smith almost mirrored his title-winning performance as he also got Kelly out of there in seven rounds. Smith got to defend the belt in his hometown next and would put on a show as he stopped Predrag Radosevic in three rounds in front of a raucous Liverpool crowd.
Smith’s toughest test came next, as he travelled to Texas to defend his world title against the pound-for-pound superstar, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez. Smith was handed the first defeat of his career but would be commended for his valiant effort against Canelo.
An all-British rivalry would be born next, as Smith faced the tough Welshman, Liam Williams on his return. The pair put on a great battle but the fight was stopped when Williams was controversially pulled out due to a cut. The pair ran it back next and Smith would get the victory again as he got the majority decision.
Smith landed a shot to win back his WBO title next as he would travel to Las Vegas to take on the new champion, Jaime Munguia. Smith came up short on the cards to be handed the second defeat of his career.
Smith returned to fight in Liverpool next, as he faced Sam Eggington for the WBC Silver title. Smith got the job done in five rounds as he looked to embark on another quest to world title glory. Victories on the road against both Mario Lozano and Roberto Garcia moved Smith closer to another world title shot.
Smith travelled to Russia to take on the undefeated Magomed Kurbanov. Smith controversially found himself on the wrong side of a unanimous decision but this did not hold Smith back as he bounced back to stop local rival, Anthony Fowler in eight rounds in an impressive display.
Smith then travelled to Madison Square Garden to face former world champion, Jessie Vargas. ‘Beefy’ became the first man to stop Vargas after a tremendous performance which culminated in a seventh-round stoppage.
Following the victory over Vargas, ‘Beefy’ changed his promotional team, leaving Matchroom for BOXXER. His first fight under the new banner saw him headline in his hometown yet again, as he defeated Hassan Mwakinyo with a bizarre stoppage in the fourth round.
You could say these two have been on a collision course to face each other, and the rivalry has been bubbling as we saw on The Gloves Are Off. One thing that is for certain is that the styles these two warriors bring to the table almost guarantee an absolute barnburner.
The fight takes place at the AO Arena in Manchester, but if you aren’t making the trip, the fight will be available on Sky Sports Box Office in the UK and DAZN in the US.