Sheriff Chris Eubank on all things Metrics, Mentors, Tents, Tokyo, Gym Wars and Peek-a-Boo defenses!
The astonishing former world champion Chris Eubank Sr delves into his pre-prime past for readers. The Louisiana resident is considered a legend of English boxing. Enjoy!
On the subject of Marvin Hagler and the ‘Fab Four’, he described them each as “demigods.” When it was pointed out that he had similar among English middleweights he said:
“It’s those rare ‘Round Robins’ that are what truly enthrall the fight fans.
“I was ringside for that Watson-Benn fight and I didn’t miss a millisecond of it – I knew they were coming. If I could slide by Benn’s lightning right hooks by a fraction of a centimetre or slip away Watson’s calculated jabs by a millimetre then I had to be there in that particular tent that night.”
When asked why he appeared arrogant in his fighting days:
“The way I behaved coming to the ring, standing tall and snarling and looking intently focused; that was a man entering a circle of combat to put his life on that line. I wasn’t going to a job interview. I wasn’t a waiter.
“When I traveled to Japan with Adonis Torres for our great fighter Julio Soto Solano challenging the legendary Japanese fighter Jiro Watanabe, I saw this Watanabe actually interviewed for TV on his way into the ring for the fight – smiling, talking calmly into the camera!
“This gave Solano confidence he said, having been very nervous. Gloves were actually put on in the ring in Japan if I recall. I learned a lot from it all, like handling being an away fighter and the mental side and pressure side as champion or challenger; superstar champion or challenger to superstar champion, or champion to superstar challenger. I was always observant.”
On the subject of ATG super flyweight Jiro, he continued:
“Solano was a great talent and sparring with the great gym fighter Dennis Cruz for this. But this Watanabe was the best boxer pound-for-pound in the world at the time as far as I’m concerned, even though they hadn’t heard of him in America. He was an even sharper puncher than Don Curry.
“I hear all this hype about fighters like Manny Pacquiao and the Ukrainian Vasyl Lomachenko over this last decade or two, but they are not as good as this little Japanese boxer from what I saw.
“You can type in Watanabe vs Solano on YouTube.”
Big Chris seems to downplay the idea that an experienced international unpaid background is always needed for success in the pro game:
“When a guy has an extensive amateur background, in the game we call it pedigree. And pedigree can be important. But professional boxing is a different sport, and you will learn more fighting 10 rounds in the gym every day than fighting a few three-rounders every few months against youngsters who have nutrition but not hunger.
“Dan Sherry had 300 amateur fights. I had 26 amateur fights. This Dan Sherry was older than me, unbeaten and challenging me for the title in my first defence in my home town of Brighton. He had beat the best Cuban and so on.
“But he didn’t know how to punch correctly, he didn’t know how to clinch or fight inside or throw body shots. He couldn’t hold his feet. He couldn’t keep up a pace. He was an amateur. I had been sparring 10 or 15 rounds for seven and a half years.”
Being persistent is the key asset needed to succeed in his opinion.
“Lennox Lewis tells you the story of being thrown off by Mike Tyson coming out like a raging bull in sparring in 1983. That’s how they did it in New York. I believe Tyson knocked him through the ropes in 30 seconds.
“You have wars in the gym to learn how to fight. And you practice the punches; the hooks to the body and so on, with volume and frequency on the bags, pads and in front of mirrors – let alone in sparring – and you don’t waste perspiration doing it and you are not a consumer of the substance of alcohol. Constant, constant, constant.
“Persistence. I fought many men with more talent than me – I beat them because I was persistent. Particular amateurs in New York were majestically talented but didn’t have my mental strength or discipline. Persistence and determination are what are omnipotent.
“The first time I wasn’t persistent when I needed to be was moments after the bell for the 10th against Collins in Mill St., when I decided before the round to try to knock him out – momentarily he was out, on his way down into the ropes. I didn’t persist. I didn’t bludgeon. I was an emotional fighter and there had been mind games played beforehand.”
When asked if Graciano ‘Rocky’ Rocchigiani was one of his best opponents:
“Graciano Rocchigiani was very, very good in terms of timing his straight punches from a high guard position. He looked like he beat his fellow countrymen in big German fights at light heavy after he fought me and was 35-0 going into that fight with me – 6’2 or 6’3 and southpaw on his home patch.
“He and Michael Watson in our first fight were about the same level, about a half-class above Malinga, Thornton and Holmes; all masters of the peak-a-boo defense.
“Watson had given Mike McCallum all he could handle in their fight, so I knew I had to be on my game. He didn’t present me with as many countering opportunities as he did McCallum, so I had to use split-second timing in finding the gaps to build up a big lead.”
As a youngster finding his feet:
“I took a clerical course at a technology college in New York from September 1986 to March 1987 and I was one of only two men out of 20 students. I told the tutor Mr Henry I was taking the course to help administer the considerable amounts of money I was going to earn as a renowned boxer.
“This made them laugh, because I didn’t look like a boxer – with long, elegant fingers, a very soft voice and a sophisticated English accent/dress sense. I qualified to be employed as a typist initially but then put all my eggs into boxing, before I had got to learn business admin skills.
“From April 1987 to January 1988 – this January ’88 being when I moved to Brighton from New York – the progress I made in fighting attributes was astounding.”
On importance of a Cus D’Amato-like father figure:
“My mentor and gym owner Adonis Torres died in October 1987, he had lived through the ‘Mob’ and warned me about sharks; when I went to Gleasons Gym and got the best of the professionals there I became surrounded by skullduggers you couldn’t trust and so did a moonlight flip to Brighton to stay with my brother Simon and to pick my own manager, trainer and promoter.
“I did that because I was human. When I was making £180 a day shoplifting in 1982, I’d play the fruit machines at JPMs on Rye Lane in Peckham – I was hooked. It is dangling of a carrot… from time immemorial, or human greed. So similarly I did a moonlight flip to New York to get away from that.
“If you are to philosophise this, then taking flight was actually fighting; my way of fighting evil.”
On films of influence or being a real-like Rocky:
“Adonis Torres was the first man to ever treat me like a man. He was the first and last person to not disrespect me. It was Mr Torres who encouraged me after my 4th professional fight to focus on my education – I graduated from US high school in July 1986.
“He had taken 30% of my my first 5 fight purses but also bought me my Adidas boxing boots, took me with his own fuel from the South Bronx in New York to the Boardwalk in New Jersey for the fights and bought or cooked me food before and after.
“Taking 30% was simply preparing me for what was to come. 10% also went to Maximo Pierret for training me. In fact Maximo drove us in his yellow taxi.
“I had also been trained by Andy Martinez, who looked just like Mickey from Rocky, and Pat Versace, who looked just like Jake LaMotta’s trainer in Raging Bull.
“Watching Rocky, Raging Bull and Kickboxer is like watching somebody else tell my story. Tong Po in the movie Kickboxer was symbolising the promoters who mistreated and mugged my elder pro-boxer brothers.”