Boxing


Remembering the career of one Christopher Livingstone Eubank

By Lee Callan: Turning professional in October 1985, Eubank's early four-rounders took place in Atlantic City, on the back of a 26-fight amateur career in New York (that included a close El Diario La Prensa Golden Gloves final victory and close Daily News Golden Gloves semi-final loss). Madison Square Garden, the Boardwalk Casinos and national US TV audiences were nothing strange for the teenaged Eubank residing in the Bronx and working as gym janitor to pay his fees..

He was matched deceptively well, Tim Brown and Mike Bagwell being former Pennsylvania and New Jersey Golden Gloves champions respectively, Eric Holland being a sparring partner for Mike McCallum and James Canty having a split-decision loss in his previous fight to the USBA/NABF #3 at the time of Eubank fighting Canty. A tricky stance, sneaky right and terrific feet - Eubank clearly had potential.

Following the passing of his mentor Adonis Torres, the talented Eubank returned to his native England to be with his boxing brothers Peter and Simon. For the next year and a half, he took fights on a few days notice on 'small hall' shows, all the while working two jobs in retail. His 'trainer' Ronnie Davies didn't train him, he trained 'with' him, and the result was a ring style all of his own. Amongst those fights included dominant decision wins over Anthony Logan and Randy Smith, who had given hell to all of the world's leading middleweights.

His life and career changed forever by a chance meeting with snooker impresario Barry Hearn, who was looking to invest in the sport of boxing. Eubank asked Hearn for 1200GBP a month so he wouldn't have to work and promised him that he wouldn't lose a fight. 29 fights later, Eubank had the longest unbeaten run in boxing and had generated more money than any boxer on the planet.

Blowing away Jean-Noel Camara (EBU #6) and others under the Matchroom banner, Eubank found himself with a 20-0 record by January 1990 and WBC #11 rating. Brushing aside WBC International Champion Hugo Corti - a former Olympian who had beaten every man he ever shared a ring with barring his Olympic loss - led him to a WBA #4 ranking as he closed in on world championships.

Hearn promised his protege a 1990 world title fight if he defeated Corti in style, and held true to his word; agreeing to pay Briton Nigel Benn a king's ransom to defend his WBO belt against the comparatively little-known Eubank at a big arena in England.

The build-up to Benn-Eubank was legendary. Eubank came into his own, taking on the role of artificial posh-talking snob and antihero, as he mocked both Benn and boxing and got under the skin of not just those in the fight game but the British public at large! He got under Benn's skin more than anybodies and the aptly-aliased Dark Destroyer made no secret of the fact he detested Eubank and wanted to do him serious bodily harm.

Benn was easily one of the most explosive middleweights in the world, but Eubank slithered around the ring, dancing around Benn's mindless attack to flurry combinations with both speed and accuracy and take round after round. As the pace slowed after a few rounds, with a lot of feinting on the outside, Eubank began to lunge and Benn began to hook him off with body blows - even doubling him over at times. It looked brutal and Eubank's guard was clearly protecting his ribcage. Well into the ninth stanza, however, sudden attacks from Eubank had Benn in trouble and he was finished against the ropes as Richard Steele waved the epic contest off - declaring Eubank the new world champ!

Over the next year and a half, Eubank was rarely out of the British newspapers or off British television screens. We saw comedy (Dan Sherry fight conclusion, Gary Stretch fight build-up), controversy (Michael Watson 1st fight result) and tragedy (Michael Watson 2nd fight conclusion, Feb '92 road traffic death). No British sportsman has ever received the same ammount of exposure.

Following the traumatic head injuries Michael Watson suffered at the hands of Eubank, it appeared as if Eubank was holding back in the ring. He would have an opponent in trouble after one flurry of punches in combination, even in the early rounds, only to pull his blows or stop entirely, preferring to strut around the ring and pose rather than forcing a finish. He began to utilize his impressive stiff left jab in fights, and it became seemingly impossible to out-jab him with his uncanny ability to evade an opponents jab at the last split-second by moving his head just a fraction of an inch. He would step in with the jab rather than leaning in with his short right or super-short hook. Though he gradually brought the sudden uppercut back into his arsenal on the inside - an awesome shot.

Fighters like Tony Thornton (WBC #2, WBA #2, IBF #2, WBO #1), Juan Carlos Giminez (who dropped Roberto Duran) and Lindell Holmes (former IBF world champion, who only lost his title via bodyshot/exhaustion KO while winning) struggled to deal with the Eubank jab, as had Sugar Boy Malinga, John Jarvis and Ron Essett before them. European champ Ray Close provided Eubank's dozenth world title contest in just two and a half years, and the 35-0 king of the ring generalship looked lacklustre as the busy though vastly inferior talent Close out-worked him in many - or most - of the rounds. A draw seemed fair enough, but many argued Close had done enough to win.

26-year-old Eubank desperately needed motivation at this point, and with American supremos James Toney and Michael Nunn being behind 'political barriers', the logical match was a rematch with arch-rival Benn - the fight that the whole of Britain had been crying out for for three years. Benn rebuilt post-Eubank, grabbing the WBC crown and adding evasive defensive abilities to his attributes.

The Benn-Eubank rematch was set for Old Trafford, the Manchester United soccer stadium, in the fall of '93. More than 42,000 fans turned up as Eubank showed qualities many thought he didn't possess with his inside work throughout. With the newer generation of fighters today, infighting is a lost art - the ability to smoothly tie your opponent up without lunging or bear-hugging the guy, the ability to break yourself from a clinch without waiting for the referee to break you, to punch your way out... these qualities are sadly missing in the fighters we see today, and one would be advised to get a copy of Benn-Eubank No.2 and study Eubank's inside work here.

Suprisingly, it was the outside and mid-range stuff that failed Eubank as Benn slipped, weaved and rolled his way through the 12 rounds and lunged at him with uppercuts to the body. In a tough one with hardy any clean stand-off, stand-up boxing/punching, a draw seemed fair - though the US Showtime scoring had Eubank up by a few.

The next bout for Chris took place in Berlin, Germany against unbeaten former IBF world champion Graciano 'Rocky' Rocchigiani. The giant German southpaw with the great timing and peek-a-boo high guard in his own backyard was seen as possibly too much for Eubank to chew. But Eubank proved the doubters wrong by turning in a virtuoso performance, soaking in the hostile atmosphere and unleashing awesome flurries - mostly to the body behind the elbows. He got the decision in Germany, and Rocchigiani would go on to clearly better countrymen Henry Maske and Dariusz Michalczewski in controversial losses (as well as later defeat then-WBA super-middle champ Michael Nunn for the WBC light-heavy title).

A Close rematch win in Close's backyard of Belfast, in which Eubank walked to the arena pre-fight and out of the arena post-fight with a bullet-proof vest on, was his final fight on UK TV channel ITV - where he often drew figures in the region of 14-16 million viewers.

A pioneering deal with British Sky Broadcasting was constructed by Eubank himself, with promoter Hearn working with him on the deal, as Eubank changed the face of boxing. The subscription channel agreed to pay Eubank 10000000GBP in the space of 12 months, proposed as seven hand-picked fights and a finale with James Toney, provided Eubank kept winning, and promoted as a 'World Tour'.

Halfway through the 'Tour', however, Ray Close failed a brain scan for a third fight and a replacement match was pencilled in against another Irishman, Steve Collins. Pre-fight, Collins tricked Eubank into believing he was hypnotized and wouldn't feel the pain of the punches; knowing full well it would play on Eubank's mind regarding the Watson tragedy and the fact he seemed to hold back in fights anyway. It had a profound effect on the outcome of the fight as Collins was clearly there for the taking in the 10th, floored and dazed, only for Eubank to hold back and allow him to recover.

Underdog Collins ended up getting the decision and ended the longest reign in boxing. A rematch at Cork Stadium six months later saw Collins at Eubank's chest again, clubbing away at his shoulders and not allowing him to work; nemesis Collins getting another close decision. Eubank announced his retirement in October 1995, 10 years after he made his debut at the Atlantis Hotel.

A brief comeback was made, tackling Joe Calzaghe and Carl Thompson in world title wars at different weights, and finally gaining the appreciation and adoration of the fight fraternity and British public at large. They say in Britain we love a gallant loser more than a confident winner!

Eubank was the blueprint for the likes of 'Prince' Naseem Hamed and Roy Jones Jr. in America - his impact on modern boxing is hard to measure.

Article posted on 06.06.2011



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