TAKING pride in your appearance comes naturally when your surname is Eubank. Chris Jnr peels off his t-shirt, glances down at his abdominals and decides they need a spruce-up before he poses in front of the Boxing News camera. The middleweight gracefully places his backside on the floor of Hove’s seaside boxing gym, puts his knees into the air, and fires out a selection of sit-ups before putting cream on his torso to define his muscles even further.
“I’m ready now,” he chuckles.
While Eubank has always taken after his old man when it comes to looking good – although he has largely avoided the garish attire synonymous with the former WBO middle and super-middleweight king – few felt he was ready to duplicate Senior’s in-ring heroics before his showdown with rival Billy Joe Saunders last year. Prior to that hotly anticipated November middleweight showdown, the 25-year-old’s 18-0 record lacked a name of any repute. The brash youngster cared little about the widespread lack of belief, and told all that a destruction of Saunders was impending. Tales of bossing the likes of James DeGale and Carl Froch in sparring were trotted out by his team to validate the prophecy. In the end, his raw ability was not quite good enough, and he was adjudged a split decision loser after 12 thrilling rounds. His stirring effort, rallying down the stretch to leave the verdict in the balance, exhibited his considerable talent.
While failing to deliver his own promises, he had proved he was more than just celebrity offspring.
“It was my first 12-round fight,” Eubank explains. “Previously I’d only ever gone eight rounds. I guess that was in the back of my mind and I paced myself too much in the early rounds. That was it really. As soon as I started pressing, as I got in the tempo of putting pressure on him, it was no contest. But in the early rounds I was wondering how I’d feel when it got to rounds 10 and 12, so I slowed the pace down a little bit and he was able to nick [the early] rounds.”
Immediately after the bout, Eubank – alongside his father – disputed the loss. Today he still believes he won the fight but accepts why two of the three judges, and a large portion of observers, favoured Saunders.
“It was close,” he admits quietly. “It wasn’t a shutout [in my favour]. I’m not saying I completely dominated but the way I see it is he took most of the rounds up to five and six, but anything after that, I took. And the rounds I took, I took convincingly. I hurt him. I connected with power punches and had him in dangerous situations. The rounds that he won, he was nipping, hitting and running, it was never convincing, I was never out of my depth. I was never hurt like he was. Okay, it was half-and-half, and the half that I won, I won in a better fashion than he did. That’s why I think I should have got the decision but at the end of the day, I have a loss and now it’s my job to avenge it.”
Eubank craves the rematch to even the score. Saunders’ name, often without invitation, surges into our conversation. So far, though, Billy Joe – preparing to challenge WBO boss Andy Lee in September – has resisted the sequel.
“I want to do to him what he did to me and that’s take away my perfect record,” the Brightonian growls about his conqueror. “I’m going to give him a taste of his own medicine and I don’t want anybody to do that [beat Saunders] before I get the chance. Right now it’s the biggest fight in Britain and it’s really up to him because I’m ready and waiting. His excuse for that is money. But there is not another fight on the planet he could take and earn what he would earn from fighting me. He has said he’s a man of his word and that he’ll give me the rematch. He has no choice. If he doesn’t, he’s a walking embarrassment.”
Since his only reverse, Eubank rebounded in style with an exciting 12th round stoppage victory over decent Russian, Dmitry Chudinov. With the win came the Interim WBA title – a ratings booster if nothing else.
“It’s obviously not the full version of a world title, that’s what I want and I’m not going to stop until I get it. I answered a lot more questions [against Chudinov]. I went at a high pace for 12 rounds. I showed that I’m a fully-developed fighter and I’m ready to move on to bigger and better things. A few people were saying I could have taken a few easier fights, maybe a few 10-rounders, after the Saunders fight, but I felt more than comfortable in that fight and I didn’t see any reason to take a step back.”
Naturally quiet and thoughtful, Eubank’s self-belief is nonetheless evident with every breath he takes. His articulate confidence is often misdiagnosed as arrogance, but Eubank – away from his father for this interview – insists he’s his own man, both inside the ring and out, and that love-me-or-hate-me personality stems from within.
“British people want you to be humble, conventional, and not do anything that is out of the norm,” he ventures, suddenly engaging eye contact. “None of it is an act. None of it is fake or pretend. This is how I am. This is all me. You can’t be fake in this sport. If you go into a situation not being yourself it’s very dangerous in boxing. You can’t go in there and act a certain way because you’re putting too much energy into something that isn’t you, because that’s when you will make mistakes and get hurt. When you’re in a fight situation you revert to what is natural and it’s my instinct to fight the way I fight. It’s real.”
Some of the criticism aimed at Eubank Jnr has been unfair, and a consequence of his father’s outspoken faith in him. Perhaps the most famous comment – uttered before and after the loss to Saunders – was that his son would be more than a match for the fearsome Gennady Golovkin, considered by many to be the best middleweight in the world. Junior smirks instinctively when it’s mentioned today, but shows no other sign of amusement.
“Gennady Golovkin is a great fighter but I’m not going to have anybody in my mind where I think, ‘I can’t beat him’,” he says sternly. “My goal is to beat the best. It’s just a matter of time and that is the fight [versus Golovkin] that we’re building towards. We’re never going to sit down and say, ‘We can’t beat him.’ You’re not a warrior, not a champion, if you go in with any other mindset.”
The pressure from a parent is often unwelcome, but Eubank insists he is thriving on it. Perhaps it hasn’t always been that way.
“The pressure is a lot less than it was at the beginning,” he admits. “At the beginning I had a lot to prove. I had the name, I had the first [professional] fight live on Channel 5 and there was a lot of expectation. Now I think that people are seeing that I’m a good fighter, I have a [Interim] world title now and no one can ever take that away from me. I earned that. It wasn’t my name. It was me. Me and him will always be compared and there’s no way getting away from that. Some people might see that as pressure. He achieved so much in his career. I use it to my advantage; I know that people are expecting me to do well and it makes me train harder because I know I have to continue this legacy. I don’t see it as a pressure, it makes me a better fighter.”
Their affection is evolving. Junior, who has always admired his father, appreciates the faith and adoration from his father. It’s been a long time since he was the young boy with the world champion dad. Now it’s his time.
“The relationship has changed,” Chris admits. “I’m a man now. He is obviously very proud of me and he’s seen the hard work and the dedication that I put into the sport he loves, and still loves. There is nothing better than having a father who truly believes in you, who is there to help you achieve what you want to achieve. He always says to me,
‘You can’t be as good as me, you have to be better,’ and that’s what we are working towards.”
Eubank is a pleasure to talk to but there is a prickliness when his methods or views are questioned. Before the Saunders collision, he famously stated that Ronnie Davies’ role in the corner was not to offer tactical advice. It’s an opinion – despite the defeat – he stands by.
“What I said was that nobody can tell me how to fight,” he says. “Everything I do can’t be taught. Nobody taught me to fight the way I fight. When I go into the ring and I’m fighting, I’m not boxing to orders, I’m doing what I think is best and that’s always how I’ve been. Some fighters need that direction but I don’t. I almost zone out. I don’t have someone in the corner giving me direct orders. Ronnie is a great cornerman and I respect him just as much as I respect my father but he’s not controlling me. He will occasionally say things, my father will occasionally say things between rounds. I listen. But at the end of the day I’m the one that has to do what I think is best. I have that belief in myself and in my abilities. I trust myself. And a true champion has to be able to figure things out for himself.”
That stubbornness, so common in his father, undoubtedly drives Eubank in his quest for respect, but he is learning to appreciate the guidance of those around him, and – just like always – growing up fast. Boxing will do that to a fighter.
“The one thing I’ve learnt is that you can’t predict anything. Things happen. You just have to rise. You have to take the opportunities when they come along. I’d like to fight for another 10 years but only time will tell. I’ve got to stay in the gym and keep working my way up the ladder and hopefully, with help from my team, my journey will be a long and successful career.”