Liam Smith and Chris Eubank Jr will once again take to the ring inside Manchester’s AO Arena on Saturday in the latest instalment of their unexpected rivalry.
In January this year their first fight ended comprehensively when Smith stopped Eubank in the fourth round. A rematch clause has given Eubank the opportunity to avenge a loss which damaged his reputation and ego. It’s business as usual for Smith who would love nothing more than to shut Eubank up once again.
There are some pertinent questions to answer surrounding the second fight and the fighters themselves. To get the answers Boxing News spoke to three middleweights: British champion and former world title challenger Denzel Bentley, emerging contender Tyler Denny and former British title challenger Linus Udofia.
What do you think Eubank has to do reverse the result of the first fight?
Bentley: He has to do what he did in the first few rounds of the first fight but be more clinical. He can’t go to sleep, he can’t get bored, he can’t start having too much fun. He needs to be concentrated, focused. What caused that upset, for some, at the time was a lack of concentration and getting caught with a shot and then that was it. I don’t think it’s a good idea to tap back into the old Eubank. I don’t know if he can go there anymore. He’s 33, I don’t know if he can tap back into that old Eubank that was so relentless where everything was based on his engine and he could take shots and give them back. He needs to keep the range, don’t let Smith get in close, and everything off his jab. He’s got to keep his guard tight. Eubank’s got a very bad defence. There’s quite a lot he has to do.
Denny: As a neutral you want to see him get back to the old Eubank style. His work-rate and aggression instead of trying to jab and move. I don’t think he’s good enough to do that for 12 rounds. I’d like to see the aggression and work-rate.
Udofia: There was an element of Eubank overlooking Smith in the last fight. I’m not saying that’s why Smith won but it had a part to play in it. I feel Eubank took his eye off the fight and thought it was going to be a formality. I thought he was winning the fight and he put himself in situations which he wouldn’t have done if he was on it. This time he needs to concentrate 100 per cent and not let the last fight get in his head. It’s a little bit harder for him because Smith has that win over him. He’s going to have to be a lot more inventive and concentrate a lot more because he has more to lose this time.
Do you think Smith has been given enough credit for the win?
Bentley: I think so. I don’t know but I kind of expected Eubank to win. I thought he’s the bigger guy, his style and because of how he handled Liam Williams. I don’t see Liam Smith as too different from Liam Williams style wise. He’s a better fighter than Williams but style wise pretty much similar. Now, Liam Smith is a heavy favourite going in when in the last fight everyone was wondering if he could do it. I think he has gotten credit; he’ll probably get more beating him again.
Denny: Maybe. I give him massive credit for it especially the way it happened. It’s not his fault but I think he would have got more credit if people hadn’t said if the Eubank of old would have done this and that it would have been a different fight. I don’t know if we’re going to see the Eubank of old. I’d love to see it because it’d be a lot more entertaining fight. Credit to Smith, he got in there and did a job and did what no-one else has done to him before.
Udofia: In my eyes, yeah. Media-wise a lot of people ran with Eubank wasn’t Eubank. The notion that he took his foot off the gas, he only put 60 per cent in, almost like Liam Smith had no chance. We have to remember Liam Smith is timeless. He doesn’t seem to age. He’s been in with a higher level of opponent than Eubank. We’ve got to give him credit. Look what he did to Eubank. Say whatever you want about it but look what happened. I’ve always given Smith credit.
Eubank describes Smith’s win as a “fluke”. Was it?
Bentley: I don’t think it was a fluke because Smith is a good fighter. We just underestimated him because Chris Eubank was bigger. The way he handled Liam Wiliams with his new style we just underestimated Liam Smith a little bit thinking he’s on the slide. He’s done a lot in his career; he’s fought big names, does he still have it in him, and he showed that he does and has more than Eubank does. I think Smith can carry on going for another two years even though he’s already 35.
Denny: No chance, not a fluke. I think he [Eubank] knows that really. He has to say that/ Where does he go if it happens again? That’s the big question. It was no fluke there were numerous big shots that landed. He was in the corner getting backed up. I remember Liam Smith said, “Which one was the lucky punch?” There was a good five or six there.
Udofia: I wouldn’t say it was a fluke. Smith maybe saw something. He got hit with four uppercuts before the previous round ended. I’m not saying he went for broke because I don’t think that’s what he did. But he got hit with them and felt Eubank’s getting a bit comfortable. He went out and tried to show who’s boss and it worked out for him.
What was your prediction for the first fight and what is your prediction for the rematch?
Bentley: My prediction for the first fight was a Eubank win. This fight I’ve got Smith winning and I wouldn’t be surprised if he stops him again. I think Eubank’s going to do more to not get stopped. Smith’s going to be a lot more confident, he’s going to press harder so I’m going with a Liam Smith win.
Denny: I did think Smith points. I’ll probably go with Smith points again by three or four rounds even though I was wrong first time. I’ll always think Smith’s underrated for some reason. He’s been a world champion but never gets talked about.
Udofia: Back in January it was a late Smith stoppage or Smith majority decision, or a Eubank early stoppage. It’s weird to say but I don’t think Eubank would have him beat him on points. Now, I think Smith gets a late stoppage. I think Smith got it spot on last time. Eubank just doesn’t listen to a lot of people, no matter how many changes he makes I don’t think he listens well.