By Samuel Lee
English Great Chris Eubank discusses his fight career with me during a phone conversation. The Brighton Braggart, who posed to ‘Simply The Best’ by Tina Turner and acted like pure steel in the ring, opens up to me in candid discussion.
On his early career:
‘I had some very difficult fights on the way up against guys like Eric Holland after three fights and Anthony Logan after 11 fights. I had to drop Holland with a pivoted left hook in the final round to save me from my first loss after unrelenting pressure, and I heard he never went down again in a long career. And I had to hold Logan up following my pivoted left hook in the final round because he fell into me and I didn’t want to risk the referee calling a foul.
‘Logan knocked out Hernandez in about his third fight with a left hook where the guy was cold, and Hernandez was able to absorb the power of one Julian Jackson, who had Herol Graham cold in mid-air. I took Logan’s best left hook in the second round.’
On Tyson’s influence:
‘Mike Tyson told me how to fight southpaws! I met him in November 1989 in Manhattan in a record store – he remembered me from our amateur days – and he told me to circle anti-clockwise and work the left hook before looking for the right hand openings, as a form of deception.’
On much-acclaimed Nigel Benn (I) and Michael Watson (II) wars:
‘I never took as much punishment in my entire career as in the first Benn and second Watson fights. I was completely psyched up and so was Benn for that fight and Watson for that fight. They took really powerful, lightning combinations from me in the opening minute of those fights that they couldn’t usually be firmly erect from, such was their focus. And it was all or nothing for me on both occasions.
‘It produced the most ferocious encounters you’ll see!’
On the (controversial) first Watson fight in June 91:
‘I thought the first six or seven rounds of the original Watson fight in Earls Court were a technical masterclass on my part. I stayed minutely out of distance, evading his jab with fractionistic head movement, and moved in at the correct times with perfect short punches. My reflexes were working – I was catching his good, strong, long punches like catching a ball thrown by a child.
‘But then I ran out of strength because I lost 19lb in four days.’
On Sugar Boy Malinga:
‘Sugar Boy Malinga gave me a tricky, tactical fight. He had an exceptionally long jab and deceptively long right, but I skipped and slipped and came out without a mark on my face for a deserved decision victory in difficult circumstances. Good match.’
On American opposition:
‘Americans Tony Thornton and Lindell Holmes took and gave extremely hard punches and both had a certain sneaky speed with a tight defense. Neither stretched me, but provided very stiff competition.’
On back-to-back Benn (II) and Graciano Rocchigiani matches:
‘Maximo Pierret, my old trainer from New York, re-taught me prior to the Benn rematch and Rocchigiani fight to side-step with my right hands instead of sitting in, so that I could follow with a left hook or right uppercut.
‘The Benn rematch showed my fastest hands, sharpest combinations and best foot movement, considering Benn was of a higher calibre than a Tony Thornton or Lindell Holmes and had improved dramatically on a defensive scale since the first encounter.
‘Benn was ducking, slipping, bobbing and weaving all night long in our rematch and replaced his swinging right hook to the head with a good, strong right uppercut to the body to score with and slow me down with. He earned himself a fair draw but I already showed my superiority over the WBC champion over two fights.
‘Rocchigiani fight may be my best victory – away from home, hostile territory, the man is 6’3″ and a southpaw, unbeaten in 35 fights and two-time world champion. I showed a lot of technical ability – ducking, slipping, bobbing, weaving, dancing and skipping and going accurately to the body. I thought I won the fight by a landslide, dominating 75% of the fight.’
On fight with Henry Wharton in Dec 94:
‘Just before the Wharton fight, I was there ringside in his home town of York as he knocked out his opponent in 30 seconds in his fight prior to me and I duly rised from my seat to sneer at his hostile supporters, which was shown on BBC1. It really got the juices flowing and his manager Mickey Duff’s assertion that I was ‘scum’ at a pre-fight press conference helped me focus like never before since the first Benn and second Watson fights. Not even Ryan Giggs or Eric Cantona could get a ticket for this one.
‘Wharton wasn’t Benn and he wasn’t Watson, and I duly picked him apart with a high punch output for nine rounds before staying out of range. What Wharton was however was one of the hardest pound-for-pound punchers in world boxing and I certainly felt his bone-crunching power to the head and body.
‘I jabbed so fast and accurately that his eye closed up in just the second round, which I’ve never seen any other boxer manage before on an opponent. Neither have I seen another boxer manage a 90% success rate after six rounds at world championship level. Not to blow smoke in my own face, of course. The strike against me in this example is that Wharton was stylistically made for me.’
On first loss:
‘By the time I fought Steve Collins in March 1995, I had been a world champion for five years running. Collins was a replacement for Ray Close, who failed a brain scan for our February 11th date. I had gone through seven six-week training camps in 10 months prior to meeting Steve on the St Patricks Weekend. And my training camps consisted of 150 rounds of intense, full contact sparring with different sparring partners and eight miles a day of beach running at different speeds.
‘Put simply, I was utterly exhausted from a physical standpoint and Collins’s racism and hypnotistic stunts finished me off from a mental standpoint to the point where I was there for the taking. And so he took me. Although I did think the decision was questionable.
‘I knew I was going to lose one day. I just didn’t expect it to be Steve Collins who inflicted defeat upon me, a fighter I never rated whatsoever. I expected it to be Michael Nunn, James Toney or Roy Jones.’
On late career:
‘I took my losses and beatings at the end from a maniacal, lunatistic version of Collins in the rematch, a powerful, hungry version of Calzaghe – who Collins wanted nothing of – and a 210-pound, ripped world champion in Thompson. That, combined with re-emerged memory of the first Benn and second Watson fights, finally gave me the mass, lasting respect I aimed for from the time I started boxing in February 1983 at a rundown gym in South Bronx.
‘I had the longest unbeaten record in boxing and was disliked and disrespected. Yet when I started losing and coming back for more, the people started liking and respecting me, and at the end, I was adored and pedastalled. It was a fascinating journey and experiment. I thought it was the perfect career and I got out at the perfect time.’
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