FIVE years ago, I was losing a world middleweight title fight against Matt Korobov in Las Vegas but thankfully managed to turn around both the fight and my life with one punch.
I think about the fight often. I think about how it changed my life, how I was losing and how, with one punch and a barrage of punches after it, everything changed for me. I knew in the moment this was it. I knew I had to keep punching until the referee stopped the fight.
It was almost like it was destined to be following the tough years; the losses to Brian Vera and Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr and the loss of Emanuel Steward. Around that time, I relocated to London to train with Adam Booth and had to dig into my savings and spend whatever money I had just to live. I had to buy the cheaper groceries. I had to get a runaround car rather than a flashy one. I sacrificed.
The Korobov fight then came out of the blue. Peter Quillin was supposed to fight Korobov, after JAY-Z won the purse bids, but Al Haymon then pulled Quillin out. After that, it was meant to be Korobov against Billy Joe Saunders, but Saunders wanted to fight Chris Eubank Jnr. This allowed Adam to seize the opportunity. He told Frank Warren to put me in the ratings and we agreed that if I won, I would give Billy Joe a shot at the title.
Adam did his job masterfully and got the deal done. Then I did mine. I was so hungry for success. I knew there was something missing with Korobov and that I would have opportunities to get to him. I believed in myself. I go to Mass all the time but never to pray for myself. However, when that fight was coming up, I was praying for myself to win it.
If I didn’t win, it was over. I made something like sixty grand and that would have been the end of it. My career would have been over, and it would have been devastating. I don’t know how I would have been. All I know is I wouldn’t be the same man I am now. I wouldn’t be content.
Five years on, Korobov fights Chris Eubank Jnr and I’m left wondering how much he has left. By all accounts he beat Jermall Charlo but didn’t get the decision and then he had a similar experience against Immanuwel Aleem. So we know he’s in good form. Also, though he’s 36, I think he’s hungry, and I believe, too, that sometimes it’s not so much about your age as how much desire you have.
If Korobov is 80% of what he was, he’s going to give Junior a lot of trouble. Which is why I think it’s a really funny match for Eubank to take. There’s no upside to it. Nobody is going to beat Korobov the way I beat him, and even if he beats Korobov, it doesn’t propel him any further.
It’s also a tricky match for Eubank. He’s not really a pressure fighter. He jabs and then he throws lots of heavy shots. But Korobov is too clever for that. He will step and take the distance from him and pick him off.
Physically, Korobov is very strong. He never hurt me, but I could feel his strength. On Saturday, I could see him wrestling Eubank and being the stronger man in clinches. He can certainly manhandle Eubank in close.
I don’t think Korobov takes a good shot, though. After the sixth round, I don’t think he holds up well. But can Eubank get to him? That’s the big question. Eubank’s not a big puncher but he’s relentless and can do it for 12 rounds.
For me, Eubank has to fight at a fast pace and go to Korobov. He might have to take some shots and lose the early rounds knowing that he’s fighting at a pace Korobov can’t live with. If he fights at a slow, technical pace, he’ll get picked apart.
I think Korobov is the favourite here. He’s a good bet. Eubank is younger, yes, but he’s had some hard fights himself and has never taken the time to learn the basics. And the one thing Korobov has in abundance are good fundamentals.
Ultimately, because of Korobov’s technique and schooling, I just can’t see how Junior finds a way to win.