Chris Eubank Jr. Will Challenge Dmitry Chudinov for WBA Interim Title on February 28


    Chris-Eubank-JnrTwo of the UK’s most promising talents in Chris Eubank Jr. and Paul Butler are set to re-establish their pursuit for world honors within the first quarter of the new year.

    Eubank Jr. (18-1, 13 KOs) suffered his first professional loss in his last outing in an eliminator for the WBO middleweight title against domestic rival Billy Joe Saunders on the undercard of Tyson Fury vs. Derek Chisora on November 29th. The interest in that show, billed as “Bad Blood,”was largely driven by the rivalry between the two middleweights as opposed to the giants topping the bill, and Eubank Jr.’s promoter Frank Warren has done an excellent job in keeping the young gunner in the public eye after such a closely contested effort.

    In the UK the build-up to that clash was immense, with new videos being posted every other day from each man and their camps all adding fuel to a fire that was already roaring. Then there was the supposed cancellation of the fight by Eubank Jr. after he claimed he was being rushed in to signing a contract, then it was back on again. It all combined to take the anticipation levels high enough to make grown men giddy with excitement.

    The fight itself was unlikely to live up to the expectations that many dared to entertain and it didn’t. Billy Joe Saunders mostly controlled the opening half of the fight with a more deliberate punch selection than we are used to seeing and a good jab, something Eubank Jr. largely neglected as he failed to close the space between the pair without winging in wide hooks, and falling in an awful lot as he did so. However, as the fight progressed Eubank Jr. began to reveal the will and determination many suspected he had inherited from his father, and he turned the boxing match in to a dog fight. The closing stages were littered with wild and inaccurate attempts from both sides but it made for exciting stuff, and in the end Saunders managed to scrape past with a split decision win. Realistically, it could have gone either way.

    Now Eubank Jr is being rewarded for his efforts with an opportunity to claim the WBA interim middleweight title from holder Dmitry Chudinov (14-0-2, 9 KOs) at the O2 Arena in London, England on February 28th. Chudinov won the belt two fights ago with a unanimous decision over then-undefeated Patrick Nielson in Russia, only two fights after a points decision victory over a British domestic-level fighter in Max Maxwell, now retired. His quality of opposition looked unimpressive overall until his last win in which he stopped Mehdi Bouadla in three rounds back in September, a fighter who only seems to get beaten when he steps up against the likes of Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham and Gennady Golovkin. If Chudinov turns out to be anywhere as good as those three, Eubank Jr. is in for another long night.

    This is a very wily move from Frank Warren. If Eubank Jr. gets over this hurdle he will have arrived on the title scene. The interim belt is the lowest rung on a three-tired system implemented by the WBA, and so essentially works as a qualifier for title fights against those ranked immediately above him in regular champion Danny Jacobs and super-champ Gennady Golovkin. He is in amongst the big boys now and only time will tell if he can make up for the shortfalls he displayed in his last match and make himself comfortable at the top.

    Forty-five pounds south and we arrive at the super-flyweight division, where an excellent little scrapper from Elsmere Port will look to capture a second world title one weight division down from where he won his first.

    Paul Butler (17-0, 8 KOs) won his world title against bantamweight champion Stuart Hall in June of last year in his opponents home town. Butler was clearly outsized to a huge degree but with an impressive punch variety and the high output so prevalent in the smaller weight classes, he got the split-decision verdict in hostile territory.

    Following that milestone victory Butler’s gravy train has been stuttering trying to maintain momentum it seems, as he dropped back down to super-flyweight and continued his winning ways with a points win against the unimpressive Ismael Garnica over ten rounds in October. There have been various injuries and postponements and decisions to be made over what weight is best for him, but now that everything looks to be decided and they’ve put him in tough.

    He will face Zolani Tete (19-3, 16 KOs) in a bout scheduled for March 6th at the Echo Arena in Liverpool, England for the IBF championship, and just by looking at Tete’s record you can see it won’t be an easy ride. The South African southpaw has an impressive knockout ratio and has traveled away from home in four of his last six fights, including his last where he won the title by dominating every round against Japanese scrapper Teiru Kinoshita. In Japan.

    Paul Butler has the ingredients to become a huge star in the UK and the talent to make an impact on the world stage thereafter. He has that approachable air that is essential for Brits to relate to and he has skills to burn. Butler is the latest of a crop of smaller stars to emerge on this side of the pond with super-bantamweight belt holders Scott Quigg and Carl Frampton both amassing huge followings over here, though the jury is still out stateside.

    With Eubank Jr. and Butler we see two fine athletes on the precipice of massive success, and Frank Warren with his promotional guile has gotten the pair fights that will surely amount to progressive steps for both of them. It would be too easy for Eubank Jr. to drop back down in levels and continue to destroy ill-suited opponents as he was before the Saunders fight, but credit must be given for an obvious will to improve. For Butler, the lack of depth in his division on home soil has necessitated a more international flavor in his opponents up to now. This has almost certainly aided his development and from what we’ve seen so far, we can expect him to continue the trend he is currently on, though again, this one will be difficult.