Chris ‘English’ Eubank Snr talks us through his impeccable career, impeccable media conduct and code of the warrior in a highly insightful chat.
English on Part-Timers:
What you have in boxing is you have part-time fighters and full-time fighters. Part-timers are exposed as punks and phonies I was a full-timer.
If the call came to face Joe Calzaghe on 10 or 11 days notice, I didn’t think twice about taking it – a warrior doesn’t. I was in training to face Mark Prince at light-heavy, yes, but even then I only took that fight on two or three weeks notice after signing with Frank Warren during the September. Does that mean I only trained two or three weeks for Calzaghe? No, it means I trained 14 or 15 years for Calzaghe.
I always took every opportunity with both hands. Mark Breland – who was four times Golden Gloves champion at the time – in the Golden Gloves prelims in my first open-class contest; my 11th amateur fight. The Resorts International – where John Conteh fought his biggest fights on BBC1 when I was a kid in care homes – on two or three weeks notice for $400 to try to get signed by Bob Arum. Wembley on two or three hours notice for £300 to try to get signed by Mickey Duff.
The Logan fight on ITV on two or three weeks notice after 10 fights; the Simon Collins fight eight days before the Logan fight on two or three days notice. Taking Benn and Watson out when opportunity presented in there, the nations golden boys. The Sky deal which was eight fights in one year, for security and standard-bearing; being a proper champion. A world title chance up at cruiserweight out of the blue. The Calzaghe fight; which felt like winning the lottery, and so on.
It’s being true to yourself. And in being true to yourself, you receive respect from the masses when you’ve both done your winning and taken your beatings, and even more so if you are still behaving in a proper fashion and conducting yourself like a gentleman. Even if you don’t stand a prayer of winning – take your beating, do that or you’re a punk and a phony.
I got beaten to a pulp by a young Calzaghe firing on all cylinders. I was lying on the floor in the bathroom cubicle with Richard Branson kneeling down and consoling me for half an hour. I wasn’t the fighter I was at 25, because sports science suggests a sportsman reaches ones physical peak between the age of 22 and 28, but I got in there and stood toe-to-toe with him, and had him holding on at the end.
English on Benn-McClellan:
One of the biggest shocks in the history of boxing was Nigel Benn beating Gerald McClellan. You see, when you spar, it is full-contact; not semi-contact. You can tell when someone doesn’t spar full-contact because they punk out, they don’t want to be hit.
Nobody wants to be hit as such, but Nigel turned away from punches against Michael Watson at Finsbury Park; a cardinal sin in boxing, a full-contact sport; a location chosen knowing of which. I remember almost despising the behavior of it sitting ringside. He then stayed on one knee instead of getting up and carrying on. That’s punking out.
So how is this guy going to beat Gerald McClellan, the most heavy-handed Kronk style boxer-puncher there had ever been? Hypnosis, dementia, phenomena; he did it, and caused the opponent to do what he did against Watson. Shocking.
English on Behavior:
When did you ever see me or hear me or hear of me quit, swear, use illegal substances, be incarcerated, get knocked out, pull out of a fight, postpone a fight, relinquish a championship, reveal an injury, pretend to be hurt, drink alcohol as a professional athlete, look out of shape, look for a way out, make an excuse, be racial; I’m in actual fact the least phony that there’s been.
So in accordance with the critics, it is this: People do not throw stones at trees that do not bare fruit.
English on Beginnings:
November 30th, 1982 – I decided to get in shape. South Bronx, New York City. I didn’t have a tracksuit. So I ran in cornrow trousers, shoes and shirt – to Yankee Stadium and back, eight blocks there and back. I was sick the first time. As I increased the distance, my feet would bleed.
I started going to this gym on Westchester Avenue. Me and my mother lived on Melrose Avenue. After my first boxing session, I was sick again. I smoked my last cigarette, drank my last drink. I kept going back each day. I didn’t take a day off for 16 years, from the first day.
By February 1983, I decided to make boxing my way of life, because with boxing nobody else could let me down anymore; only I could let me down. It was not something I followed. I watched John Conteh and Kirkland Laing a few times, I watched Ali against Foreman. That was about it.
As I experienced or was educated in the negativeness and nastiness of boxing, my ultimate goal was to try to leave it a better place than I found it. And I believe I did. I was always speaking for the fighters themselves.
English on Dubai Venture:
I was out there for three months training in 100 degree heat, training myself away from my family and promoting the show myself.
I managed to secured Coca-Cola, the world’s greatest brand, as main sponsor after holding executive talks – a poor boy from Peckham. I managed to secure live TV screening in 150 countries, reaching a potential audience of 800 million. It was boxing history.
English on Son/Roy Jones Jnr:
I can’t relate to Christopher because I didn’t have his ability. I didn’t have his hand speed, natural movement, natural power, combination ability, physical strength, punching volume or ferocity. None of it. His natural punching ability and all around speed, I can’t relate. He’s a freak.
Roy Jones Jnr is the only one who can relate to that sort of ability. He’s a fabulous teacher for my son. And if Christopher was offered that Canelo fight, he’s a proper fighter because he’s long been taught my prerequisites and so will take it with both hands.
English on Best Ever:
The Mount Rushmore of boxing is this: Jack Jackson, Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson. Mike won’t agree with me, he won’t want himself there – but he was the biggest name on the planet and my personal boxing hero. The heavyweights are the giants, that’s just the way it is. Us little men stand on their shoulders to see further.
The three best fighters I’ve ever seen though are a young Roberto Duran, a young James Toney and a young Roy Jones Jnr. They are the best ever.
I believe I can be likened to Jack Johnson’s ability to catch jabs, Joe Louis’ ability to punch correctly, Jersey Joe Walcott’s ‘walk-off’ and ‘walk-in’, and my own unique ability to slip jabs by less than a centimeter rather than six or so inches, and to Johnson’s ability to trail blaze on the other side of the ropes.