By Samuel Lee
Former WBO middleweight and super-middleweight belt-holder in the early to mid 1990s, Chris Eubank (Sr.), was one of the most famous and wealthiest sportsmen in Britain; residing on the same cloud as Nick Faldo, Nigel Mansell, Lester Piggott, Linford Christie and Paul Gascoigne.
But at sixteen, Chris Eubank was a mess: smoking, drinking, taking dope, shoplifting and burglary were a way of life. He’d been absconding for most of his teenage life at that point, mostly on the backseats of cars he had broken into, before jumping bail to board a plane to New York on the insistence of his father, where he would live with his mother in The Bronx.
He walked into the Jerome Boxing Club one day and the rest is history.
“I couldn’t steal no longer because I had a fear of firearms, and my brothers – who had never accepted me – now felt more shame on me than ever. They were boxers.
“I started boxing and it became an obsession for me to master every part of it, for their acceptance, while living lawfully. I trained like a madman, every day of the week for hours on end for years and years.
“But fighting Nigel Benn was the ultimate challenge of a man’s courage. There was nobody more intimidating, nobody more fierce, not in The Bronx or anywhere. Not Tyson.
“He beat me to within inches of my life and so I had to beat him to within inches of his life to beat him,” Eubank said of his famous UK rival.
Of his second fight with Steve Collins, which sent him on his way to premature, temporary retirement, he reasoned: “The only reason Collins beat me that night was because, that night, he was absolutely mental, nutty!
He recalled a picture that he hadn’t been able to get out of his head of Collins getting through the ropes with his feet off the ground ie literally flying though the air to start the fight!
“The guy was crying tears of anger, snorting like a bull on his way to the ring.
“In essence, I was, for the first time, totally unnerved, I had never had my mental composure broken in that way before. I probably won one round in all.
“He seemed nervy in all the press conferences leading up to the fight, which was purposeful so as he could break my false sense of security with his resolve on the night.
“If he showed that resolve in the press conferences beforehand, there would have been nothing to break, and I’d have stood him on his head.
“I beat Benn because he was imprudent. He was fierce, intimidating, which was his natural self. I was superior because to appear fierce is stupid because you’re telling me who you are. To be as ferocious as you are, and to let me know, is stupid.”
His theory on why he was disliked by so many Brits goes as follows:
“In accordance of my fighting stances, and posturing, the media found it very easy to make me out to be the bad fellow. But I wasn’t, that was just the warrior inside me. Very rarely did I pull my shoulders back, more often than not it was the warrior doing it for me.
“When I did pull my shoulders back and pull a face or dance or play, the case was this: I didn’t have an eccentric persona, I had an ascetic persona, and cutting weight really took it’s toll on me; I was in a bad mood for weeks on end, and all through training camp. When I got to rehydrate, I got into a euphoric state, thus setting off my personality on fight-night. My spirits were too high to lose.
“When I stood and looked at the crowd and my opponent in the way that I would sometimes, it was a mirror image of what I was feeling: I was clean, I was true to the form, I didn’t drink, I didn’t smoke, I didn’t do drugs, I had no vices of any kind. I didn’t have a vice, any vice. So I could stand there and say ‘Look at me, look how clean I am, you’re not beating me.'”
He feels he was only ever out-boxed on one occasion in his career. “Michael Watson second fight, he’s the only one who stood with me skill-for-skill, punch-for-punch and got the better of me on that night at White Hart Lane, just going at me full-pelt for every minute of rounds on end; with me having schooled him for the first five or six rounds of the strategic first fight.
“Most of my opponents like Gary Stretch and Ray Close and Ron Essett and Dan Sherry would run around the ring, get off a few light taps when I launched at them and then hug and hold me and that’s it, literally, every round.
“Graciano Rocchigiani wouldn’t take his gloves away from his face for a second. John Jarvis wasn’t covering up or clinching and got taken out cleanly with a clinical counter, as soon as we went toe-to-toe.
“I had the shots, the moves, the range, the timing, the speed, the power, the combinations. Technically I would’ve beaten James Toney in a chess match or matched Roy Jones in a game of chess, but Toney had more fire in his belly than even Nigel Benn and less doubt in his mind than Benn, and Jones was as clean as me, even more gifted than Benn and strengthened through suffering from his father as I was from my brothers, giving him a similar will to me.
“So a Toney or Jones fight with me would’ve been like a Watson II fight for me, which is probably why they thankfully never took place.”