Chris Eubank Sr. The Original, or ‘English’, allows us to delve into the mind of one of the most fascinating individuals to ever don a pair of 8oz boxing gloves.
Boxing promoter Don King described him as ‘the most intelligent fighter I ever met.’
Emanuel Steward described him as ‘the fighter I didn’t want my fighters to fight’, citing a ‘kind of very rare combination of being hard to really hit, hard hitting himself and able to take a hard hit.’
Joe Calzaghe often describes his fight with Eubank in 1997 as the toughest of his whole career.
‘English’ drops bombs of wisdom for boxing fans and seems to detail the importance of a strong moral outlook.
Do you regret not fighting in Las Vegas in your career?
Eubank Sr: Of course not. My career went the way it did. You can’t plan boxing, you ride boxing. And if you can do that and remain calm and true, you can get to the crest of a high wave.
I didn’t have the ego for Sin City when I was boxing. Sun City most certainly, being the soil of my idol Mandela – truth, integrity, dignity. Not ego. Bringing money and interest to South Africa. Any way I can help, I’m going to.
There was nobody in the States to drum up a fight enough for me to earn more money than I would fighting Benn at Old Trafford or pay-per-view in Germany or signing the Sky deal.
I’d much rather smoke cigars, play poker and admire beautiful ladies out there, which I couldn’t do when I was a boxer.
What are your thoughts on that fight with Graciano on his home soil?
Germany was a chance for me to make a political statement. To go to Vegas and fight a tall, pure boxing, top level southpaw in Michael Nunn was really meaningless, but for ego. If I won, I get all the glory and the money and the fame in the land of opportunity, which I’m not actually interested in at the core of me, I’m really not – the belts are leather and metal, the money is paper or digits on a screen. What does it mean?
27 years – that means something, and to come out and remain on the same path; I don’t have words. That’s not glorifying yourself or enjoying material, that’s just integrity. Mandela.
In the Yorkville section of Manhattan, which was dominated by Germans, there was a lady called Dorothy. Dorothy was a very old German-Jew who my mother cared for and who I lifted in and out of bed in her last days after running there from the South Bronx, near Yankee Stadium.
Dorothy told me that she was the only one in the neighbourhood hoping Joe Louis defeated Max Schmeling that day in 1938. But she couldn’t let anybody know or she’d of been lynched. She was the one of all her fellow Germans in the neighbourhood welcoming of the black race, because she saw no colour; only good and evil. That always stuck with me.
So me posturing where the Berlin Wall stood in publicity shoots for the German media before the Graciano Rocchigiani fight, while dressed like an aristocrat and being a black Englishman, was not for ego as it may of appeared; it was in fact a political statement I was able to make by choosing to fight in Germany over the sinning Strip of Las Vegas. I wasn’t just a role model, I was a Saint!
I suggested part of the Berlin Wall be donated to Mandela in South Africa, and later that year it was.
Did the constant hate thrown your way not effect you?
Nobody throws stones at trees that do not bear fruit. However it is not the critic that counts, it is the man in the arena whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly.
The greats dared to be great. They absorbed critique, pain, suffering and rather than stop or cower away in a corner they stood tall and carried on until they actually got respect and could walk away with their head high and have no need or reason or ego to come back for a second taste.
That’s basically how it works. Great – even in business, life, sport, gladiating, education, anything; you just don’t give up. That’s how you win. Be it a belt, a job interview, a contest, or the hearts of people. Get up and dare to be great.
In gladiating, I got up and walked in and threw the fateful punch against Michael Watson that changed boxing. I dared to be great. In business, I attempted to create the new and improved Las Vegas in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. I dared to be great.
Risk must be taken, for without risk you cannot grow. Ordinary is existing. Ordinary is death. One has to behave extraordinary to be extraordinary.
At the Golden Gloves, I remember almost despising all the other fighters gathering around Thomas Hearns, queuing up to see him. I stayed back, and that’s when I knew I was exceptional and the others were not. I behaved it.
I believed then I would one day be exceptional like Thomas Hearns, if I continued to behave exceptional. That’s me putting him on more of a pedestal than they did, by using him as inspiration to be exceptional.
I was the first man to bring boxing to the Middle East – nobody had ever conceived it before, but I had that foresight, and so opened the floodgates for Anthony Joshua to earn the money he made. And I’m pleased for him.
AJ asked me once: ‘How do you become great – give me some tips.’ I said jump in from a speeding bullet to save a child. Suicide. You can’t look or search for it, you either are or you’re not and when opportunity presents itself you dare. I said use your platform to portray goodness.
There is footage of me with AJ after one of his fights, walking back to the dressing room, and my advise was this: ‘Get back in the gym on Monday morning.’ He laughed it off, even thought I was joking. That’s why I called it that Andy Ruiz could cause an upset. Like I said, you ride boxing – you don’t plan it. AJ is learning.
How do you rate yourself among the other super-middleweights in the divisions history?
I did my 10,000 hours. So there’s nothing I couldn’t do in the ring. That’s 10K without wasting perspiration mind you. But when it comes to a young Roy Jones, that’s alien ability that can’t be trained. The hand speed of a featherweight at super-middleweight and never needing to jab to find range? Please!
When it comes to Watson in the Watson II fight, to have more physical strength than a lean heavyweight in Carl Thompson and keep up the the pace of a featherweight, while going through moves he had never shown before; you can’t win against that, that’s a 10+ on a scale of 1 to 10 and so you just give up and take your beating.
To do the impossible, that’s legendary; Steve Collins in the second fight against me. You had one operator with all the moves down to a tee, every punch in the book down to a tee; a master so good he showboats his way through most fights. And you have the other operator who is as ungainly as anything you’ve seen on the street or in a bar, fighting with such reckless abandon that the referee is considering stopping the fight to call for a mental health assessment.
The impossible; it’s inspirational. Imagine, imagine.
Was the Benn fight in 1990, recently declared the greatest fight on British soil in boxing history by Boxing News – the world’s oldest boxing publication – your best ever performance?
Oh, absolutely. That was my Everest. From the age of 16, when I first started boxing, my thing always was: don’t get knocked out. Nothing had ever kept me down. The highest mountain was the world championship. I had to put in my 10,000 hours.
Benn was the biggest puncher on God’s green earth, pound-for-pound. When he hit men, they stayed hit, or their shoulder blades would bounce off the canvas. Little old me from London tower blocks and lock-ups dared to stand in front of him without a high guard.
I had done my 10,000 hours, so I won. It was Benn or the German as my best performance – rarely was I poetry in motion for 12 rounds straight but I was that night in Germany because he didn’t bust all my organs, bruise all my ribs or wind me three times like Benn did, and because I rated him 10 out of 10 for being tall, unbeaten, a southpaw and proven at the highest level, and so trained for eight weeks with that number in mind; in other words, 100% intensity.
Benn I rated a 10 because his power and aggression was second to none. Roy Jones in his prime would’ve been closest to being rated a 10+ going in.