Britain’s veteran superstar of 24 WBO title contests, Chris Eubank Snr, gives behind the scenes insights to his legendary rope-leaping career.
Chris Eubank Snr on Pressure
Boxing is a thing like this – you do your best work when you’re nice and relaxed, when you’re calm and loose in there.
I never really had that in my career apart from my first six or seven fights under Barry Hearn. Look, I moved to New York at 16 and a half and started boxing, then had my first amateur fight in front of 100 people at Apollo Boxing Club, South Bronx at just turned 17. Mike Tyson is watching my early novice bouts. At 17 and a half I have my first open level fight against the greatest of all time in Mark Breland. At 18 and a half I am fighting in front of nearly 20,000 at Madison Square Gardens at the Golden Gloves. At just turned 19 I am turning professional and making my pro debut in Atlantic City.
I haven’t had chance to relax yet. From 20 to 21 I am bouncing back and forth between Brighton and New York, studying and working and sleeping rough when needed. From January 1988 to April 1988 I am living in a bedsit with a local Brighton promoter called Keith Miles, then in May 1988 I am sleeping on my brother Simon’s sofa and taking fights on a few hours notice – relaxed? Forget it. I don’t have any money.
It’s not until May 1989 that I actually get some money, Barry Hearn gives me some money and I am finally able to relax and box; displaying the craft and art I had practiced for four or five hours a day for four or five years straight, after learning it. But by 1990 I am facing Nigel Benn, and you want to talk about pressure? I have a baby, a pregnant fiancee and I have no other trade and if I’d of lost to Benn I’d of lost our house; he is the most dangerous man on the planet.
The pressure going into Watson 2 was insurmountable also. The public at large have been told by the press that I am this nasty, horrible man! I simply was not that – quite the contrary. If I lost, I’d of been bumped off and it would be believed forever that I was a nasty, horrible person and so would likely have to of immigrated or become a hermit. When you’re under this kind of intense stress, you can be forgiven for forgetting to jab until halfway through or late on, at which point it’s too late almost.
Same thing with Old Trafford, if I happen to lose then I’m bumped off by Don King and there’s just this mass of faces – I had never attended a football match with more than about 20,000, and here was over 40,000 in one place. I had never seen anything like it, and it throws your gameplan off.
The eight-fight, one-year tour with Sky for a world championship fight every six weeks was indeed an emotional, mental, physical and spiritual pressure experienced by no other fighter. During this, I even went to Ireland on St Patrick’s weekend to face an Irishman. I felt invincible before that but I still thought I won that night. I was beaten fair and square by this mediocre journeyman Collins in the return match we had, where he displayed a resolve the likes of which we have never seen in boxing.
Snr on Sparring Partners
The best sparring partners I had in the 1980s included Johnny Banks Walker in the Bronx, New York, Aaron Davis and Glenwood Brown in Gleasons, New York, and in London Errol Christie and Rod Douglas, and Herol Graham in the steel city of Sheffield.
When I was champion I liked to use tough tough men from the Welsh valleys in left hookers Simon Collins and Denys Cronin. Chris Pyatt was sharp, but Dean Francis was tremendous – I used Dean on and off from about 93 to 95 and I could never really get the best of him.
Snr on Poor Behavior
It baffles me that fighters today don’t conduct themselves with dignity and decorum. It always was a gentleman’s sport, not a trash sport.
Bad language or poor behavior on television or social media simply repels and repulses sponsors, meaning fighters are earning less money.
For the life of me I can’t work out how many of these fighters of recent times – Billy Joe Saunders and the like – can’t grasp this simple concept. Rolling around or turning tables and other things – this is pushing the sport we put on the map into the gutter and alienating the public.
When did you ever hear Sugar Ray Leonard, Hagler or Ali say a swear word? Even Nigel Benn, not once.
Snr on Best Victories
Benn 1 was thee complete performance. Watson 2 was thee biggest turnaround. I fought a German in Germany – 6ft2″ and southpaw, unbeaten and a former and future world champion.