Remembering "Simply the Best" - Chris Eubank

eubankby Mark Henbridge: He probably wasn't simply the best boxer, but he was, as he called himself, 'the man'. Chris Eubank, in 1990, 1991, 1992... 1993, 1994, 1995; demanded front and back page tabloid space on the national newspapers. A Versace-clad celebrity peacock who liked to pretend he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, yet boxed for a living, Fleet Street lapped him up. His memorable reigns as WBO middleweight champion and WBO super-middleweight champion were courted with controversy, both in and out of the ring.

Eubank was essentionally a long-range boxer, with awkward movements and good reflexes. Occasionally, he'd throw a good sneak right hand or great right uppercut. Occasionally, he'd throw a long, loopy right hand that bordered on the ludicrous, missing by a mile. To say he lacked consistency would be an understatement. His lack of workrate and stamina caused a lot of dubious decisions in his favour, though he'd turn negative into positive by calling himself the 'master of brinkmanship'..

He probably had the best physique in boxing, as well as the best chin, best pre-fight interview and best post-fight interview, and best ring entrance. But he simply didn't engage the pound-for-pound American elite, who were right there in his weight-classes with him (Michael Nunn, James Toney, Roy Jones). As such, he isn't remembered favourably in boxing circles. Quite the opposite. In fact, seemingly arrogant and conceited, Eubank was despised by most of the English nation until the heart he showed in his last few fights.

This was a boxer who claimed to train himself, taped his own hands, and professed to hate boxing. Oh and he quoted Shakespeare a lot.

Born in London in August 1966, Eubank suffered an unsettled childhood; his mother leaving for New York when he was eight-years-old and craving attention from a father and brothers who refused to notice his existance. Having racked up five professional novice wins in swank Atlantic City (that followed a brief amateur career in inner city New York); Eubank returned to London in 1988 with a difficult stance and an independant attitude. By 1990, somehow, he was middleweight champion of the world. He only started boxing seriously at 17, after a stint at London shoplifting.

Eubank DID pile in some phenomenal performances - Renaldo Dos Santos, Nigel Benn (1st fight), Michael Watson (2nd fight), Graciano Rocchigiani, Henry Wharton, Tony Thornton; all worth checking out, if you've never seen. But more often than not he was turgid, his opponents hand-picked, his decisions dodgy, and his fights dire. Not that he was worried; he made around 10million from the box office before signing a one-year 10million contract (British pounds) with Sky Sports in 1994, which was touted as a globe-trotting campaign (the buck seemed to stop with Britain and Ireland). Every two months, from '90 to '94, his fight would be broadcast to hundreds of millions of people the globe over on Screensport. (For what it's worth, he's now bankrupt.)

On ITV in Britain, Eubank regularly drew viewing figures in excess of 15 million. His four fights with Benn and Watson and fight with Rocchigiani - front and back page news before and after each - will never be forgotten by the general British public. He was the highest-paid European fighter of all-time, and first-ever European fighter to reach 10, 15 and 20 world title fights. He was also the originator of true boxing arena entry and ring entry; his great pretender Naseem Hamed taking them to America. The rematch with Nigel Benn was the first time subscription American TV screened a bout outside America.

Eubank was the first fighter to be manager, promoter and main event when he staged a bout in Egypt in his comeback from retirement. He constructed a career at five different weights on five different continents, and prior to losing his first match had the longest unbeaten record in boxing in terms of both time and fights. For all of this, Chris Eubank deserves his place in the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Article posted on 23.04.2008

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