“WHO does stuff like this?” an excitable Chris Eubank cries with his arms aloft.
Dressed in tight leggings, expensive trainers that look like they’re on their maiden outing, and an equally plush running jacket, the former two-weight world champion is gushing with joy as he watches his son pound sparring partner Tariq Quaddus inside Hove’s boxing gym.
Chris Eubank Jnr is certainly impressive. The 25-year-old hurls an array of arcing blows into Quaddus, sways beneath counters and pounds left hooks into the body. At no point during the high-tempo six-round session does the super-fit Junior breathe through his mouth. The impact of each punch echoes around the gym and his father smiles and winces at the same time. He briefly looks away from the ring, and nods “I told you so” to the cluster of media watching the open workout at the seafront laboratory.
Junior is at the business end of training for Billy Joe Saunders, a fascinating middleweight showdown that is delivering on threats to steal the limelight away from the November 29 London ExCel headliners, Tyson Fury and Dereck Chisora.
It’s been a while since Eubank ruled British boxing with an unorthodox, hypnotic style that mirrored his personality. He is clearly enjoying being in the limelight again, and barely able to contain himself, he shadows his son for each interview that is conducted. His regular interjections – some prompted, some not – are always concluded with the utterance, “But this is about Junior.”
And while it should be about Junior, it is clearly a double act they are both enjoying. The young man is immensely talented, and has confidence to burn. And his father feeds from it, almost born again. He watches in awe, mouth slightly ajar, dewy eyes transfixed, as Junior pounds the various bags around the gym at full pelt. It’s a curious role reversal – one could imagine little Christopher watching his father with similar adoration 20 years ago. As an adult, there is no sign that his father, at this stage of development at least, is hindering him; in fact one suspects his motivation for fighting is to make his beloved old man proud.
“I’m proud of the fighter,” Eubank Snr tells Boxing News. “It’s not a father-son thing. As a son, he might be doing a lot of things wrong, but as a boxer he does more things right than he does wrong as a son, do you understand? He holds himself, he pushes himself, he steps up to the plate. The wonderful thing is that he’s quiet about it, there’s no elaboration. Me, I’ll talk to you for two hours on one little subject. But not him. It’s just ‘yes’, ‘no’.
“He went down to Southampton to spar this top Russian and I asked [trainer] Ronnie [Davies] about it. Ronnie will tell me he almost killed the boy. I said, ‘really?’ He will say, ‘He tore him to pieces.’ So I call Christopher up in the evening and I say, ‘Christopher, how did the sparring go today?’ ‘It was okay’ [he said]. I say, ‘Really. How did you get on?’ He just simply says, ‘Good.’ That is a skill. That I admire.”
Tales of Eubank Jnr getting the better of accomplished fighters in sparring are common, but he’s yet to encounter a foe anywhere near the level of Saunders in a professional ring. Consequently he will start as the underdog when he challenges the British and European champion. Saunders is talented and unbeaten, and reportedly in peak condition himself – determined to contain the promise of his opponent and move towards a world title shot in 2015. Containing Eubank Snr, though, is another matter entirely.
Long haunted by the permanent damage he inflicted upon 1991 opponent Michael Watson, Eubank is not concerned that his son is taking huge leap in class. His only worry is that Billy Joe could get seriously hurt.
“I am a former fighter and this is my trade,” he explains. “I think I have acquitted myself well over the years in terms of my conduct and behaviour. What I want you to do is put it out there that Billy Joe Saunders is in a very dangerous fight and the referee is going to have to be mindful. He’s going to have to be careful. He’s not going to listen to me, he’s going to think this is all just talk, and maybe the public will think it’s just talk, and may be the British Board of Control will think this is just a fight. What possibly could happen? Even with the referee in the ring, even being mindful in the ring, the young man [Saunders] is in danger – as is every fighter. But this is European level we’re fighting at and he’s [Eubank Jnr] not a European level fighter, he’s above that, and above the world. Either my mind is skewered and I’m seeing things wrongly or I’m on point about something. All I’m saying is, the referee need to be mindful of Billy Joe Saunders, he’s in the ring with a very, very dangerous competitor who has a dark streak.”
Eubank should know better, however articulate or polite he might believe he’s being, than to hint at such grisly prophecies given his history. Perhaps he does feel genuine concern for Saunders but, more likely, this all part of the game he has missed desperately. Either way, the former champion is in danger of losing control.
“I maybe heightened and excited about the occasion but in terms of the battle between two men, I am concerned for Billy Joe Saunders and I want the referee to know that so that they are careful,” he warns again before gesturing to his son. “This young man hits incredibly hard, incredibly hard, incredibly hard. And with it, he’s incredibly fast. When [Nigel] Benn hit you with one shot, you stayed hit and he’s [Eubank Jnr] has got that in combinations. He’s fearless.”
“Even though Billy Joe Saunders has said the things he’s said, I’m looking beyond that. I’m looking at the action, the application of contact,” he says while gently tapping his knuckles against his palm. “This is a contact sport, and the application of contact is a very dangerous position.
“The referees have to be mindful, and I don’t want to have to say, ‘I told you so’.”
OR THIS: What really happened at that sparring session in Southampton