Eubank on a winning run since defeat to Groves
Smith will have majority of Manchester support
Super fit Junior to force stoppage in latter stages
Chris Eubank Jr v Liam Smith
Live on Sky Sports
This time it's for real
Saturday sees two former sparring partners clash in a hotly anticipated 12-round fight that will bring the curtain up on British boxing's 2023 schedule in style. Chris Eubank Jr meets Liam Smith with the pair trading headguards and 16oz sparring gloves for all-out war.
The outcome of this bout has kept fight fans guessing during the build-up. Many expected Junior to box Conor Benn in a re-arranged bout, but most insiders believe Eubank v Smith will be a better contest. Betting is available on the Betfair Exchange, and we preview the fight, flag up the value, and make our predictions.
Eubank is in a rush
Eubank Jr is already a decorated fighter and respected figure at both middleweight and super-middleweight. The 33-year-old from Brighton held the WBA interim middleweight title twice and the IBO super-middleweight title on two occasions.
Despite his pedigree, Junior is currently without a world championship belt and plans to change things before the end of the year. He must kick-off 2023 with a win and an impressive performance to stand any chance of achieving that.
He brings a professional record detailing 32 wins against two defeats, with 23 of those victories coming inside the distance. Both losses have been on the scorecards, edged out by rival Billy Joe Saunders in 2014 and George Groves four years later.
Since that defeat to Saint George - who has since retired - Eubank has won each of his six outings. That winning streak includes victories over James DeGale and Liam Williams, two UK rivals.
Will Eubank add Smith's name to his growing list of victims? You can have your say on the Betfair Exchange with generous odds available in the winner of the fight and many eye-catching specials. Back Eubank for victory at odds of 1.4640/85 or aim higher in the method of victory betting by backing another KO/TKO at 3.65, or if you prefer the points win, that's 2.285/4.
Smith on a winning run
Smith will enjoy good support on the night, with fans traveling from Liverpool to Manchester hoping to cheer their man to victory. Beefy will arrive on fight night with an eye-catching professional record of 32 wins, three defeats, and one draw, 19 KO victories and one loss suffered inside the distance. Saul Alvarez inflicted the spare in 2016, so we can cut him slack there. Smith did take Canelo nine rounds for the WBO super-welterweight title in the US.
Ranked number one in the United Kingdom and five in the world behind Jermell Charlo, Smith knows victory on Saturday would push him back toward the big-money fights.
Even if he was to lose to Eubank but put on a show that proves he's still a threat to the leading players, Smith will still have options. His talents and commitment are held in high regard, both in the UK and overseas.
Smith has won each of his last three by stoppage, taking out Anthony Fowler in round eight, Jessie Vargas inside 10, and finishing his most recent opponent, Hassan Mwakinyo, before the end of the fourth. Smith trades at 3.711/4 on the Exchange to secure a 33rd career win, with another KO/TKO 1110/1 and the points verdict 4.47/2.
Eubank's power will show
This is expected to be a competitive contest in Manchester that will entertain the fans to wish British boxing a happy new year. But Eubank will be too big and strong for Smith. He is a naturally heavier fighter, which will begin to show in the middle rounds when Junior gets to grips with Smith's style.
Both gladiators have proven themselves difficult to stop, but I'd be surprised if this one went the distance. Eubank, as well as the weight, reach and power advantages, is as fit as they come.
Neither man will have to go looking for the other, and Smith's style will make him perfect for Chris. Back Eubank to win by stoppage in the second half of the contest.