Chris Eubank on tactical prowess, Mark Breland, Joe Calzaghe and his son

Chris Eubank Sr explains why he was the Master, why Joe Calzaghe was a great champion and how Michael Watson, Steve Collins and Nigel Benn found success against him.

“In terms of counter-punching and a cat-and-mouse game of strategy, I was the all-time master. A king of kings. Nobody sparred more – or harder than – me, and so I had a trained reflex in me which allowed me to focus entirely on strategic thinking boxing, the Sun Tzu book called the Art of War being a book I memorized page by page, line by line,” he stated.

On a collision of future world champions with stand-out Mark Breland at the 1984 Empire State Games in New York:

“I remember facing Mark Breland in the amateurs as a substitute with two and a half days to lose 10lbs. This guy Mark Breland was considered one of the best ever at the time. He would throw a jab, a kind of Wladimir Klitschko range finding jab, and I would catch it and counter with my own jab, a snappier jab I would step with. In the second round, he would throw the same slow jab as bait, so he could catch my faster harder jab and come back with his own. It was like a chess game. In the third round, I added to the sequence by slipping Mark Breland’s counter jab. He just out-worked me with combinations.

“This guy was looser and more relaxed than any fighter I’ve seen – including Michael Nunn – and constantly twisting and punching from all angles, and I was just a novice. But in terms of standing and boxing and thinking, I did the business.”

On sparring with UK’s defensive trickster Herol ‘Bomber’ Graham in the late 80s:

“I sparred six-rounders with Herol Graham as a professional when he had three or four times as many fights as me. Now Herol Graham evaded punches better than any fighter I’ve seen. I didn’t hit him with one correct punch all week, and my style of sparring was aggressive. But as soon as I decided to counter-punch, by faking a right hand and coming back with a left hook over the top on his way back from leaning back, I had him flat on his back in the first round and down for about 75 seconds. A week later, Herol was in with one of the best ever in Mike McCallum and won the first six rounds easily, before running out of fitness.”

On Benn, Collins and Calzaghe and tactics used:

“I fought legendary brawlers in Nigel Benn, Steve Collins and Joe Calzaghe, and notice how that when the pace was forced to slow, and they had to stand and box with me, I would master them easily with strategic countering, and they would then raise the pace again; Nigel slower paced in the fifth and sixth rounds of the first fight, and Steve slower paced in the 11th of the first fight after flooring him the round before, and Joe after the first couple of hectic rounds in the third, before raising again in the fourth, and Steve obviously training to raise the pace for the second fight and maintain it til the end; like Michael Watson in our second fight who didn’t give me a chance to out-think him. Dan Schommer on the other hand actually allowed me to out-think myself!

“Now against Nigel in our second fight the reason I led off for 12 rounds was wanting the fight over as soon as possible, not wanting to take the shots he was capable of unloading. And before I knew it, the fight had gone 12.”

On where novice boxers should place their attention to improve:

“Always look straight ahead when you box. If you focus on the hands or feet, or the eyes or the chest or shoulders, any movement can be a feint and you’re opened up out of position. Don’t look at one area, look for openings! Pay attention to all movement while looking forward at no specific area, and wait for openings. The hard part of boxing for beginners or those who don’t have hard sparring often is to react to the opponents movement without actually looking at his movement, but this is what must be done!

“For example, when he jabs, you are not looking at his jab, but at the opening it creates. Or you study the position or movement of his prior to the jab being thrown, to beat him to the punch next time. You will catch or slip his jab automatically if you spar hard and often for months and years on end. The defensive reaction is automatic and not to be a focal point. So don’t stare at the gloves or you’ll be hit all night or staring at the ceiling.”

On the toughness a fighter must possess to win the world title and be a great champ:

It takes a special fighter to make world champion against great fighters. Herol Graham was the best pure boxer in the world in the 80s, 90s and 70s and at his peak in 89. The reason Herol didn’t make world champion is because you have to take your opportunities with both hands and be able to fight and punch. When I moved in for the kill on Nigel Benn, it was a two-handed attack with my chin down. When Herol moved in for the kill on Julian Jackson, it was a one-handed attack with his chin up.

Michael Watson most certainly had the ability to make world champion, but pulled out of his world title challenge to Mike McCallum in 89 and by the time he fought him, he had been out of the ring for nearly a year. He should’ve fought McCallum with the facial injury and took that opportunity, when he was still sharp from his Benn fight and hard sparring, with youth and strength on his side too of course. I was there for the taking when I ran out of strength in my legs in the first fight after six rounds, after losing 19lb in four days, and couldn’t even stand up straight come the 10th – and Michael didn’t take me.

Take Joe Calzaghe, he wasn’t as good a boxer as Herol Graham or Michael Nunn, but when he fought me, he was willing to take shots to get his own shots in, able to take and give, fight and punch, and with the killer instinct to stop me with a two-handed attack with his chin down as soon as possible, no matter what until the last seconds. He deserved that belt and never lost it because he stayed true to that form for 10 or 12 years like a proper warrior.

On his son Chris Jr’s ultimate potential:

Christopher has been taught by the four best pugilistic teachers in the world – Floyd Mayweather Sr, Mike McCallum, Herol Graham and myself. He has a phenomenal amateur pedigree, only losing in the States to the very best who had years on him, and has got the better of Chad Dawson, Nathan Cleverly, George Groves, James DeGale and the Cuban amateur squad in sparring. He has so much more in him that he has yet to show, which will only be brought out by better opposition.

Frank (Warren) wants to know just how good he really is so is willing to move him along quickly, like he did with Nigel Benn against (Reggie) Miller and Naseem against the European champion. We’ve said, ‘Bring them on.’ My son is the best fighter in the country and might turn out to be the best this country has ever produced – he has that potential.