Former WBO middleweight/super-middleweight crown-holder from 1990 to 1995, and Global Sports Star and British Celebrity, Chris Eubank Senior was one of the slickest and most efficient boxers on the circuit in the 90s — often able to win fights with a very low out-put based on a slippery, backfoot style, punching accuracy and pleasing aesthetics.
We discuss technical aspects of boxing with Mr Eubank himself exclusively for NowBoxing.Com. Enjoy!
NowBoxing: Chris, first of all, who trained you initially the basics of boxing?
Chris Eubank: A gentleman by the name of Andy Martinez in the Bronx, New York. He didn’t have the knowledge to teach me how to pivot correctly when throwing the left hook or how to throw body punches. But I had learned the basic jab and right hand, how to stand, how to move, how to catch and counter, how to slip and counter. The basics.
NB: Did you have another trainer following this or did you go straight to Ronnie Davies?
CE: I had half-a-dozen trainers in New York before I went to Ronnie Davies and took bits from each of them: How to pivot, how to side-step, how to bob-and-weave, all the punches, all the angles.
Most trainers are specialists in one area, it’s one reason I beat Nigel Benn in 1990 — he had yet to have a multitude of technical trainers, so he didn’t have many tricks up his sleeve. Another reason I beat him was because he had yet to discover the church, whereas I grew up in the church and was heavily involved in the church in New York when I was learning boxing.
NB: Do you remember the names of your early coaches?
CE: Martinez and the main one, Maximo, were the ones at Jerome gym, my main gym. When I trained at the Bronxchester gym it was Luis Camacho and Lenny DeJesus. When I trained at the Gleasons gym, it was Pat Versace and Patrick Ford. They took me to these different gyms for different sparring when they wanted a rangey, speedy guy who could move.
NB: When did Ronnie Davies take over?
CE: Ronnie took over, so to speak, when I moved to Brighton in 1988. But he’ll be the first to tell you that I taught him more than he taught me. It was actually me coaching him to be a better coach after all I had learned in New York City, what I employed Ronnie Davies as was a supervisor.
NB: Fascinating! Who were the best guys you sparred in your early days?
CE: Alex Ramos in 1984 at Bronxchester and Merqui Sosa in 1987 at Gleasons gymnasium were heavy-hitting, rough, tough fighters. Johnny Walker Banks, who Hagler used as his sparring partner, used to batter me in the gym, as did an army boxer who never turned pro by the name of Kevin Bryant. I would say all of those guys were better brawlers than someone like Iran Barkley, who made champion and became a millionaire.
As far as who was the best boxer, Dennis Milton was very good in 1985, and Errol Christie in England had no weakness whatsoever when wearing head gear and using 18oz gloves. But the best was Herol Graham in Sheffield when I had about a dozen pro fights and was still a novice — he was World number-one and taught me a lot about myself, technically.
A hard, strong fellow called Milton Guest was the guy I sparred most in New York. I sparred so many guys, most of them I can’t remember their names. It was out-and-out warfare in New York gyms, guys who were supposed to be tough guys would leave Jerome gym on a stretcher, in an ambulance, crying.
NB: Fascinating stuff, Chris! What would you say was your best technical performance in the ring prior to your world championship fights?
CE: Les Wiskinewski.
NB: And the best performance of your championship reign as far as technical boxing skill?
CE: The second (Carl) Thompson fight was one. I used it to showcase as much skill as I could, knowing I was coming to the end and not wanting all I had learned and mastered to go to waste kind of thing — out-jabbing him, bobbing-and-weaving, anchoring my feet with every punch, left uppercuts, right hooks, slipping, side-stepping, stutter-stepping, you name it.
NB: How do you rate your performances against Nigel Benn?
CE: From a skill standpoint? Not as good as I expected them to be, because in the first fight I was taken aback by the maniac-type pace and pressure, not to mention the earth-shattering power when he managed to land — he struck me harder than a cruiserweight in Thompson; and because in the second fight he never once kept his head and body still, which required unbelievable stamina. Benn was a bit special, not from a technical standpoint but from a physical standpoint.
NB: You are often accused of as a fighter who couldn’t fight going forwards, only backwards or sideways to statically, what would you say to these critics?
CE: What nonsense is this? I won the world championship by going forwards, throwing punches on the front foot. There was a fight against Dan Sherry in which I chose to not fight front-footed and close the gap, due to loose canvas on the ring. But against master mover Ron Essett, in a chess match of footwork, I was closing the gap perfectly.
It’s a skill I had from my earliest days training, in fact I never lost to a boxer-mover type as an amateur. I did change my fighting stance in the late eighties however when I was taught the weight distribution used in many martial arts, which was 97.5% on the back foot, where you are always in a position to skip out of range.
NB: How do you rate your performances against Michael Watson?
CE: The first one showed a lot of sublime skill on my behalf. Some razor sharp reflexes and razor sharp timing, especially in the first five to seven rounds; the ninth showed some complex short shots that Michael very well to stay up from. That was the first fight. The second fight, I didn’t really get a chance to show my arsenal because he was on me like a rash, all over me, and didn’t let up for 11 rounds straight, requiring phenomenal stamina. He was also the only opponent to ever bully me up-close, in this second fight, more so than a cruiserweight in Thompson even.
NB: How do you rate your performances against Graciano Rocchigiani and Henry Wharton in 1994?
CE: Technically correct in accordance to what they brought to the table. Mr Rocchigiani held his hands high, so the idea was to keep his hands high with light, fast shots upstairs followed by hard, accurate shots downstairs to the gaps behinds the elbows. You have to move your hands away from your face to throw punches, which is why I would always hold my gloves together at stomach-height, always in a position to counter-punch, or making it very difficult for opponents to read what punch was going to lead off.
Mr Wharton was a pressure fighter and powerful puncher, so the idea was to throw fast, accurate jabs to blind his vision and mix in body shots with the combinations to slow him down. He didn’t slow down, so it was a very, very hard fight, requiring a lot of sharp countering on my behalf. Mr Wharton trebled the left hook punch as well as anyone I’ve ever seen, so I had to keep my wits about me and keep the right hand cupped to that side of the forehead and elbow covering the body, or he may have got me out of there.
NB: How would you have fared against Roy Jones Junior or James Toney in 1994?
CE: Those fights would start out as cagey chess games and soon evolve into vicious stand-offs. Both equally tough fights. Roy Jones did so well against James Toney, but not all of us are naturally gifted enough to be able to throw left hooks from out of range as easily as throwing a jab, and all of us apart from Roy Jones threw straight punches from range, so Toney couldn’t read those left hooks. Toney would read the straighter shots — he was very evasive, he was a smooth counter-puncher, a smooth combination-puncher, a smooth body-puncher and had a powerful right-hander, and above all, he had more fire burning inside his solar plexus than anyone.
Roy Jones is a super-tough fight because of his unbelievable punching ability and all around speed, and as the old saying goes: ‘Speed kills.’
I’m delighted that I never fought these men, because I would be walking around on my heels now had I done so! One thing for sure is that neither of those guys would’ve been quite the same fighter again after fighting myself.
NB: Who was the better boxer, Steve Collins or Joe Calzaghe?
CE: Joe Calzaghe had faster hands, faster feet, better combinations, better movement and a much harder punch. I think there is your answer!
NB: Do you feel Calzaghe was the best you fought?
CE: Michael Watson was the best I fought. When I fought Joe, I was no longer able to do roadwork or twist and turn in the gym, due to a knee problem; it restricted my foot movement in the fight. I also had no southpaw sparring and only 10 or 12 days to prepare for Calzaghe, no tapes! But he was clearly very, very good; very fast hand speed and a very awkward stance and style to get to grips with.
NB: What made Michael Watson so good?
CE: When he fought Mike McCallum, who was one of the world’s best pound-for-pound fighters of the eighties, he blocked more body punches than anyone ever blocked against McCallum and landed more right hand punches than anyone ever landed against McCallum — the main reasons Michael lost that fight was a matter of ring rust from a year out and, 2) poor corner tactics. When me and Michael fought, it was very much the best against the best in accordance with that and in accordance with the fact that I defeated the world’s most dangerous pound-for-pound head puncher with my gloves held together at waist-height.
NB: Who do you see as the best ‘technicians’ around boxing today?
CE: Mayweather, Marquez and the middleweight who fought the other night against, was it, Macklin?
NB: Gennady Golovkin?
CE: Yes. The fact Bernard Hopkins wins fights with only ring movement and right hands, and I suppose in-close bullying, is very masterful but he doesn’t have the complete of arsenal of Floyd Mayweather Junior I would say. The guy who beat Froch, Ward, is very tricky and talented but not a technician quite like Floyd Mayweather.
NB: What makes Mayweather so good?
CE: He can move his feet, his body, his head, his hands; to defend. To attack, he can land from out of range or he can land from a few inches. He can stand ring-central or use the ropes. He can do it all. He reminds me very much of myself.