Q&A with European boxing legend, Chris 'Simply The Best' Eubank
By Lee Callan:
Article posted on 15.08.2011
LC: First boxing memory?
CE: Watching Muhammad Ali fight George Foreman in 'The Rumble in the Jungle' on our old black-and-white television in 1974.
LC: First time you got into the ring?
CE: It was in the Peckham ABC against a guy called Matthew in about 1978. He pummelled me. There were no gumshields and it was horrific. I didn't box again until February 1983, in New York, and didn't get in the ring again until June 1983.
LC: Early memories as an amateur?
CE: Luis Camacho bought me my first pair of Adidas Boxing shoes and would buy me McDonald's if I won, but I didn't agree with his training techniques. It wasn't that I wasn't grateful, it was that I knew there was a trainer in the gym whose techniques were correct, namely Maximo Pierret.
LC: Early memories as a professional?
CE: Adonis Torres, my first manager, would pay for my hotel rooms the night before at the casinos I fought at, and matched me well and paid me progressively well, from $250 to $500 twice to $1,000 and a 4 and 0 record. The school would let me have a day off, too, so that I could fight. It was like I was the golden boy.
My greatest and toughest fight before I fought Anthony Logan was against Eric Holland at Tropicana Hotel & Casino, Atlantic City. Holland was the sparring partner of Pernell Whitaker and John David Jacksons and he came at me relentlessly, he was winning after three rounds before I connected correctly in the fourth round with a left hook - that I had been working on relentlessly in the gymnasium - and put him down to get the four-round decision. I have since heard he never went down again in a long career.
LC: Early sparring memories?
CE: My sparring partner for my first four professional fights was a gym fighter called Robert Burton, a Jamaican, and unbeaten gym fighter in fact, and he had a brother called Richard, who I beat in the amateur ranks. Richard was being pushed as a professional and when I became 4 and 0, he offered me $250 for four weeks of sparring before his next five fights. At one point, he was the #6 ranked middleweight contender in the world. He was also the sparring partner for future world champion, Iran Barkley.
LC: Why did you choose boxing?
CE: The reason I turned professional in the first place was because I ran up a $250 telephone bill that my mother just could not afford. Within a year and a half, I was also a qualified typist and black belt in Tai Chi, but there was no money in a secretarial career or MMA fighting at the time, so I stuck with boxing.
I can't enter UFC today - I'm 45 years old, and while it's true that strength does not equate to power and youth does not equate to strength, I haven't practiced 'push hands' for 13 years.
(Mike) Tyson was the fighter who inspired me most to succeed in boxing, because I'd been everywhere he'd been, and I thought, 'He's a man and he did it, I'm a man so why can't I do it?'.
LC: Who were your favourite fighters?
CE: Thomas Hearns, Pernell Whitaker. That's about it. Pernell was poetic. The fighter who inspired my boxing style in any way was Dennis Cruz, who you would not have heard of. He was a gym fighter, he had perfect balance. Dennis Cruz was the most graceful fighter I ever clapped eyes on.
I admired greatly the jab of Thomas Hearns, but I knew I couldn't have a jab the same as his because we had did different body structures, so my jab was different.
LC: Who was your sporting idol?
CE: Bob Marley was more inspirational for me than any sportsman, for his words. Bob Marley inspired me to be the best I could be.
Bruce Lee, perhaps unconsciously, in watching 'Enter The Dragon' - having bunked into a movie theatre in Kingsland High Street, Stoke Newington - in about 1974, the little bit I saw that time maybe unconsciously Bruce Lee taught me to be an original and to go with my own artistic licence.
LC: Best tip to give?
CE: A trick is to stay away from girls. One girl I was seeing for six months in London from June 1987 distracted my career plans, I had to move to Brighton so she couldn't find me in New York, and box in England. Then I met my future wife.
America was where the money was with the casinos - I could've made more money out there.
LC: Best style to use?
CE: The best generalized style is boxer-puncher - the likes of Thomas Hearns, Gerald McClellan and Lennox (Lewis).
Can I just say other tips... Thought and application is better than just application. Strength and flexibility is better than just strength. Being objective is better than being subjective. If you're an aspiring boxer, keep all that in mind.. very important.
LC: Your best punch?
CE: Actually, my left hook. But (Nigel) Benn, (Michael) Watson and Steve Collins were the three strongest fighters in the world, because when I executed and landed my left hook correctly in certain rounds of certain fights with those particular fighters, they remained vertical.
I was holding up Anthony Logan in the last round of our fight after I executed it correctly on his way in, and took clean off his feet the Argentinian Hugo Corti with it - Argentinians being the toughest racial people in the world in regards to punching them. Jean-Noel Camara - you could see his head actually shake in delayed reaction on his way down from it in the first round against me, and it was the left hook in the combination I threw at Gary Stretch that hurt him severely and lost him his feet. I effectively ended these prospects, and it was the left hook that did the damage.
LC: Your analysis of Watson 1?
CE: I won each of the first five rounds by out-boxing him with scientific skill, but then ran out of strength because I lost 19lb in four days. So I decided I would just throw everything at him every other round from the sixth, trying my luck at stopping him because I didn't know if I could make 12 rounds that night.
Doing so I may have given away those rounds, but won or drew the rounds in between. So I won that fight righteously.
LC: Your analysis of Watson 2?
CE: We drew the first, second and third rounds, but then he out-strengthed and out-fought me to the point where I actually gave up in the sixth and just stayed there to take my beating because I knew I couldn't win. I knew I couldn't win because he had kept up the pace of a lightweight from the start, his strength felt beyond phenomenal, and he was showing no signs of slowing or weakening.
From there, it was a battering to the point where he was holding me up by the mid-to-late rounds. He was a normal man when I fought him three months before, but that night he was superman. I absorbed so much malice in the air that night towards me though that when my knee hit the canvas, I felt I needed to let it all back out in one go.
LC: Your analysis of Benn 2?
CE: I came in heavy and sluggish but I thought a draw was fair, I don't think you could've given it to Benn because I was doing more boxing than he was. Plus, he had the point off for ungentlemanly conduct, which is all into the game.
I won the first three and the sixth rounds by boxing more, although he tried to nick them, and just threw everything at him in the last three.
Plus, the showmanship comes into it, which subconsciously influences the judges. I sacrificed - standing between rounds and raising my chest for a reason.
LC: Your analysis of Collins 1?
CE: I thought the refereeing and judging were questionable, and that Steve cheated to win.
LC: Your analysis of Collins 2?
CE: It was the first fight in my career where my opponent was more unorthodox than I was, so I lost.
LC: Were your rivals always on your radar?
CE: I did a lot of studying of potential opponents after I beat Logan, including Benn and Watson, who were fighting for the Commonwealth title and a shot at the world title, and veterans Herol Graham and Mike McCallum, who were fighting for that world title, and Ron Essett and Tony Thornton, who were North American and United States champions respectively. Also Lindell Holmes, who was #1 in the WBC middleweight ratings, where Logan had been rated #16 at WBC.
I spent some time watching Essett sparring with Herol Graham, before Herol Graham fought McCallum, and I too boxed Herol Graham in that camp. Herol Graham had the best defensive reflexes I ever saw but I caught him coming back from leaning away from my feint and put him on his back quite heavily with what was a left hook at an overhand angle, in the first round of our last sparring session. I didn't put him on his bottom, I put him on his back - that's how hard I hit him.
American Michael Nunn was the closest to Graham but 6-feet-and-3-inches tall, so the move I had with the left hook wouldn't have reached. So I would opt not to fight Nunn.
Mike McCallum was a quality fighter and is a very good friend of mine now. I was a middleweight of phenomenal strength, 175 with a 12-pac in training on the week of the fight. Mike was more of a light-middle but it would've been a good match, he wasn't slippery but his only weakness was against a mover, I did like to dance.
I wanted the fight with McCallum, but American TV wouldn't back him, which was a shame because he was a very good champion and one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
LC: What determines boxing greatness?
CE: The truly great fighters like Marvin Hagler, Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake LaMotta were all great fighters because they took their losses and came back.
There have only been two great champions who have retired undefeated - Rocky Marciano and Joe Calzaghe - but it's difficult to pop them in that same bracket because you only see someone truly great in the way they lose.
The career of Floyd Mayweather Jr is a work in progress. He's had 41 fights unbeaten but is not one of the greats yet because he's yet to do both his winning and losing. He's yet to show he can take his beatings like the greats did.
To become a legend of your own time is another matter. To do that, you have to win a fight you can't win. Nigel Benn did that - he fought Gerald McClellan, got knocked down and battered, yet still won against a vicious opponent. At that point, he was a demigod.
LC: Last time you watched one of your fights?
CE: Two weeks ago on my flight from Cuba on my portable DVD player. They are interesting fights indeed.
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