By Keith Lambert
Misunderstood was one word to describe Chris Eubank in his early prime days. Mistakenly thought of as obscenely arrogant, Eubank was merely proud and focused, and his body language reflected this in the ring.
Eubank tells me about his tough boxing upbringing and how this helped him overcome top-class British rivals Nigel Benn and Michael Watson in the early nineties.
‘To an extent, I mean, I have to say, from my viewpoint, Michael and Nigel had been pampered fighters – pampered. They had extremely wealthy and immensely powerful managers behind them in Mickey Duff and Frank Warren, respectively, as well as Bob Arum in America. I had nothing, I just had myself. I had been turned down by the Top Rank, then turned by Duff, (and) turned down by Warren.
‘I mean, I remember taking on a fight for Duff – who didn’t like my independent attitude towards the business – on just a few hours notice because I needed the money, and the opponent had 10-12lbs weight on me. I got £500, and Michael Watson, who’s fight was the one after mine that night, was paid £5,000 for his fight. That £500 lasted me six months because I couldn’t get another fight.
‘I knew I had been in with far better fighters than either Michael or Benn had – world-ranked middleweight destroyers like Alex Ramos and Richard Burton when they were live world-ranked middleweights. I mean, I fought Simon Collins and Anthony Logan in the space of eight days; Simon Collins having had a 1-2-round shootout with Watson and Anthony Logan having had a 1-2-round shootout with Benn; I controlled these opponents and cleanly out-classed them, and I was a 10-11-fight novice. I did so because I was a mature adult.
‘Listen, I was ringside at the Benn-Watson clash in Finsbury Park when there were 9,000 spectators crammed into this tent contraption. Benn arrived in his Porsche, I recall seeing him in the car park mobbed by fans. It was like a Rocky scene. Five days later, I fought in front of 90 people in York Hall before catching the train back to Brighton to go back to my bedsit and sofabed.
‘The point of fact is this: the harder you come up, the harder you become. I beat Benn and I beat Watson because I was harder than them, not because I was more gifted or more naturally talented, or because I had the fanfare and the pampering. For Watson the first time, I lost 19lb in four days, fought the same day as the weigh-in and entered the ring covered in his fans spit.
‘In those overdue middleweight clashes I was only troubled by Benn’s punching power and by Watson’s defensive guard, I always knew I could maneuver around them and beat them with tighter shots; because while they were soaking up the attention on the way up, I was in the gymnasium chipping away at perfecting my craft – moving, punching. When you live a life of zero substances and zero socializing, you have a clear mind and you know your own skill set.
‘Yes, I went on to make a lot of money through the business of boxing – tens of millions of pounds, in fact – but I earned it, and enjoyed it.’
Fascinating words from a fascinating man who demands respect for his achievements in the hard world of boxing.
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