ON Friday, February 2, Boxing News went to visit the Eubanks at the gym in Hove, where Chris Eubank Jr has been preparing to fight George Groves. Much of what happened is described in the forthcoming issue, but below are the sections of the interview with Eubank Sr which didn’t make the final cut. Here he talks about why Junior sparred George Groves and James DeGale in the first place, what he got out of it, and delivers fascinating insight into the journey his son has been on.
You were there when Junior sparred George Groves. Is there anything in Groves to fear?
First of all you have to understand that I engineered these sparring sessions to happen because if you can beat them in sparring, you can beat them in a real fight. The only difference is, there is no decision at the end of the sparring session. These trainers who haven’t lived the life of a fighter, how can they know that? You see, when I came over here in 1988, I set about sparring with all the guys. I sparred with Rod Douglas and he tore me to pieces because he was fighting maybe three or four days after the sparring session. He tore me to pieces, and I knew how good he was, because I knew how good I was, I was determined. I may not have had the skill at that time but I grew to have.
Johnny Melfah, I knew I was going to fight him in the future so it made sense for us to both know who was the boss. That is using your intelligence, in this world of boxing.
At the time, whenever I could find a sparring partner who was in the Top 10 or 20, I would spar them. It made sense to me and so why wouldn’t I use that same method with my son? That is why I had him sparring with George.
I have heard them say ‘I needed him so I paid him to come.’ Well, if I was a trainer who wasn’t experienced like many inexperienced trainers – ‘Oh no, we can’t spar with him because we might fight them in future’ – I wouldn’t understand that it’s what you must do.
In a profound way, you become knowledgeable about what you can do. The truth is, when you know you can beat somebody, you can. It’s as simple as that.
So when I engineered his sparring with James DeGale, for instance, I said to Junior, ‘I’m very surprised they’re allowing this to happen, but they don’t know what I know. Do not think you will get a second chance so make sure you beat him, and make sure he knows that you have beaten him. You will not get a second chance.’ And that’s exactly what happened.
After that sparring session I said [to Junior], ‘You got him?’ He said, ‘Yes, I got him.’
So am I worried about George Groves? No. Why? Because I know. I’m not guesstimating here. Beat the fighter only once, even three, four years before the real fight happens, and that person knows. And you know.
It is a profound thing when you spar a man or fight a man. You are very close to them, you know about their strengths, if they wince, if they will be intimidated when you jab, if you feint and attack. You see this. You feel this. What these trainers are missing is this: They’re looking at the physical aspect, and at gameplays. No. I’m not looking at any of that. I’m looking at one thing, and one thing only. Spirit. And that’s what separates Junior from the rest of them.
Is it possible for you to guide that ‘spirit’?
Two years ago I told him, ‘You take the lead now.’ Do not go by what I’m telling you, you have to become creative now, which is why we can’t control him. When you can’t control a fighter who is in the gym every day, in that he will not do what you tell him to do, that’s the type of fighter you want. Not the type of fighter who follows instruction. They’re good! Like Joseph Parker, he follows instruction and he does just that, and I think he’s good. But that doesn’t get great. That. Does. Not. Get. Great. That does not get Usain Bolt. That does not get Mike Tyson. Ray Leonard. Sugar Ray Robinson. Jack Johnson. That does not get Joe Louis. Muhammad Ali. No. Something that you can contain… isn’t magic. The magic is the things you can’t contain and that is what I wanted for Junior, which is why I said, ‘Take the lead.’
You know, there’s only six punches in boxing. You can say there’s eight if you count the overhand hooks. Otherwise you have two, four and six. There is step one, step two, pull back, duck and catch. There is ringcraft, moving around. What more can I teach you? There is nothing more to teach. If you keep getting hit with a left hook, put your hand up, but the best thing to teach you that is by getting hit. Is it best to block, or to move? It’s best to move, so you throw a combination and you always, always, weave – whether the guy throws a punch or not. Effectively, you can train someone in a week. So, if after two years, three years or four years and you’re still like my trainer, then someone has missed the point. It shouldn’t be that complicated. What is complicated is coming into the gym every day and worshipping, like you’re going to church. You worship by sparring, sparring, sparring.
I’ve seen you many times watching your son train, telling everyone how dangerous he is, how talented he is. Are you ever critical?
Yes. But again, you have to understand the personality of spirit. I know that if I want Junior to do something, telling him on the day doesn’t mean anything because he will do it three or four weeks later.
If you watch some of his sparring, he is walking forward because he just wants to land the shots, but in a fight he will not walk forward, he will negotiate forward. But he has that rare ability to enact what he should be doing in sparring, in a fight. He doesn’t do it in sparring, he does it in a fight because – and I’ll tell you – his objective is work-rate, he wants to get to volume. He knows how slip, he knows how to box, that’s not his problem. His problem is being able to throw punches, and that’s what he wants, so he just walks in.
You can’t compete with volume. You can’t out-skill volume. All the so-called experts are saying, ‘If you can keep him at the end of the jab…’ I get that. But it is impossible, and listen to this, it is impossible to contain a spirit that is clever enough to get past the jab. And what is the best way to get past the jab? He understands how, and it’s force. It’s pressure fighting. That jab can come, but it can be slipped from the right, and countered. Or slipped from the left, and countered. You slip to the right, you throw the right uppercut, you slip to the left, you throw the left uppercut – either to the chin or the body.
Common sense is only common sense if you do it in sparring, it’s the only way you learn.
So Junior has nothing to fear?
You asked Junior a question. You said to him ‘Do you worry about your opponents?’ And he said it wasn’t his place. I’m the one who’s concerned for them. Why? Because he is genuinely dangerous yet it’s not accepted because of bigotry, jealousy, or the market – ‘This fighter is better than him.’ There maybe fighters with a bigger profile than him but there isn’t a better fighter than him. I’m talking about on global level, not in my view.
The great thing about boxing is that all this talk is talk and it must be interesting because the old man knows what he’s talking about. He’s had 24 world championship fights. He won 19 of them.
But if you still don’t believe I know what I’m talking about and I’m just bigging my son up, well okay. Have you ever known me to be dishonest? If you have, go by that. But you’re not going to find an occasion where I have been dishonest.
I am not dishonest. I am naturally a promoter because I am talking about something that I am cogitative in. So it’s natural that I’m going to push him forward but if you should doubt me, then it isn’t wise.
You have been criticised for the way you guided your son in the past. Will it be vindication of your methods if Junior beats Groves?
What is more important to me? Vindication or the building of my son?
They can go hand-in-hand.
No. I am not interested in vindication. I vindicated myself through my career, I have done it. How can you doubt me? No. I have full faith in the structure of building a fighter. These are the things I want to make sure: One, that Junior is the best he can be, and he is already far better than I thought he could be and two, that he is safe from the people that are naïve and they tell fighters that tell them things that hurt them in the long run. They fast track them. They don’t give them sparring, they train them around things that have nothing to do with boxing. When I say skipping is window dressing, I mean it. Speedball work? Window dressing. Running, even. Window dressing. Heavy bag work I respect, but more so than anything else, I respect sparring. This builds a fighter properly, and this builds a fighter properly and everything else is a waste of preparation. But how can they understand this? They don’t know. They love boxing but they do not know what it is like in there. They don’t know how to build stamina. They think you build stamina by running, they understand you build stamina by sparring.
This is Junior’s biggest fight. You experienced some dark, painful times in the boxing ring. Has it crossed your mind that Junior could be about to experience a gruelling, horrible fight like you did vs Nigel Benn, or Michael Watson?
The Michael Watson I fought on 21st September 1991, that fighter does not exist today in the middleweight or the super-middleweight division. Okay, the only name that you can throw up to me – and I say that date because Watson performed in a way that he had never performed before – the only fighter is [Gennady] Golovkin, perhaps. You cannot these fighters today, with the exception of Golovkin and Canelo [Alvarez]. [Gilberto] Ramirez? He is gangly and he’s hard but there is a flaw with him which we can exploit. Otherwise, who is there? You can’t compare these guys to the Nigel Benn of 1990. You can’t.
Remember how I built Junior. You know the punches, the only way you’re going to learn [more] is to go to Vegas and be pushed around and bullied. The only way you’re going to learn is by yourself, the same way I learned. Trainers, and all of these support systems, nutrition, strength and conditioning, Junior does it all, but he does the most important thing. The other fighters are taught by innocence, but I am not innocent. Therefore my son isn’t innocent. Not when it comes to this fight game – this is a very dangerous vocation and the only way to protect my son is to bring him through the way I have.
Can you imagine? Five-and-a-half years of criticism. ‘You’re doing it all wrong. You’re stealing his limelight. He’s going the wrong way.’ I’ve had it every which way. But I know and I have always known. I have gone through it. I had the best teachers, the best instructors, and they instructed me by robbing me, by misleading me, by misdirecting me, by not protecting me. So by all of this information that I have gathered, and that actually hurt me, of course I am going to give all of this, in a positive way, to my son. So yes, it looks like I’m the odd one out. Well, yes we are.
So what is your final prediction?
I don’t know.
But you know your son will win?
Look, there are certain things you don’t push. You asked him a question and it was the first time I have ever heard him say it. He said there would be an onslaught from the start. I don’t get involved in that because, in your life, you say this and that happens. I know what I want and to get what, sometimes you have to stay quiet and sometimes you give the common sense that the ‘innocence’, that the PE teachers don’t get. You want a stoppage? Train for 12. If you want to go 12, train to get a stoppage. ‘I’m going to win in three rounds.’ No, you’re going to go 12 rounds and you’re going to lose teeth in the interim. So train for 12.