CHRIS EUBANK, like his choice of coffee, is complicated. He puts a sugar into his double espresso macchiato with skinny milk, stirs it briefly and struts the Eubank strut towards the back of a sunny Brighton café. “It’s so frustrating to be me,” he says in reference to being perennially misunderstood, and places his impressive 50-year-old frame into a chair. “But it’s great, I love it.”
That sense of self-worth, the faith he has in his opinions and values, has always been an admirable quality, even when those opinions and values are lost on many who hear them. Eubank operates with a level of self-belief that is alien in a largely insecure world; confidence so unrelenting it’s been both a blessing and a curse. Two decades ago it drove Eubank from relative obscurity to two WBO world titles, and a level of fame that is still keenly felt. Today, despite accusations to the contrary, he promises it will guide his son’s boxing career to even greater heights than his own.
That I should be in that same Brighton café, writing the report from the previous night’s Gennady Golovkin-Kell Brook contest when Eubank enters is a complete and curious coincidence. After all, it should have been Chris Eubank Jnr challenging middleweight king Golovkin at the O2 Arena. That bout was there for the taking until negotiations stalled long enough for Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn to offer the contest to the undersized Brook at the 11th hour. Weeks of silence from Team Eubank followed, and with them, a Boxing News front cover sporting Eubank Jnr’s image and the accompanying headline, ‘Rudderless’. The connotations of which did not pass unnoticed.
“You are the editor of Boxing News. How do you put on the front cover ‘Rudderless’?” he asks, hanging on the word rudderless. “There is nothing ‘rudderless’ about me, and what I’m doing with Junior. I have built Junior into a fighter, not a celebrity, not a talker, very well mannered, very much on course.”
But the failure to agree terms for the Golovkin showdown, a contest the Eubanks first called for over two years ago, led us to suggest the exciting middleweight’s career had hit a sizeable bump in the road, an obstacle of their own making. Eubank accepts why it looked that way, yet claims he was told he would have total control over the show, and he sent his lawyers to the negotiating table with that control in mind. Eubank – who promises he was not present during negotiations – did not know the contest had broken down until it was too late.
“My lawyers said they [Matchroom] were playing the same old games,” Eubank says. “We have to have control of the fight. I said to Barry Hearn afterwards, ‘If you had told me it wasn’t our show, then I would have complied’. But he told me it was our show. They said that the undercard would be so much. I was saying it was over-inflated. We have to have the right to at least sign off. So we don’t own the show, and that’s why it fell down. When they give us a five o’clock deadline, that’s the same thing that other promoters do. It doesn’t mean anything. We didn’t know they had Kell Brook as a backup, and he wasn’t a backup. He was never a backup, but now they’ve got the business out of it. Boxing doesn’t need that. It’s a shambles.”
Weeks after the Golovkin contest crumbled, Matchroom’s rival promoter Frank Warren won the purse bids to stage Eubank Jnr’s mandated British title defence against Tommy Langford. The bout – barely even a consolation prize when compared to the riches of sharing a ring with “GGG” – was set to appear in Cardiff on October 22. Eddie Hearn was almost lost for words with the switch, and similarly Warren speaks of his exasperation with Eubank Snr. The feeling is not reciprocated; Eubank is aware he drives Warren round the twist, yet has fondness – of sorts – for the promoter.
“I admire him, do you know why?” Eubank says of Warren. “He is the only promoter on earth who would punch me in the face. And he would. I’m non-violent. I remember being in a restaurant [three years ago], and I said ‘Frank, don’t hit me. I can’t retaliate, I’m a man of peace, I’m my own man.’ Frank is proper old school, they don’t make them like him, he is solid, he is genuine. A genuine what? I’m not going to say that, but he is genuine, he is real. He doesn’t know it should be any other way. He doesn’t understand that it should be fairer, that is why I admire him. Everything he says about me, I sometimes wonder how he can give me so much credit. I don’t know how this man can speak so glowingly about me. He doesn’t understand the more mean his projection of me is, the bigger he makes me. He doesn’t get it.”
One senses the condescending nature of Eubank’s patter is not designed to annoy. Several times during our conversation there seems to be a presumption on his part that I couldn’t possibly be keeping up. And any advice from the likes of Boxing News, or anyone else for that matter, is certainly not welcome: “Anyone who tells me to step back doesn’t know what they’re talking about. This is his [Junior’s] career. I am part of his career. I haven’t been at every fight, paid and supported him to now step back because you don’t like my demeanour, because I have what they refer to as ‘swag’. You don’t like it? Don’t look at my swag. It’s my swag that made me do the things I was able to do, that actually again was a foundation in boxing.”
Two weeks later, news breaks that Junior is injured, and will relinquish his British title. The Langford bout is off. Amid the chaos are accusations that Eubank Snr simply does not have faith in his son. But that does not seem to be the case; Senior is ferociously proud of Junior, and would confidently send him into battle with any middleweight in the world (if the terms and conditions were right, of course). It is not fighters that Eubank is protecting his son from, it is those who make the fights.
“Eddie Hearn, Frank Warren, Barry Hearn, they’re promoters, they have a business. Everything that is coming from them is understandable to me,” Eubank insists. “They are protecting their businesses, because I am one of those guys who knows how to do it, I have seen, I have felt, and I remember what they did to me [although Frank Warren never managed Eubank]. Who is better positioned to steer my son? It’s tough. He is having a tough time for one reason, and one reason only, which is a position in which he sits: He is a free agent, and that takes some doing. I would like all those who are not in the know to congratulate me, because it is a gargantuan task to keep him free, to keep his rights to himself. That’s why I am so difficult. They use every which way to tie you down, and use the energy of the fighter. Junior’s energy is to be used in terms of himself, and for the public to enjoy.”
Surely, though, there must be some regret, or disappointment at least, that the Golovkin contest failed to materialise?
“No. That’s boxing. I deal with boxing like I deal with travel, when you’re flying overseas. I hope for the best but I am prepared for the worst. I never travel badly because I always expect delays, I always expect something to go wrong, but generally everything goes right. I am never disappointed. Boxing is a process, it’s a game of movement, it is never static and your career is based on the decisions you make when opportunities come your way. The reason I’m not disappointed about Junior not getting that fight – and in my view he would have wasted him [Golovkin], he had no jab, you can’t do that with Junior. Anyway, another story. The reason I’m not disappointed is because the monies that we were promised, which was £6m, Junior shouldn’t be earning that money yet. He is being built. In another two fights he’s ready for that money. I said in the past that if the Golovkin fight comes up when I was asking Eddie to make that fight, then I would have to advise my son to relinquish the British title and take that fight. But in reality he’s still in his apprenticeship. He shouldn’t be earning that money yet. Remember, he is being managed. He isn’t managing himself, which is why he is in [the] perfect situ… I have seen nothing like him in the last 25 years. You tell me when you have seen someone so vicious, who is so ferocious, so cruel, so much theatre, so much presence? I haven’t seen it. He is real.”
Senior is certain that reality will ultimately prevail. And that one day, his vision for his son will generate only praise because to his mind, it is all going to plan.
“I am looking out for my boy because in 10, 15, 20, 30 years, my boy is going to say ‘dad, you’re some man.’ No one has done this,” Eubank exclaims.
“You [promoters] can seduce someone when they’ve never been seduced before. But I’ve been seduced before, and you’re not doing it to mine. So I am to do everything I should do for my fighter. If you don’t like that term, you can use the word parent, because as a parent I will do everything for my son. I am not afraid of £3m or £6m, because I made £35m from the sport. I am not afraid of those numbers. Junior will earn so much more by me doing what I’m doing. So ‘Rudderless’ is so far from the point. I have been all the way through this. The promoters talk of me as difficult because they can’t have their own way. I’m not difficult, I’m a lovely guy, it’s plain to see.”