LONDON -- Chris Eubank Jr. erased doubts about whether he could beat elite super middleweights by scoring a unanimous-decision victory over James DeGale on Saturday at The O2 in North Greenwich.
Eubank (28-2, 21 KOs) delivered his finest and most consistent display yet against his English rival, DeGale (25-3, 15 KOs), winning the fight on scores of 114-112, 115-112 and 117-109.
Eubank's power was a constant cause of concern for DeGale, who was knocked down in the second and 10th rounds.
The win thrusts Eubank into contention for one of the four world super middleweight titles but leaves DeGale's career in serious doubt once again. A former IBF world champion, DeGale said afterward that he might retire.
Eubank, who picked up the fringe IBO super middleweight belt with his best win yet, is ranked No. 3 by the WBC and No. 4 by the WBA. Another all-British fight against WBA champion Callum Smith could be appealing, but Smith has recently been linked to a move up in weight class.
Whatever Eubank decides, he will go with added confidence after a much better display than in last year's fight against George Groves, by whom he was comfortably beaten on points as he lost his WBA belt.
Eubank hopes this performance silences a few critics who said he was not good enough for the top level.
"A lot of people said I was going to lose, he was going to jab my head off, and I proved those people wrong," Eubank said. "Now it's belt season."
DeGale, 33, will be left considering his future after being dogged by shoulder, groin and Achilles problems in recent years. He lost the IBF world title on points to Caleb Truax in a big upset in December 2017, when he was attempting to make his fourth title defense. He won the belt back in the rematch last year but admitted after Saturday's defeat that retirement is an option.
"I'm going to go back and talk to my family, but I'm pretty sure that's it," DeGale said. "I've been to the heights in boxing.
"I just didn't do enough. When you have got someone like Chris in there punching you with punches you don't see, and I didn't do enough, he was nicking the rounds."
Eubank, 29, from Brighton, showed obvious improvement after working with a full-time trainer, American Nate Vasquez, for the first time in his professional career. Until this fight, Eubank had determined his own training schedule and relied upon the advice of his father, Chris Sr., who was a world middleweight and super middleweight champion in the 1990s, and veteran trainer Ronnie Davies.
Eubank was better for it and fought consistently from start to finish.
DeGale's early confidence was blown away by a huge second round from Eubank, and DeGale's legs quivered after he was caught by a chopping right and a left hook. Eubank seized on the opportunity, and another left sent DeGale staggering back into the ring post. Two more shots sunk DeGale in the corner for a count, and he was in trouble for the rest of the round. DeGale was quick to his feet and then started circling the ring trying to avoid more punishment.
The knockdown left DeGale cautious in the third round, as if he had been shocked and disturbed by Eubank's power.
DeGale was more confident in the fourth, but he finished the round back up on the ropes as Eubank unloaded a series of hooks.
After the early crisis, DeGale could not establish his jab or any distance between himself and Eubank, who came in looking to land single power shots.
Eubank reached the halfway point in control of the fight, whereas DeGale looked untidy with some of his work. DeGale was less than commanding with his jab and missed with a lot of shots, and Eubank caught him with a flurry of punches late in the sixth.
Eubank finished the eighth well, connecting with shots to the head as DeGale tried to backpedal his way out of trouble.
Eubank kept a habit of finishing rounds strongly, and it was DeGale who came off worse in an exchange in the 10th round, when he was sent tottering across the ring from a left hook. Eubank followed up and forced a count at the end of the round, though DeGale complained that he was hit on the back of the head.
Eubank lost his discipline in the 11th, when he was docked a point for throwing DeGale to the canvas, but by then the fight was beyond DeGale's reach. The last round was ferocious, and once again Eubank threw the heavier punches.