Exclusive interview with 'Simply The Best' Chris Eubank!
By Lee Callan: Back in the early 1990s, no fighter captivated an audience like Chris Eubank, be it in London, Belfast, South Africa or mainland Europe. The intensely focused, robotic-moving poser was almost always able to intimidate his opponent and infuriate the viewers as he racked up his 43-fight unbeaten streak as WBO middleweight and super-middleweight champion. As famous in the UK for his punchlines out of the ring as he was for his punch in it, and adored at the end of his career as a gallant loser, it was an honor to catch up with Mr Eubank and bring you this chat!
Article posted on 17.06.2011
It's a pleasure and honor to speak to you and have you on the site. Firstly, your son, Chris Jr, will he be turning pro?
"Indeed he will be. I can't say much more right now. But Christopher has served his apprenticeship. He's abstinent, ambitious, obstinate, and he's served that apprenticeship. He's been educated in the fistic arm form and has the tools and references to climb that ladder in the world of work now, in his chosen field."
In your early professional career, was there one particular fight that made you feel you could make it in this sport?
"I beat great amateurs like the Jamaican Richard Burton, who had only one loss, 40 wins and 40 knockouts, and the Puerto Rican Rey Rivera in my last amateur fight who was in the world top-ten a year later. My only offense was throwing straight punches and my only defense was catching straight punches.
"A few years later, I had every punch in the book and every move. I knew how good I was."
When you fought Nigel Benn in that infamous battle in 1990, it was for the then-unknown World Boxing Organisation belt. What did you think of that title at the time?
"The fighter makes the belt. Nigel Benn beat Iran Barkley in an objective manner in his previous fight, where Barkley had only subjectively lost to the other world champions in his previous fights. And if the WBO world championship was good enough for the God-like Thomas Hearns, it was good enough for me at the time."
You had a great reign as champion and defended the belt in a murderous schedule against a variety of hard-punching challengers. However, many fight fans longed to see you take on the better chess masters around your weight. Why didn't those bouts take place?
"Marvin Hagler, who I have the utmost respect for, gave up a world championship when Herol Graham was mandatory challenger I believe, so that he could fight Sugar Ray Leonard for ten-million dollars. I decided to embark on a ten-million pound 'world tour' instead of face Michael Nunn or Roy Jones, who weren't even at #1 contender rank and so weren't mandated. If it was all right for Hagler, it was all right for me. That guy was a God when I was coming up.
"To become a God, you have to beat a God, in an objective manner, like Hearns did over (Roberto) Duran and Hagler did over Hearns, or win the fight you can't win, like Benn did over (Gerald) McClellan where he got knocked down and battered, yet still won against a vicious opponent. Lennox (Lewis) wasn't a God until he beat (Mike) Tyson - Tyson was already a God."
You were seen in most quarters as perhaps boxing's most arrogant fighter with the way you used to carry yourself. Was the strutting and posing an act or was it really you?
"I was twenty-four years old, I had beaten the best North American my age, the best South American my age, the best Africans and Europeans my age. I had a mansion that was paid for. I was 24. I'm not trying to put it across like 'Oh, look at me,' I'm being objective here. There were reasons why I walked with a certain gait, in a proud manner. It wasn't arrogance."
You've been very outspoken in recent years about your disagreement at paying Olympic stars like Audley Harrison, Amir Khan and James DeGale a kings ransom to turn over, feeling it robs them of their hunger...
(Interrupts) "I've always liked Amir Khan. It was that naivety and just being normal and rooted. There was abstinence, there was ambition, he kept his schedule and he wanted to set standards, and so he had the ingredients of a good role model, of which he is.
"To get knocked out in such an embarrassing fashion, after the build-up he had, and to go away to America and get lost and spar and come out on top like he has - what a hungry character. What a role model.
"In about November 1985, a television company called Cablevision spoke about funding me. It was unheard of for a 19-year-old. My manager, Adonis Torres, took me off TV. Five years later, I beat Benn for the title, and in that time I had hardly any TV exposure, I had hardly any money, I did it the hard way. I got myself lost and sparred.
"You talk to me about someone like Audley Harrison, I'd rather you not. My first purse - that was 250 dollars. When I fought Benn and won the title, I cleared 25 grand.
"When I met James DeGale, I said to him: 'You do realise you're going to have to take a beating, don't you?' and he looked at me shocked, and he said to me: 'A beating? Me? Come on now, I own this gym.'"
When you did fight Benn, did you worry the occasion would get to you seeing as you had such little coverage before that, what with the intense atmosphere on the night?
"The occasion wouldn't get to me because I already fought in front of ten-thousand spectators and ten-million viewers when I was eighteen years old, in the Golden Gloves in the Madison Square Gardens, just before Mr T and Hulk Hogan did the WWF there with Muhammad Ali and Cyndi Lauper, which was being massively advertised. I lost a close decision that I thought I won.
"When I first came to the United Kingdom to box, people were talking hundreds and I was talking thousands. When people were talking thousands, I was talking tens of thousands. When people were talking tens of thousands, I was talking hundreds of thousands. When people were talking hundreds of thousands, I was talking millions. When people were talking millions, I was talking tens of millions. When people were talking tens of millions, I was talking hundreds of millions. Nearly a billion people watched me at Old Trafford.
"It's called ambition. People want normal. They want the gold watch at 65 and the little house with the little back garden. Very few want to challenge themselves and set goals that literally set the new standards.
"The mecca of boxing is Vegas, from Tyson in the 80s and mid-90s to (Naseem) Hamed and (Floyd) Mayweather in the 2000s. Why not set your sights high?
"Joe Calzaghe came out of the United Kingdom and he had been a great world champion, an exceptionally great world champion. Though, generally, they do come out of the States, out of Mexico, out of Puerto Rico."
What were your memories of Calzaghe, having fought him for your old title, the vacant WBO super-middleweight belt in '97, that started his reign?
"Calzaghe was very skilled and had quick hands. He kept his fence up behind his right leg and always punched in the clinches. When his fence was down, his punches landed from out of sight.
"Taking the a fight on a few days' notice wasn't a problem - I had done it against powerhouses like Simon Collins and Anthony Logan, guys who had looked dangerous in recent fights. Losing 20 lbs. in a week wasn't a problem - I had lost that in a few days and won world title fights.
"The problem was that I had no southpaw sparring, for 1), and for 2), I was unable to do any roadwork due to a knee problem. When you recall the emphasis my style placed on multi-directional foot movement and getting my jab working, and the fact Calzaghe was better that I thought, I had my work cut out in there to say the least.
"I underestimated Joe and thought I could beat him on heart alone."
Just how hard did Joe punch you?
"Joe punched very hard. But when when you've taken heavy left hooks from Logan and Benn, double left hooks from Lindell Holmes, triple left hooks from Wharton and had a hard-punching sparring partner like Kenny Nevers, it tends to unamplify the effect."
One fight the fans would love to have seen was you against Roy Jones Jr. at somewhere like Wembley Stadium. How would that fight have panned out?
"Roy Jones was extremely skillful and fast. He was unorthodox and inviting in that he left his hands down when throwing, but in study he leaned back very well on his right leg, and even though the hands were down, his head was pulled right back and his hands were left out way in front of him.
"You had to punch just after or just before he punched. I could land from in or out of range without wasting motion and turn my shoulder in on the way out. Technically, we would have been well-matched. But he was a lot more gifted that I was in strength and power, and I'm too much of a gentleman to say I'd have knocked him out."
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