By Nonito Perez
It was 1983 and I was due to work a corner at the Empire State Games in Syracuse, and watching the novice-class of the 147 LB. division, there was this wild Brit fighting out of the Jerome Boxing Club in the Bronx. He did progress and become an NY champion but never was the receiver of any ‘best boxer’ awards, though he was always fun to be around. He apparently went back home to continue what we thought was to be a limited career.
Of course he grew up to be Chris Eubank, who I can tell you had plenty of fans in the Big Apple!
Seeing recent interviews with Chris on this site, it has inspired me to give my memories on the U.K legend. Perhaps the funniest memory being at Bowling Green in Financial District, Manhattan N.Y when he did a one-armed jump over a barrier to get on to the subway train. The strap of his rucksack got caught on the barrier and he was pulled flat on my back, much to the amusement of onlookers!
Chris was a kid I got to know on a first-name basis at least. He stood out like a sore thumb. While all his contempories were wearing basketball tops and baseball caps and talking ‘street’ language, Chris was as well-groomed as a Manhattan banker and spoke like James Bond, which alienated people. “Who IS that guy!?”, people would murmur as he stiffened up with his shoulders back.
I watched many a sparring session of Chris’ at the Jerome Boxing Club, recalling him working with the likes of notorious gym destroyers like Johnny Walker Banks and the Burton brothers (Richard and Robert – who can be seen either side of Mike Tyson during his ‘put your mother in a straitjacket’ rant following the Lewis-Tyson press brawl), amateur stars Kevin Bryant, Rey Rivera and Bradley Austin, future World champion – Vince Phillips, and later – shortly before his disappearing act – useful southpaw Bertram Buchanan. He rarely held his own.
Adonis, the guy who ran that gym, said Chris would be there morning, noon and night, more than anyone else in his 40-something years running the gym.
What I remember about Chris was that he had talent in his hands and feet, but was too much of an arm puncher and seemingly too rigid to make it as a Pro contender. He was limited. What got him through mean spars was chin, heart and aggression: he could let his hands go and wouldn’t budge. A ‘Limey’ wasn’t supposed to be this tough!
Fast forward to 1991, I was now living in Ontario, Canada and young local hopeful Dan Sherry had a W.B.O title fight coming up in England. I tuned in to TSN, missing the start of the fight, and friends said, “Who’s that gummy guy walking around like robocop!?” After a double-take, low and behold, it was Chris Eubank!
Now a ‘World’ champion, filling arenas in Europe and showing more patience and pounce from his lower stance and slicker style. He could also punch now very well, to say the least. Sherry was disposed of after some Shananigans and Eubank was soon a regular fixture on the Prime Sports Network as well, disposing of such foes as Lindell Holmes, Tony Thornton, Ron Essett, Nigel Benn, Michael Watson, Thulani Malinga and others in impressive fashion; all either (or multiple) World, U.S, North American or British Commonwealth champions, both before and after. Some resume!
Thanks to YouTube, us ‘Yanks’ can appreciate the personality and character that Chris grew into on the celebrity circuit in England, where he apparently amassed 17,000,000 million viewers for his drawn return match with Nigel Benn!
A W.B.O holder from 1990 to 1995, it was not until his 20th ‘World’ title that he first tasted pro career defeat. Having turned pro in 1985, that is one hell of an astonishing record! I believe he ‘made’ the W.B.O belt as the likes of Naseem Hamed, Oscar de la Hoya, Marco Antonio Barrera, Dariusz Michalczewski and Joe Calzaghe went on to hold the belt after Eubank brought attention to it due to his longevity and star profile overseas.
Always a ‘one-off’ who stood out from the crowd, he was also the fighter who started extravagant ring entrances, with the likes of Naseem Hamed, Roy Jones, Floyd Mayweather and Ricky Hatton following suit.
I will never forget Chris Eubank.