By Frank Gregory
Chris Eubank Snr was one of the most successful European boxers of all-time in the 1990s. Here are some quotes from a recent correspondence.
His favorite fighters list was very short.
‘Thomas Hearns, Pernell Whitaker. That’s about it. I admired immensely the unorthodox jab of Thomas Hearns, and Pernell’s ducking, slipping, bobbing and weaving; which was poetry in motion.
‘I felt I was as good as anyone else at everything else, even at 18-19-20, apart from the fact I didn’t know how to throw inside punches or body punches correctly yet.’
His tips for other fighters are to train for a hard long contest and stay away from resistance weights.
‘Train for 12 rounds. Whenever I trained to win in one-two-three rounds, it went 12 rounds. Whenever I trained for 12 rounds, I won in one-two-three rounds. Even if you’re a six-round fighter, train for 12 rounds.
‘In 1983, I was even doing 15-rounders to condition myself for the 12 round fights at Apollo Boxing Club on Friday or Saturday nights. In 1984, I was doing 15-rounders to condition myself for the Spanish Golden Gloves, which was five 3-rounders in one day if you kept winning.’
Eubank says he never trained with weights.
‘It tightens you up, a guy training with weights is at a disadvantage because the opponent will be looser and more relaxed if he stays away from weight-training. Case in point being the first AJ-Andy Ruiz fight.
‘Take the Steve Collins fights: first fight I’m focusing on hurting him, second fight I’m focusing on ending it early.
‘The Thompson fights: first fight the focus was quickness for 12 rounds and second fight the focus was power for six rounds. I hurt him a lot more in the first fight.
‘Finest example is Eubank vs Camara, 1989. Christopher has just been born so I’m serene, and I’m now comfortable habitationally and financially under Barry Hearn. I box relaxed, and it looks like the guy is doing the old “flip flop” routine.
‘I remember saying to Ronnie Davies, “Ron, he’s taken a dive.” And Ronnie says, “No, it’s just that you were relaxed and punching him correctly.”‘
Eubank was sometimes ridiculed for the cricket-throwing overhand right punch he used to throw, but there was always method behind madness.
‘I threw it once per fight after the infamous Renaldo Dos Santos knockout. Indeed, it made me look ungainly. But for every 10 times I threw it, it landed once and won me the fight.
‘Apart from Millstreet, when referee Ron Lipton declared it no knockdown in the second round, which would’ve won me the fight.’
Astonishingly, Chris was once part of one of the most prolific shoplifting gangs in Britain.
‘At 14-15-16, I was London’s top tea-leaf, and I don’t fish-fry when I say that! I worked 9 til 5 – Monday to Friday – in my Mohair suits, burgundy Italian shoes or alligator shoes and Burberry jacket. I had my hair cut weekly.
‘It was 1981 – I’d get up in the morning, buy my newspaper, catch the No.12 bus from Elephant & Castle to Oxford Street and I would just lift. I was a professional at it. I’d set up my stool on East Street Market and these designer clothes I was selling had like 200% mark-up value, but my heart was good so I’d sell them at 400% mark-up. I was really well-known.
‘I took on two apprentices, Nasty and Sticks, 18-year-old Nigerians; to cover other outlets and allow me to alternate stores. We’d iron shopping bags at Nastys flat. I had taxi drivers on the payroll. I was making £900 a week for myself when the average wage packet was £60.’
He then made an inspirational move to New York City, with an incredible turnaround of his life.
‘At 16, I jumped bail to move to New York where I replaced smoking, drinking, stealing and street-fighting with running, boxing, school and church-going. Running and training 7 days a week, going to school every day and Sunday school every week. All I wanted was acceptance.
‘At 12 and 13, I had dreadlocks and smoked a lot of weed and my dad and brothers stopped speaking to me. At 8 or 9, my mother had left for New York and I thought it might of been because of me, it turned out to be because of my father; who beat her, unbeknown to me. Teachers, head masters, care staff and support workers all rejected me.
‘The way to get respect on the streets of SE15 to SE17 was to dress and stand better than the next boy, walk and talk better than the next boy, dance better than the next boy. Have the most weed, buy the most drinks, have the most girls.
‘The way to get respect in the South Bronx was either shoot people or be a champion boxer. I chose the latter. In church with my mum, I bowed my head. The church teaches you to respect your elders. In the four cornered circle, I bowed my head. I had one more chance, as my father said.
‘At high school, I became a teachers pet. I couldn’t afford the gym fees, so I sweeped the gym floor and placed the buckets to catch water when it rained. I was a favourite of Adonis Torres, the gymnasium owner, because I was a gentleman.’
The former WBO world king admits to having a mental disorder that shaped his boxing.
‘Obsessive-compulsive disorder helped me become skilled and scientific as a boxer, because every miniscule detail of every movement or punching mechanic would be practiced over and over and over, each day for years and years.
‘It was a hindrance however when I came up against strategic boxers, if they didn’t look threatening for instance yet had matched and beaten top Cubans and Olympic medalists as amateurs, which Dan Sherry, Ray Close and Dan Schommer had; adrenalin was low and I always set myself to pivot to punch correctly, which was giving them just enough time to time me and move out of range. Quick hands, quick feet; though no inside strength.
‘I developed this OCD to master every punch in the book correctly in 86 to 87 to 88.’
His theory on why he didn’t contest unifying bouts with the top Americans makes simple sense.
‘Professional boxing is a business. So I had little desire to test myself against the very best. As an amateur, it was a sport. I tested myself against Mark Breland – the best amateur boxer in history – in February 1984 and believed I was winning before the referee stepped in and stopped it prematurely in Mark Breland’s favour.
‘As a professional, I was content to be one of the best. Michael Nunn, James Toney and Roy Jones were world champions in their own right, just like I was. Those were the best divisions at those times, pound-for-pound in history.
‘I had four children I wanted to raise in a privileged property and put through private schooling, and they needed fathering and mentoring. That’s the up and all of it.’
Chris believes the two fights with Michael Watson showed the best of him.
‘My best boxing performance was the initial Watson fight on June 22nd 1991. I was hit less than, and landed more eye catching punches than, one of the 10 greatest fighters ever in Mike McCallum; in his own title defense against Watson. I won the fight clearly with boxing moves, range mastery, ring craft and generalship.
‘However, I couldn’t punch on the move like McCallum, Sugar Ray Robinson, Roy Jones Jr and Floyd Mayweather Jr – the four of them – because I was obsessed with pivoting my body weight correctly.
‘I always recalled these mile-long ques for the rock band Queen at Earls Court when I was 10 or 11; on the news on our black-and-white TV in a tower block in Hackney.’
Eubank saw both the good and bad of boxing, and many feel he was never the same after tragically leaving Watson with permanent head injures following their return fight at the Spurs soccer ground.
‘My greatest fight was the Watson II fight. He felt three times stronger in there than 12 weeks before – with a pace kept up that was four times faster – fueled by demonic despising of me and a 1/2lb of clean muscle tissue per week, and was definitive perpetual motion; all the while angling off his torso to offensively counter or extend combinations.
‘It was the biggest turnaround I’ve ever seen in that penultimate round, and I believe one of the 10 best fights ever in boxing.’
The mentally strong Eubank was always a positive thinker.
‘People who are always bemoaning their lot have the mentality of those who are losing. The mentality of those who are winning is to adapt and accept.’
He seems to insist the idea of Floyd Money Mayweather’s “smart investments” is the way forward to prevent fighters losing everything.
‘Don’t take my lead once you make it, take my lead to get there. Take Floyd’s lead once you’re there – use accountants and advisors.
‘I didn’t go to university, I was from the street. I didn’t have a degree in finance. I didn’t study law. I advise all boxers to take a business administration course.’
A common theme is Eubank fighting systems and wrongdoings.
‘I made £25million gross from boxing, when the average wage was four times less than today and the value of the dollar was double the pound. My standard of living didn’t drop, so my spending wasn’t in line with inflation with no income – nobody educated me.
‘But the very reason I had 19 successful world title wins back-to-back – beating every man I faced – was because I understood from a very young age that life wasn’t fair.
‘It wasn’t 50-50. In society, the community at large, there were double, triple and quadruple standards. For me to win I’ve got to do two-three-four times better than my counterpart. Whatever he did I had to do four times more. That’s why I won.
‘With most of the community in the inner city, “if it’s not 50-50 I’m not taking part.” That’s why so many people fail because they expect it to be fair. I accepted that it wasn’t fair and that I had to be four times better than that counterpart. And that’s why I was able to win.
‘I described James Toney in 1993 as the reason I couldn’t get Adidas or Reebok to give me endorsement deals. That’s an exact quote, you can probably Google it.
‘The stereotypical boxer, or black man, was considered brutish or thuggish. The reason I stood out more than everyone else was because I was very light in a dark sport and trying to change perception.
‘The media had a field day with my supposed bankruptcy. I was yet to negotiate the sells of the very large houses in Jamaica I bought outright for each one of my parents many years before; they had now passed. The values had doubled or trebled in 12-15 years. So I was far from skint.’
He believes fighters of the modern era are not as tough as the champions of yesteryear.
‘In boxing, you’re supposed to hurt me. That’s why fighters today aren’t the cut that we were in the 90s. They complain of injuries. You are supposed to be injured! You’re hitting things and people are hitting you. So embrace it!
‘In the last 20 years, the champions fight once or twice a year. The magnificent Joe Calzaghe and so on. I had to work four times harder than that to earn my stripes, and if I bemoaned I’d of lost my way. Don’t bemoan.’
Chris Eubank Snr was always defying the doubters through his career!
‘My theory was that the only way to break into the legendary ranks was to do what the people said and thought you couldn’t do. Nobody expected me to stand up to Nigel Benn in 1990 without covering up at all times; no top-30 contenders on my record at the time.
‘Or pull victory from the jaws of defeat in the Watson II fight. Or going to Germany to beat Rocchigiani on points in his backyard. Or defend the championship of the world every seven weeks, getting past five fights on such a schedule.
‘Or give Calzaghe 12 hard rounds after the heavy knockdown at the start of the first round, and heavy punching Carl Thompson 12 hard rounds at cruiserweight with one eye to his two.
‘Calzaghe threw four punches to my one. Carl Thompson out-weighed me by a minimum 30-35lb of muscle tissue. And Graciano was 6ft3, a southpaw and 35-0. When the odds are stacked against you and you come through, that’s when they say you’re a legend.’
A true European ATG.