Avoided middleweight Nick Blackwell will be able to watch the upcoming British, Commonwealth and European title fight between Billy Joe Saunders and Chris Eubank safe in the knowledge that he will be next in line to face the winner.
Saunders and Eubank Jr clash on November 29 at the ExCeL Arena and Blackwell, the mandatory challenger for the British title, has been guaranteed a shot at the pretigious Lonsdale belt in the very near future.
“In addition to step-aside money, the British Boxing Board of Control have guaranteed that I’ll fight the winner of Saunders-Eubank Jr within 90 days,” he said. “If the winner doesn’t fight me, they will be forced to vacate the belt and I will be in pole position to fight for the vacant title.
“To be honest, I think, if Saunders wins, he’ll look at world titles. If Eubank wins, it would be wicked. I’d love to fight Eubank Jr. But I can’t see him beating Saunders unless Saunders takes shortcuts in training. If he’s at his best, Saunders will just outwork Eubank Jr.”
The fight is a fascinating one, that much is certain. And Blackwell, who has previously fought Saunders and sparred Eubank Jr, is as good a judge as any when it comes to picking a winner.
“It’s going to be a good, close fight, but Saunders has fought at a much higher level and is a naturally better boxer than Eubank Jr,” said the 23-year-old. “The only thing I worry about with Billy Joe is that he can be quite lazy in training sometimes. But I can’t see Billy Joe taking any shortcuts after all the talking they’ve both done. He won’t want to look stupid.
“Eubank Jr is a good talent but he hasn’t been tested yet. When he fights Saunders, he’ll be put in places he’s never been before. It’s going to come as a bit of a shock to him. Eubank Jr likes to fight at his own pace and Saunders won’t let him.
“Saunders has really good foot movement and he’s fast with his hands and combinations. He’s good at moving his head and being elusive. He’s a good, all-round boxer.
“Eubank Jr throws shots from weird angles and really loads up. He’s not a hard hitter, so he needs to load up and snap his shots. But he does have some nice, snappy shots.”
Blackwell has long been spoken about as a potential Eubank Jr opponent. Indeed, the fight has come close to being made on more than one occasion.
“It was ordered as a British title eliminator last year, but I sparred Eubank Jr around that time and gave him all he could handle,” said Blackwell. “Ronnie Davies, his trainer, said he’d only let Chris fight me if it was for big money and with a big belt on the line. I wanted the fight. They obviously thought it was too early for him, though.
“The fight then got offered to them a second time a little while later and I thought there was no way they could turn it down again. Then I’d really know he was ducking me. But that’s exactly what they did.
“I wouldn’t mind it if he ducked me and fought other good opponents who could test him. But, from what I’ve seen, he’s just been picking people to make himself look good. He fights guys I would have fought in the first few months of my pro career. He doesn’t learn anything from these fights. All it does is increase the hype.
“He’s publicised himself well, though, and he’s got his name out there. Now he’s got the fight with Billy Joe Saunders and I’m sure he’ll make decent money from it. He’s done well in that sense.”
Should Eubank Jr finally be forced into taking a fight he has previously shown no interest in taking, Blackwell has every confidence there will be only one possible outcome.
“I know Eubank Jr doesn’t like going at my pace and I know he doesn’t have the power to hurt me,” he said. “He knows that, too.
“I’m also much stronger than him. In fact, after we sparred, he came up to me and said, ‘Nick, how are you so strong? What sort of conditioning do you do?’
“I’d be 100% confident that I’d go in there and stop Eubank Jr.”