The wise old fox and ‘sheriff’ Chris Eubank Senior turned boxing on its head in the early 1990s, altering the way a boxer and his manager/promoter did business as well as drawing in unprecedented figures to TV outside the United States.
However, when push came to shove, Senior could show courage to spare and sparks of greatness, which legitimizes the guy.
He is particularly scathing with modern fighters’ lack of activity and proneness to not go out their shield like fighters of yesteryear.
Eubank Senior you could say was unfortunate in that at his peak he had most of the world’s best pound-for-pound fighters operating at his weight! In any other era, he might of been an undisputed champion and US superstar.
‘In my day, we fought the very best,’ he stated. ‘We fought the fights the public demanded. Me and Nigel Benn, me and Michael Watson, Nigel and Michael. And James Toney and Roy Jones in America. Same ages, (and) unique abilities of each own right.
‘Fighters in the mold of Herol Graham or James DeGale maybe don’t appeal to the public however. They appeal to a purist like myself, if you are to fight like Pernell Whitaker, just not the masses.
‘Nigel [Benn], Michael [Watson] and I, what made us great was we went out of our way to fight the most dangerous men in the world, that nobody wanted to face.’
He points out some examples.
‘Obviously Michael with Nigel and Nigel with Gerald McClellan. In early 1984 in my amateur career, I lost 9lb in a few days to face Mark Breland, who had straight knockouts in all his fights of all his four Golden Gloves wins.
‘In 1997, I lost 20lb in a few days to face Joe Calzaghe when he was knocking all his opponents through the oxygen prior to brittle fists.
‘You aim for the best, you aim for the green WBC; the premiere belt. Unification fights, fighting unbeaten world champions in their own backyard, or attempting to do what is deemed impossible.’
He believes fighters in his time were simply harder men than those today.
‘They are not the cut that we were in the 90s. We never pulled out of fights, be it (if) we were poorly from making weight or had a bad hand or bad leg. Therefore we fought every eight weeks, not every 18 months.
‘Boxing will become a side-show unless fighters toughen up to actually contest fights – which is kind of their job – and fight the best and put themselves in the firing line to actually ride this game and ride this life. Quitting shouldn’t be in the boxers being. You are not a true fighter.’
Chris feels their legacies will be hurt when comparing eras.
‘They won’t be respected like we were in years and decades to come. They’ll laugh back to the bank and (to) the pub with their mates, but they won’t be respected like we were because they aren’t as real. I was pure.’
The former WBO king, unbeaten in 43 fights from ’85 to ’95, gives his verdicts on fights that never were for him!
Vs Michael Nunn:
‘All I will say is that I would not take a backward step, I would hold my position. I would step in with the jab, I wouldn’t just flick it out like you see fighters today. I would be moving like a pendulum – not standing straight still to be peppered with right jabs.
‘I had moves that you never saw because it was never brought out of me. Only Herol Graham, Pernell Whitaker and Nunn had the style and ability in boxing then to require particular move sets. But Graham and Nunn were never number-one contender and the public never demanded them.
‘I learned from sparring with Herol that you cannot just swing or you cannot go side-to-side and come in; you have to be calculated in commanding the middle of that four-cornered circle and using maneuvers to get them out of there.’
Vs James Toney:
‘All I will say is that with Jones and Toney, I would be walking around on my heels now if I had taken those fights. We’d of been fighting for our lives in there. They were never number-one contender, so the fights didn’t happen. And neither was I mandatory for Roy’s WBC light-heavyweight title – so he didn’t have to face me. We weren’t suicidal.
‘James Toney had the most fire in his belly, more than even Benn or McClellan. I would be going side-to-side and coming in, meeting for exchanges!’
Vs Roy Jones Jr:
‘Okay, against Roy, I’d be using the great Joe Louis’ strategy of watching the feet because I studied video tape of Roy and noticed he shortened his stance when about to throw a flurry or lengthened his stance when about to throw a power shot.
‘When the stance shortened I’d be covering up, but when the stance lengthened I’d be punching with him; which would’ve been an exceptionally dangerous occurrence.
‘Put simply, I didn’t want another Watson II.’
Vs Julian Jackson:
‘I was ringside in Spain on honeymoon when he took out Herol Graham and I said to Mr Jackson this: “You are a great puncher, and I take my hat off to you because you can floor anybody. But I still think I can beat you.” Don King chose to avoid me.
Eubank, like many fighters, had some dull showings during his reign. He makes sense of this by needing genuine fear to perform.
‘I did have blunt performances but blowing hot means you are genuinely nervous and so your reflexes are working.
‘Benn, Watson and Rocchigiani had the marks of fighters by just looking at their physiques and hearing their convictions, so I was ‘on’ in those five fights and the violent crowds couldn’t blunt me.
‘Watson couldn’t touch me with his jab in the first fight, and so didn’t bother jabbing in the second fight. Neither could Malinga or Breland touch me with their jabs when my reflexes were on, or Rocchigiani with his southpaw jab. That’s because you don’t think, you just do.’
Another fine point on the same topic mentions a sparring exploit in Sheffield and consequences of such, and a sensational stroke of form the night he fought Henry Wharton in Manchester.
‘I knocked down Herol Graham in the gymnasium with a devastating punch and couldn’t land my jab after that, and if you can’t land the jab then nothing else comes off if you are a mechanically correct puncher.
‘I watched Henry Wharton knock his opponent prior to me cold on the canvas, and it’s the worst thing he could’ve done in front of me because I trained with fear and got switched ‘on’, so to speak.’