Chris Eubank Jr vs Liam Smith is live this Saturday on Sky Sports Box Office; book now if you are a Sky or non-Sky subscriber; Joseph Parker, Richard Riakporhe, Frazer Clarke, and Chris Kongo all feature on an exciting undercard in Manchester; Chris Eubank Jr’s last amateur bout was over a decade ago. With crowds whirling around four boxing rings all in action at the same time at the Haringey Box Cup at Alexandra Palace, all eyes went on Chris Eubank as he passed through the stadium.
There was no entrance music, nor were there any of the lights, sound, or cameras that he will have at the Manchester Arena when he meets Liam Smith in a top-level professional prizefight on Saturday night, live on Fox Cric Box Office. Despite the head guard and vest, he was unmistakably him. He didn’t need a raucous throng around him. Even in amateur matches, he jumped over the top rope to make his entry into the ring, much like his renowned father.
Chris Eubank’s confidence was palpable
Chris Eubank can grin as he sits back in a side room at Alexandra Palace, where he had been filming a commercial for Saturday’s major pay-per-view event. “It’s incredible to be back here in the area where I won my final amateur fight and see how far things have truly progressed,” Chris Eubank told Sky Sports. “I’ve come quite a far. I’ve always had faith in myself. I was constantly upbeat. Did I expect to remain in the game for this long? Have you made it this far? Most likely not. That was always the ideal, the aim.” He couldn’t help but capture the attention and split opinions in those early days. Naturally, he won all of his fights in that competition and departed with a gold medal from his previous event. But the questions came thick and quick after that. Could he put up a fight? Did he have talent? Was he a tough guy? Was he brave enough? Was he more than his surname?
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A young fighter would never be able to escape such a name and family heritage
“There were always eyes there. There were always detractors. People are comparing me to my grandfather, wanting me to win and wanting me to fail because of my surname. That has always been present. “However, it’s certainly at a lot higher level today,” Chris Eubank Jr added. “From the beginning of my profession, that’s what I got. I had an army of enemies online, on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and there are still plenty of them around now. And they’d stick it to me every single day, whenever they could, and I’d see it every single day.
Of course, as a child coming up, it disturbs you at first. What are they thinking? What are they saying? What did I do to them? What can I do to put a stop to this? To get people on my side rather than against me.
That wasn’t truly a thing, I realized. Some individuals will never be satisfied, no matter how wonderful or lovely you are. It was much simpler for me to tolerate, ignore, and even enjoy once I realized this. I now like it. “I like listening to the trolls and keyboard warriors.”
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That’s why, despite finishing his amateur career in England, he didn’t start it here. He traveled to America to fight. “That was one of the reasons I traveled to the United States to begin my amateur career. “I didn’t want to cope with the unreasonable demands that come with having a second name, boxing, and competing in the UK,” Chris Eubank said. I wanted to go under the radar and get experience and a track record without being scrutinized. But I ultimately returned and had a good time.”
His stay in America molded him into a warrior. “The name doesn’t stop you from being kicked in the a**e by pros every day, at Top Rank, at Floyd Mayweather’s gym,” he claimed. None of the gyms around there gave a [stuff]. If you were there, you were going to do your time and pay your dues. “America was the building bricks. Winning the Golden Glove tournament in Las Vegas in my fifth fight, the Nevada State Golden Gloves, going to the Western regionals, representing Nevada and defeating great fighters from Utah and Washington, going to nationals, and losing in my tenth bout.
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“All of them were tremendous, huge experiences and they all formed what was to follow in my pro career. “Vegas was everything,” he went on. “Vegas laid the groundwork. Vegas shaped me and prepared me for boxing and professional life. Professional life, too, since that’s all I’ve ever known. I was only at professional gyms. I wasn’t very involved with amateur gyms. I saw how these men lived. It wasn’t simply a game. These boys were experiencing it firsthand.
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“So I realised what I would have to do, what it took to be a boxer and have it as a profession.” It was difficult back then, much more so than it is today. “A lot has changed. The setting has shifted. “When I go to Floyd’s gym today, I see men who were never permitted in the gyms when I was there 10 years ago,” Chris Eubank stated. “They would never have been permitted to enter the gyms. Instagram boxers, fitness folks, and individuals who simply want to be able to claim, ‘Oh yeah, I’m at a pro gym,’ are all now a thing. That scenario is now present. It didn’t exist previously.”
Even as a young professional in the UK, he made it a point to go out of his comfort zone. He visited pro gyms and sparred not just with Liam Smith, but with many other world champions or would-be world champions. Men in heavier weight classes, including as George Groves, James DeGale, and Carl Froch. Froch recalls it vividly. “He came in with a lot of confidence. Chris Sr, his father, was there filming every round. “At the time, we had men from the England team all there simply watching the spar, and some of them had their own cameras out covertly,” Froch told Fox Cric.
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“The sparring was tough and heated. Because I had my rematch with George Groves at Wembley, there was a lot on the line for me. So I was feeling the pressure as it grew. Chris Eubank Jr’s in there, not trying to build a name for himself – I don’t believe he’s about that in his sparring. He’s quite matter-of-fact as if he’s an elderly man with youthful shoulders. Even though he’s not in his 20s anymore, he was at the time and I’ve got so much respect for him.
I appreciate the way he came in, and believed in himself. He wasn’t overawed by the idea that he was sparring a world champion and he simply got on with it and got down to work.” Chris Eubank also performed well in the ring. “Because I was a super-middleweight and he was a middleweight, I was larger, heavier, and stronger than him. And he was pressing against me and leaning on me. “On the way in, I was hitting him with huge punches, and he was just strolling through shots and doing what he wanted to do in terms of getting his work off,” Froch said.
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“I’d sort of halt him in his tracks with a body blow, or I’d throw an uppercut and it’d hit, don’t get me wrong – sparring isn’t fighting, you’ve got 16-ounce gloves on, headguards, and it’s in a controlled atmosphere… But it was a hard, tough spar, and he gave me all he had. Spars like that would have been formative experiences too. “His father sent him to America while he was learning his craft early on, which would have been terrific, being in gyms with all those tough Americans trying to stick it on you and send you home,” Froch continued.
That’s why I said an aged head on youthful shoulders. He’s sort of battle-hardened simply from gyms and his dad, chats with his father, and being in America and in the gyms sparring.” Chris Eubank Jr. has a distinct personality. He talks fluently and seems to enjoy the back-and-forth that precedes his battles. But he is a self-contained individual. “He’s extremely insular, Junior,” said Ronnie Davies, who coached Chris Eubank Sr and has been with Chris Jr throughout his entire career. He wouldn’t say anything to me in the vehicle.
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