Christopher Livingstone Eubank Senior was perhaps sports most fascinating entity in the 1990s. Nobody could rile up an audience or divide opinion quite like Eubank.
However, when you listen to the mans word – beyond the flash attire, lisping verboseness and controversies – there is something quite profound in his wisdom and you gain a deeper respect for the codes he practices.
What it takes to make it in boxing
Boxing is the only vocation where you can rise from the bottom to the top. I rose from rags to riches, literally. If you type in on YouTube Eubank vs Douglas Sparring, I’m wearing rags. This was when I was maybe 20 years old. I’m not wearing a prestine suit.
But if you’re purely driven by material trappings and so-called wealth then you are not going to cut the mustard in boxing.
You have to be obsessed, like a madman, to stand a chance of being one of the 0.0001% who don’t leave the sport without making millions. You have to be in love. I loved the nobility of gladiating. And I fell for the art form.
Rising up, back on the streets
My brother Simon Eubank is the reason Michael Watson didn’t knock me out in maybe seven rounds at Tottenham that night. I shouldn’t of been able to live with that pace, strength and four to six inch punching. It was beyond anything I’ve seen and totally out the blue.
But my brother Simon told me for the rematch I should go back to the way I was preparing three, four and five years previous, when I was sleeping on his couch and taking fights on a few days or few hours notice in Atlantic City, Wembley, York Hall or the Albert Hall; always coming through in the end.
He’d wake me up at 4am to run with him. And I was on heat to train back then. I couldn’t wait to get to the gym and work on my moves, two or three times a day. We went back to that for six weeks straight, away from my family and it’s the reason I was able to even be competitive with a mega mega Watson for the first five, six rounds.
I didn’t collapse come for the ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth rounds and so I won. Simon was a great runner, super fit and three stone lighter than me and I was forced to keep up with him at pace and uphill.
The power of Nigel Benn
Benn hit me harder than anyone and I’d been in with all the hardest hitters including Mark Breland at the Felt Forum in my amateur career and Merqui Sosa at the Gleasons Gym in the back end of 1987.
In fact, it wasn’t even close. That man hit so so hard that it makes me feel physically ill right now thinking about the memory of those punches at the point of impact.
What endeared me to boxing was that there are rules and regulations that must be adhered to. And it’s on your back. You’re in there on your own. You’re the one getting up at four in the morning, it’s on you. Nobody can let you down, like in London everybody I ever came across had let me down and so I made my own rules and it got me nowhere.
And there is nothing more noble than boxing. If I slipped over in an amateur contest or any spar in fact, I brushed my gloves. Without fail.
I bowed. Like when you enter church. And if you cheat, the shame is unbearable. I know. In the semi-finals of the Golden Gloves at the Garden, I wanted to win badly and then win the final later that night.
None of the other boxers of all the weights had the coverage I had in the Daily News newspaper and none had sold the amount of tickets I had. Others included fellow future world champions like Riddick Bowe, Kevin Kelley – who fought Naz, Junior Jones – who beat Barrera, Michael Bentt who later faced Herbie, and my gym partner Vince Phillips.
Thomas Hearns was ringside, who for me was the king of professional boxing at that time. I was the only one of all the fighters who didn’t gather or que to see him, because I had too much respect for him. March 15th, 1985. He deserved his space.
My motivation at this particular time was to win the Gloves many times and appear in Hollywood movies, like Mark Breland had. Not medals, like Olympic gold. It was the wrong motivation. I bit my semi-final opponent on the shoulder when I felt I couldn’t beat him. I was off-form, sloppy and hasty, and he couldn’t miss me with the hook. So I sunk my teeth into his flesh to try and gain an upper hand.
I made that same conscious decision against Michael Watson at Spurs that I probably cannot win this fight here. It was during the sixth when I knew I was going to lose. I didn’t ‘Jack’ because I wanted to endure my punishment for cheating in 1985. I took that beating. And that uppercut in the penultimate – it had behind it every ounce of anguish and despair I ever had had locked in seclusion cells of borstals or surviving the terror of the Bronx.
I first saw Mike Tyson at Madison Square Garden for the Duran-Davey Moore fight. Cus D’Amato and Adonis Torres got us in free of charge at the door but we didn’t speak. Next time I saw him was at Apollo Boxing Club and he was sat on a table and asked me if I was from England, saying he loves the way I speak.
I didn’t talk to him again until I saw him at the opening of Versace on Madison Avenue in April 1990. His advice was to not ever get distracted, which is gold dust.
Best ‘boxers’ faced
The best or most effective boxers I fought were Dan Schommer and Ray Close. They both had pedigree, one defeating the light-heavy (Virgil) Hill and the other defeating Dariusz (Michalczewski) the German-Pole. But neither went to the Olympics. So they weren’t known, with Schommer in particular I don’t think any of the top guys wanted to face.
And they both disarmed me, in that neither looked physically threatening and certainly neither seemed verbally threatening. In fact, Ray was a Mormon. Mr Schommer was a southpaw by the way.
Unless you cheat, you don’t have regrets in your boxing career. With the exception of the accident involving Michael I have not one regret – I did everything to the letter.
I took the fights the managers and promoters gave me on the way up and went in there regardless, I won every time because I was willing to give my life. Then came Benn. I beat him with truth and love, not hate.
I defended my WBO world championship as frequently as Television would allow and never dodged the number-one contender. I would’ve fought on the Moon if I was asked to or King Kong if the executives demanded.
To me it wasn’t about ego and going to Las Vegas or fighting for the Hall of Fame, it was about integrity. You train the correct way, you don’t take time off; you be a model professional. If you’re losing a fight and getting a beating, you stay there and take it like a man of honour.
And if you lose, you do so with dignity and humility, with your head held high like a man and not like a little boy who has bitten his foe or looked for a way out. Have you ever wandered why I walk the way I walk? It’s because I look myself in the mirror every day and know that I was the real real deal in my fighting career.