Christopher Livingstone Eubank started boxing in New York in the 80s, and by late 1990 had seemingly come out nowhere to appear as an England-based challenger to Brit bad boy Nigel Benn (after a fight with Sugar Ray Leonard fell through for Miami-based Benn in America). Opposites who didn’t attract, it created the greatest rivalry in UK boxing history.
It made Eubank Snr, who never looked back. Talkshow appearances, newspaper back pages, magazine covers, television deals, you name it. He is still reverred in European and World Boxing. So who better than to talk fighting technique and training?
On the left hook
The left hook is the most difficult punch to learn, yet perhaps the most damaging of all, other than maybe a perfect right uppercut. Maximo Pierret, who trained some of the great Dominican fighters of the 70s and 80s, took me on for about a week at Jerome gym in the Bronx and told me I threw the left hook like a girl.
This was August 1985 after I signed professional a few days after my 19th birthday, which was because my mother had to pay a $250 phone bill I ran up which was more than she earned in a week; which made me physically sick. I became a man after that. I had only sparred my first eight-rounder at 17. I was determined to pay my mother the money back as soon as possible.
But not until I was able to demonstrate a correct left hook could I accept my first fight, because Maximo wouldn’t train me and he was the one I wanted as my trainer.
Owing my mother served as motivation for me to practice the left hook over and over and over, for two or three weeks, every day on its own, for ages in the corner of the gym on my own. I had to get my feet right, the angle of my arm and so on. Next time Maximo took me on the pads, I turned my hook over and accepted my first fight.
Johnny Bos had introduced me to Ron Katz, my matchmaker, who would scout at gyms around Philly for opponents for NYC prospects. I got the lowdown on Tim Brown and then each of my next opponents beforehand; their particular styles, strengths and backgrounds and so forth and prepared accordingly, using sparring partners to match and so on.
My purse was $500 for that debut fight at the Atlantis Hotel, but 10% went to Maximo and 30% to my manager and mentor Adonis Torres. In fight four, it was a tough fight against Eric Holland who came forward relentlessly in what is called Philly Shell; the first three rounds were close, then I got my jab working so got him measured for a correct left hook to floor him and cement me the decision.
The left hook can be a vital punch, almost as vital as the jab itself; which sets up everything. It took me another three or four years to have the left hook fully mastered. It had taken me two years from December 1st 1982 to have the right hand down properly – practicing it seven days a week – and progress me through to victory of the Spanish Golden Gloves.
I took a year out of pro rings after fight four to focus on my studies – graduating high school and qualifying as a secretary; for peace of mind, and a year out of pro rings after fight five – vs an unexpected southpaw – in order to learn how to fight a southpaw properly, reach black belt standard in karate/tai chi and develop my own style of foot movement for boxing.
On sweet science
Remember, boxing is a game of centimeters and inches. At first, you punch with almost an exaggerated pivot; once you get that down, the pivot becomes more subtle, and eventually almost non-existent. By that I mean that the movement becomes so minimal it is almost unseen.
If your right hook is harder than your left hook and you’re right-handed and fight orthodox, there is something very wrong. Benn for instance! Fundamentally flawed, as ferocious and awesome as he was. Similarly, Joe Calzaghe was a southpaw and his left hook was harder than his right hook – I wasn’t gifted enough to get away with such flaws.
If my elbow wasn’t up, I had no power; unlike the aforementioned. Another point of cue is your elbow should land if a left hook misses! You are pivoting your body weight.
That’s top tier technique. To start from your big toe is tiers above starting from your hips, and takes thousands more hours. To start from your elbow is tiers below starting from your hips, and takes thousands less hours. The tiers between those are foot and shoulder.
Now, there are levels in boxing. This Eric Holland who I knocked down never went down again in a very long career, but he never fought at world championship level. The left hook I dropped Holland with in the final round was used with an exaggerated pivot, which wouldn’t of worked against Nigel Benn for instance – it would’ve been countered and I would’ve been knocked over.
But by the time I fought Benn in 1990, my left hook was now so short that I was able to counter the lightning Benn with it at breakneck speed and very nearly stop him from the effects of its power, towards the end of the second round.
I had been taught, and learned, practiced, revised, reviewed, repeated, mastered and streamlined everything. Twice a day, seven days a week for years and years and years. Down to a fine art. That’s how you get to the top level if you’re not as naturally gifted as your peers. Repetition, repetition, repetition.
Watson, Benn, Calzaghe, Wharton, Rocchigiani and Collins threw wide or long punches but had the natural one at a time speed and awkwardness to live with me, as well as the intangibles like physical strength and resolve and stamina and persistence. I couldn’t waste my perspiration like them. I wasn’t a natural fighter or natural puncher.
On head movement
I was taught by Puerto Ricans and Dominicans that the smaller and lesser the movement you use, the better. That goes for weaving as well as punching. When you first learn to weave, it’s like you’re drawing a long smile through the air with your head, but when you master it there is hardly any body motion to see.
It’s not moving as a pendulum, be it a vertical pendulum side to side like Mike Tyson or a horizontal pendulum up and down like Nigel Benn. Try to create circles with your weave. And as you become more skilled, the circles are becoming smaller and smaller. You’re just dipping subtly. It takes years.
There are fighters you might not have heard of – Wilfred Benitez, Wilfredo Gomez; search these gentlemen on YouTube to see them evade combinations and you might think the opponent, be it Thomas Hearns or whomever, is missing purposely! That’s how good they are, that’s top tier.
Or me against Joe Calzaghe in about the second, third or fourth round when the pace slowed for a bit and a blistering cluster wouldn’t touch me as I barely appear to move. My knees and reflexes had eroded, so I called on my experience from New York.
Head movement is probably the greatest and most unique art of boxing. I’ve not seen it in any other fighting art. Not in wrestling/BJJ/judo, in muay thai/kickboxing, kung fu… So many of these arts are fantastic and creative at attacking, but none offer anything as beautiful as the art of head movement.
On boxing politics
I thought I beat Steve Collins the first time, in his backyard of course, but that was Karma for me getting the decisions against Benn and Schommer for my aggression and Collins not getting the decisions for his aggression against this Johnson and this Kalambay, in their backyards.
There’s good luck and bad luck, there’s judges who score on boxing and there’s judges who score on aggression. Iran Barkley for instance would’ve got the decisions against Duran and Nunn respectively had they preferred aggression.
Then there’s hometown politics, like Graciano Rocchigiani losing out to his fellow countrymen because the Germans didn’t want a person of a bad boy reputation representing them, when he beat them both up and knocked one out, and the WBC probably not wanting that either at the time.
On Nigel Benn
The most ferocious man we’ve ever seen.
On Carl Froch
A warrior. A sweetheart. A great. However, he was ungainly in the ring; he didn’t show me the finesse he’d of needed to compete with James Toney, Michael Nunn and myself. Carl wouldn’t mind me saying that because Carl is a gentleman.
On Ricky Hatton
We admire him because he defied the universal law that you shouldn’t be able to achieve your dreams by being like your mates. In that respect, one in a million. Along with Frank Bruno and Nigel Benn, he could’ve done with Sunday school.
On Bernard Hopkins
He inspired me to get back in fighting shape, because I looked at his age and that he was doing what I did in my youth, and thought to myself ‘If he can do it, why can’t I?’. Talk of Benn III was merely motivation for me to stay in shape so I can jump from high ridges into water in the year 2035.
On Mike Tyson
Misunderstood. I consider it one in a million luck that I had Sunday school through my mother. I visited Mike a dozen times in prison because I felt almost guilty that I had the commandments, prerequisites and correct code to behave taught through Sunday school and he didn’t, like I had a duty to lift his morale.
He inspired me to become a world champion boxer, so I tried inspiring him to become a reformed role model for youngsters and himself. I owed him that but I’m only a man – he needed Sunday school.
On Frank Warren
I advice any top prospects from the United Kingdom to go with him – he’ll get you the world title shots, and he can keep you world champion for 20 years if you’re really good! Guy is savage.
On Sunday school
The key is really Sunday school. Look at the Temple monkeys in India – that was me from age eight to 16. These monkeys haven’t been taught manners or morals.
They fight each other without rules or regulations. They go to the market and help themselves to food. They attack humans. When a human is breaking off a banana to give one, they’ll grab the whole bunch and run off: that was me, I wouldn’t just take one Mars bar, I’d steal five or six.
But in human society, certain behaviors cannot be tolerated. In boxing, you’re losing work. You can’t live your life without the prerequisites that Sunday school teaches, especially as a champion boxer in the public eye because you’re pushing things to youngsters.
And fines, suspensions, bans, incarcerations and what not means you’re losing work. You needed, or at least need, Sunday school; or you will likely implode.