The most articulate and enigmatic fighter of his generation, the 26-year-old Brighton man continues to fascinate, attracting admiration and loathing in equal measure.
Supporters point to the manner in which he has achieved independence and power in a business where the best interests of the fighter are often of secondary importance. Detractors argue that for all his undoubted style he embodies all that is wrong with professional boxing, manipulating the system to suit his own purposes.
It is clear that he has taken few chances during his rise to prominence. His only opponents of note have been the Londoners Michael Watson and Nigel Benn: the rest have been carefully selected with the risk factor uppermost in the consideration of both the boxer and his benefactor, the promoter Barry Hearn.
Thornton, however, is no hand-picked fall guy. The WBO has made this a mandatory defence, the 33-year-old New Jersey puncher getting an unexpected opportunity when the top-rated American Tim Littles withdrew injured, and the second-ranked Benn elected to pursue the World Boxing Council crown held by the Italian Mauro Galvano.
It is unwise to place too much emphasis on the value of ratings, but the fact that Thornton is listed among the top three contenders by all four governing bodies suggests he has pedigree. He has won 31 of his 36 contests, and has a reputation as a big puncher, 14 of his 24 knock-outs coming inside the first two rounds.
Eubank, who appeared lethargic in his last outing, a dull points decision over the slippery American Ron Essett, has worked to improve his speed, sparring more than 100 rounds with Chris Pyatt, the former European lightmiddleweight champion.
He will need to stay on his toes against an opponent noted for a swarming, aggressive style. It promises to be an intense, gruelling affair which may become a battle of wills. If so Eubank, who has never been found wanting in terms of courage or commitment, should break Thornton's resolve sufficiently to retain his title on a late stoppage.
In the evening's other world championship contest, the local fighter, Pat Clinton, defends his WBO flyweight title against Hitchin's Danny Porter. The challenger is a competent opponent who deserves his chance, but Clinton's class should prevail.Reuse content