Ahead of Saturday’s unmissable ‘Bad Blood’ grudge fight between Billy Joe Saunders and Chris Eubank Jr, boxing writer Glynn Evans canvassed 25 of boxing’s ace faces to find out who they were backing.
Don Charles (London coach): I go with Billy Joe Saunders on points. Eubank Jr is very good – in fact I can’t detect any weaknesses – but I just feel it’s a fight too soon for him.
It’s about levels. Billy Joe has a champion’s mentality and also has a very experienced, very able trainer (Jimmy Tibbs) to steer him from the corner and I think that could be vital.
Eubank’s chances would improve if (coach) Ronnie Davies was allowed to do his thing but I fear his hands are tied and Chris Junior’s dad interferes. Senior was a great fighter but hasn’t trained anyone yet in a big fight.
Also if Billy Joe was able to withstand the assaults of John Ryder, I feel he’ll withstand whatever Eubank Jr is able to bring.
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Bradley Skeete (British welterweight challenger): Eubank Jr is a right sausage so there’ll be a proper drama if he pulls off the upset. I think that’s unlikely to happen.
Recently, when I was sparring Andy Lee, Adam Booth (Lee’s coach) told me Eubank held his own in spars with George Groves so he must have something about him.
But Billy Joe has a far stronger amateur pedigree and has fought at a much higher level as a pro. He’s come through the right way. Southern Area, British, Commonwealth, European. Unlike Eubank, he’s done the 12 round trip plenty of times and his last three opponents were all unbeaten.
I don’t think he’ll stop Eubank but, provided he doesn’t get drawn in, and sticks to his boxing, Billy Joe will win convincingly on points.
Romeo Romaeo (unbeaten super-feather prospect): I’m with Eubank Jr. He’s got better skills and he’s fitter; a real athlete. I think he’s quality and so was his dad.
I don’t see much to admire in Billy Joe Saunders. I don’t rate his style. He just marches forward and tries to go toe-to-toe. He just likes to scrap. He’s not my cup of tea.
After a good 12 round fight I see Eubank winning a wide points decision.
Brendan Ingle (Sheffield trainer): Saunders will win. He can box, hit and he’s clever. I think he has the ability to even stop the other fella.
It’ll be exciting. Young Eubank is a good fighter and I expect him to come through eventually. His father has all the achievements and knowledge to guide him but, at this stage, he needs more time to develop. He’s not in Saunders class just yet.
Terry Flanagan (British lightweight champion): I like Billy Joe Saunders. He’s trained very hard for this and he’s got more experience. Eubank Jr is class and can bang but, provided Billy Joe has his right head on, he can edge it on points in a fight that’s part cagey, part war. He’ll be too clever and will box his ears off.
Steve Collins (ex two weight world champion): I really can’t decide. I think both are great for the game. It’s going to be much closer than originally I thought it would be. A lot will depend upon who sticks to their game plan on the night.
Eubank Jr has looked very impressive in sparring of late, very powerful. I’d not be at all surprised if he took Billy Joe out. But it looks a jump too far.
I have to sway marginally to Billy Joe Saunders. He has the tools, the experience, the ring craft to steal it on points. But he’ll need to stay on the back foot. If he opts to go toe-to-toe, I think Eubank will do him.
Gary Lockett (Welsh trainer/ex world middleweight challenger): If you place my head on the chopping block, I’ll go with Billy Joe but it’s not a confident pick.
I don’t like Eubank Jr’s arrogance. I like to see respect given to all fighters and several times he’s let himself down. But though he’s not been beyond round eight, I don’t think the Eubanks would have taken this fight unless they were very confident of winning.
Between the ropes, Chris Jr is very cool, calm and confident in his ability, never flustered. That said, he’s not fought anyone yet.
For the sake of boxing, I hope it’s a really good fight. You have to go with the man with the experience. Saunders is a proven force who’s been through the trenches with the likes of John Ryder and Nick Blackwell. He should win, probably on points.
James Cook (London trainer/ex European super-middleweight champion): I go with Billy Joe Saunders. I think this has come too soon for young Eubank. He’s improving but he’s not up there yet. He needs to face an acid test before going up against someone as accomplished as Saunders.
What I don’t like about Junior is how he tries to be a carbon copy of his dad who could really fight. Chris senior could really punch and really take a punch. Junior has different qualities and needs to settle into his own style. If he continues trying to mimic his dad he’ll soon get found out.
Billy Joe is keen, works hard and puts his punches together impressively. He’s got a great heart, no fear, and real all round ability. I expect him to know too much and win on points in a very good fight but it’s only a 60-40 pick.
Lewis Pettitt (world rated super-bantamweight): Eubank Jr is decent but I don’t like his arrogance. No need. He’s not boxed at Billy Joe’s level so needs to show more respect.
Saunders has boxed at a far higher level and I think he’ll be too experienced. He’s a slick southpaw who can also have a fight. If he gets drawn into a brawl next weekend he could have a hard night or even get beat but his skills are incredible and I expect Saunders will outbox Eubank and win on points.
Steve Robinson (former world featherweight champion): I’m expecting a really good fight. Eubank Jr is probably a bit stronger and he hits very hard, especially with those uppercuts. He’s also a bit of a character who seems to get under a lot of people’s skin but that generates interest and is good for the game.
However, he lacks experience. That’s where Saunders has the big edge. He’s a skilful unorthodox southpaw with good variety and that should take him to a points victory.
Jack Catterall (unbeaten light-welterweight prospect): Eubank will win by stoppage. I’ve seen him sparring in the gyms and I’m really impressed with his raw strength. Even though he’s not fought anyone, I’m expecting him to win by knockout.
He’s hard to like away from the ring but he’s cool and calm inside and when he explodes, he’s got good gears. He’ll have too much for Saunders in what should be a cracking fight.
Nick Blackwell (ex British middleweight challenger): I’ve fought and sparred Billy Joe and also sparred Eubank five or six times so I’m well positioned to analyse this.
Eubank hasn’t fought anyone near Billy Joe Saunders’s level. Neither are ‘one punch’ bangers but I give Chris the edge in power. However, he really loads up. The more we sparred, the more I started to get on top. In our last spar I was pushing him back and beating him up.
Billy Joe is a lot better technically, has better footwork, plus an edge is speed and work rate. He punches in snappy combos and, whereas previously he’s only trained at 50%, he’s really licked himself into shape for this, over in Spain.
It might start like a chess match but Billy Joe will gradually take Eubank to places he’s not been before; outbox him and make him look silly. If Eubank is as tough as his old man, he’ll not get stopped but Saunders will win clearly.
Clinton Woods (former world light-heavyweight champion): A few choice things have been said between them, so it has to be a good fight. They don’t like each other, do they?!
Eubank Jr looks the part and is good to watch but he’d be better off without his father interfering. And you have to question the calibre of opposition he’s been beating. No one has had a go back at him yet. Saunders will.
Billy Joe is very clever, doesn’t get hit much and has beaten better competition. On experience, I’ll go with Saunders, probably on points.
Barry Jones (former world super-featherweight champion): Chris Eubank Jr has looked fearsome against poor opposition. He’s definitely blessed with power but he’s not had a competitive fight yet because he doesn’t fight competitive opposition; just survivors.
Therefore, you have to go with the proven man and that is Saunders. Billy Joe has got to be smart and stop his heart ruling his head but he’s got tremendous movement that will keep him out of trouble and enable him to bag the decision.
Frank Buglioni (leading super-middleweight prospect): Billy Joe by mid to late round stoppage, definitely. It could even be earlier. I think it’ll be very one sided. Billy will have way too much from the opening bell.
I know his diet has been spot on and he’s in the best condition ever because of how much this fight means to him; how motivated he is. He really, really hates Eubank Jr.
There’s a lot of hype surrounding Eubank Jr but I’ve not seen anything to suggest it’s justified. His offense might be good but he doesn’t appear to have a great defence when under fire. Whenever I’ve seen him spar, he does three or four rounds at a fair clip then jumps out. Twelve rounds is a long, long road.
Because of his class, people forget that Joe is a natural fighter who can go to war. I don’t think Eubank will land on him. Bill’s strength and fitness will be way too much. He’ll make Eubank miss, frustrate him, then put him to bed.
Liam Smith (British light-middleweight champion): You’ve got to go with Billy Joe. He’s just better all round. He’s far more experienced; has had more rounds in harder fights against better opposition. Motivation is another key factor here; he’ll raise his game to new levels.
People seem to be giving Eubank a chance because Saunders hasn’t performed great of late. I don’t like Eubank Jr’s antics but he could be a very good fighter. We simply don’t know.
He was probably matched harder in his first ten fights than his last eight. Of late, he hasn’t needed to think. How will he react when the chips are down? He’s never come from behind in a fight yet. We’ll find out exactly how good he is after he’s shared a ring with Billy Joe Saunders.
Because of all the needle there should be a tremendous atmosphere and it should be a great battle but I think Saunders wins clearly on points.
Adam Booth (London coach): For me, it’s a genuine 50/50 fight but I’m going to go with Junior to take over in the second half and outlast him. But to win, Eubank has to stop him. He has to ‘go for it’.
A lot will depend on Billy Joe’s conditioning. He’ll probably outbox Junior for the early part but can he sustain it over 12 rounds?
Despite his lack of experience, Christopher has a lot going for him. He has a lot of fighting energy. If he can cope with Saunders’ quick jab and hand speed, he’ll spring an upset.
Colin McMillan (former world featherweight champion): It’s a tough one that has me swaying back and forth. Both will really be up for it.
Right now, I edge ever so slightly to Saunders. He has a bit more pedigree. He’s proven on a higher plane. He’s a real fighting man with terrific natural speed and movement, plus he’s a southpaw. That’s always a huge advantage
Though we hear stories of Eubank Jr more than holding his own in spars with Carl Froch and George Groves, I believe this fight has possibly come a couple of fights too soon for him. Still, he’s quite a character, very confident. He’s got very fast hands, hits quite hard and is a vicious finisher.
The fight could go so many different ways. It could be an absolute stinker but there’s a lot on the line here and both are talking up a good fight. I doubt it’ll disappoint.
I expect Saunders to capitalise on his edge in speed to outbox Eubank over 12 rounds.
Mitchell Smith (English super-featherweight champion): If they were still amateurs, there’s no way this fight would be accepted. Eubank simply isn’t up to the standard, hasn’t earned the right to be challenging for the European title, contesting a world eliminator.
He looks very strong, very fast but he’s got his shot through his mouth, not through his boxing. He’s not even fought at Southern Area level yet. He’s jumped the queue because of his name. It’s pathetic.
It might be close and cagey for a few rounds. To have any chance, Eubank will need to dictate the pace but he likes to admire his work.
Saunders won’t let him. Once he finds his distance and timing he’ll dominate the pace and be very hard to beat. Billy Joe has the skills and experience to force a late stoppage.
John Breen (Belfast trainer): I like Billy Joe Saunders on points. He’s the better prepared, more professional fighter. He’s been in harder fights against far better opposition. Frank Warren has done a great job getting him the right fights and he’s only going to get better.
Eubank Jr listens to his dad too much. He’s just been beating nobodies. He’s similar to his father but not as strong. He wants to forget about playing to the gallery.
The crowd will help make it a great fight, great occasion, just as it always was when Eubank Snr fought. It’ll be competitive but Billy Joe has the tools and experience to change tactics. Eubank’s not been taught too much and there’ll be stages when he’ll not know what to do.
Jason Rowlands (Essex trainer): The crowd will help make this a great fight. Personally, I hope Bill pulls it off but it’s a fight he doesn’t need. Also he’s a bit smaller and always appears a bit fleshy. A lot will depend whether Bill stays in front of him or deploys his clever movement.
Eubank has just got something about him and he’s improving with every fight. You never know what’s going to happen with him. He’s a natural puncher, particularly with the uppercut which is always a good shot against the southpaw. He’s got long arms, good leverage and can cause a lot of damage. I’ve got a funny feeling that Eubank Jr is going to edge it.
Dominic Ingle (Sheffield trainer): This fight is a bit like the first Nigel Benn- Chris Eubank Snr fight in 1990. We knew nothing about Eubank Snr beforehand. He was a huge underdog and shocked us. His son is good, has an awkward style but shows flaws. Tyan Booth boxed his ears off for four rounds, couldn’t miss him.
I don’t read too much into his successes sparring Carl Froch and others. I know Carl was just breaking into sparring. It wasn’t as though it was a week before a fight.
It’s a very interesting fight and should be good to watch. Eubank definitely has the unconventional style to cause Saunders problems. But Billy Joe is more consistent and has done more rounds against slightly better kids so should win on points.
Herol ‘Bomber’ Graham (ex three time world title challenger): It’s a very intriguing fight. Both dislike each other, both need the win so we can expect a real hard battle with someone getting stopped. We’ll find out who wants it more.
I’ve sparred Eubank Jr. I tried to help him but he didn’t want to listen. He’s a bit tricky. He messes around trying to do his daddy’s stuff but it doesn’t always come off for him.
Billy Joe’s not a bad boxer but I expect him to try to batter Eubank, blew him away. Southpaws need to move in the opposite direct and throw the right hand. It’ll land every time.
But Billy Joe doesn’t sit back so he will get caught. I’m going for Eubank to nick it in a hard fight.
Brian Lawrence (London coach): I think Billy Joe will have way too much for Eubank Jr. He’s proven himself.
Eubank Jr hasn’t fought anybody. His record is padded and this is a big, big step up. He brings a lot of hype but I don’t really rate him. He’s got quick hands but that’s about it. Technically, he’s alright but there are a lot of flaws. He’s very wild, makes far too many mistakes.
There’s only one winner. Billy Joe is a very good southpaw and they’re always hard to beat. He could win by late stoppage but, if nothing else, I think young Eubank is probably quite tough, so more likely Saunders wins easily on points.
Stuey Hall (former world bantamweight champion): I lean to Billy Joe Saunders just coming through on points. He’s more experienced and has fought better opposition over 12 rounds.
Eubank Jr looks a good talent and has blown out a lot of opposition. I expect it to be cagey for a few rounds, then Eubank to try to put it on Saunders. It’s possible he could take the champion out.
But he’s yet to be tested and Billy Joe has a lot of skill and experience. That should be enough.