By Samuel Lee
Chris Eubank, you are considered one of the greatest super-middleweights in the short history of that particular division. Was it ever an aim to contest at that weight and why did you move there in the first place?
I wasn’t even aware of the weight-class until Barry Hearn fixed a match for me at that weight in Cardiff in January 1990, just off Newport Road in a sports centre. In ’91 when I was desperately struggling to melt my body down to the middleweight 160lb title limit, I decided I had no choice but to vacate the world middleweight title and move up 8lbs in search of Barney Eastwood’s fighter (Victor) Cordoba, a world super-middle title-holder. Upon announcement that I was moving up, Michael Watson, Nigel Benn and American Michael Nunn then announced that they were moving up with me in the hope of fighting me for a big pay cheque.
Barry Hearn sweet-talked the WBO into making me and Watson #1 and #2 to contest their vacant title for big-money and huge interest, after the so-called controversy of the first fight, in which I won clearly and fairly and squarely on points; only for the celebrity’s and tabloids to say otherwise and sway the public. So that was the story of super-middleweight, of Eubank-Watson II, and the mid-point – and in many ways turning point – of my boxing career, in terms of them coming about.
Who was your toughest and best world title challenger at 168lbs?
Considering Watson II was for the vacant title and Benn II was for the unification, the toughest man was Henry Wharton, who was shaking off every punch in the book, (and) every combination there was, with one eye and marching on! Mr Wharton was so tough, so strong and so determined, it make me feel like crying.
Lindell Holmes was a 45-win challenger and former champion of his own right, he had more wins than any other fighter at middleweight or super-middleweight at the time, so this was a very serious competitor despite his ripe old age of 35, and the fact he lost his title on a body shot. In fact, Mr Lindell was the only fighter ever to win the first three rounds straight against me, including Watson II, a young Calzaghe and an amateur Breland; all the very best.
Then there was Graciano Rocchigiani, the German, another former champion of his own right. He was 35-0, a big southpaw and went on to outbox Nunn, probably the most impossible task in 90s boxing outside of me beating Watson after he knocked me down and Benn beating McClellan after he was punched out the ring, apart from maybe outpointing Roy Jones.
Frank Warren claims you and your son, Jr, are ducking the Billy Joe Saunders rematch. What is your take?
My take is that Chris Eubank Jr is the WBA world middleweight champion of the Interim and second in line to face super WBA holder Gennady Golovkin, who he would definitely defeat. If Billy Joe Saunders was our mandatory contender, we would face him. The belt is not being forfeited having only just won it in our previous fight – that is absurd and disgustingly disrespectful to both fighter and organisation.
Any fighter who gives up a hard-earned championship belt, to dodge a mandatory contender or fight for pastures new, has very little honor and is not in the bracket of greatness.
We can fiddle our thumbs on our rotational office chairs. (Or) We can be in the firing line all day doing our road work, our pad work, our bag work, our ring work, our rope work, our groundwork, our stretching, shadow boxing, skipping and sparring, and strength and conditioning. We can dishonor all of this daily work over 10 years. No. That’s just not correct.
That’s what I say on that.
Will we see Jr move up to super-middle one day?
It’s certainly possible. He beats James DeGale seven days a week, and twice on a Sunday. He’s already thoroughly schooled him in sparring in DeGale’s back garden. So yes, I believe Christopher has the frame to carry extra poundage well. I don’t think he’ll be doing a Michael Moorer and doing heavyweight, but light-heavy is where he may end up.
Nigel Benn in a recent radio interview shot down current super-middleweight king Carl ‘Cobra’ Froch, saying ‘I don’t see any Doug DeWitt’s, Iran Barkley’s or Robbie Sims’s on his record!’. What are your thoughts on this?
First of all, Carl Froch is not the current super-middleweight king because he hasn’t fought for a couple of years I think it’s been now, when there were mostly empty seats at Wembley Stadium; I recall the touts panicking outside the venue. He holds no titles, no belts. So he’s just some inactive contender if you like.
Nigel has a point – DeWitt, Barkley and Sims all beat or matched Hearns and Duran in many fights. And Hearns and Duran were two of the Fabulous Four of the 80s, of course. Benn stopped the lot. He was an awesome puncher. Carl has also fought very good fighters in Andre Ward and Jermaine Taylor and managed to survive, he had tremendous fitness due to his genetics and tremendous natural bone strength, did Froch. He was a good fighter.
You fought a young Joe Calzaghe in 1997 on 10 days notice, do you feel you could’ve beaten him with more time to prepare?
Steve Collins ducked out of fighting Joe at the last minute and I put my hand up to step in there, and it felt like winning the lottery because I didn’t deserve a world title shot, having lost my previous one two years before and not having contested the division since. Frank Warren pulled the strings.
I lost 20lbs in seven days because I underestimated Joseph and thought I could beat him on heart alone. He slowed the pace and tried to box me in the middle of the ring in the third round and I took him to school, so he raised the pace again in the fourth knowing I was struggling to set myself for counters at a pace, which was due to my knee issues at the time. He was pressure, pressure, pressure; a more awkward Henry Wharton and a more skilled Steve Collins, with the sharpest flurries you’d ever seen and the widest southpaw stance! So it’s unlikely I would’ve outpointed him.
Carl Froch and Joe Calzaghe are currently involved in Twitter ‘Beef’ that has concluded in talks of a street fight!
That’s very undignified and dishonorable. Both would lose respect.
Why did you never take on American LB4LB kings James Toney and Roy Jones, who fought at super-middleweight at the same time as yourself?
You answered the question yourself. They were the LB4LB best American operators, so I would rightly have wanted higher cash reward for contesting them rather than other contenders such as a European champion or North American champion or mandatory challenger, and especially considering either fight would’ve been Watson II all over again, when Watson was close to unbeatable on the night and forced a certain killing zone to occur because I wouldn’t ‘tap out’.
The rewards were not sufficient.