Chris Eubank Jr. silences hostile crowd to register impressive unanimous decision victory over Liam Williams in Cardiff
Chris Eubank Jr. announced himself as a world title contender in the middleweight division with a win over Liam ‘The Machine’ Williams, knocking down the Welshman four times on the way to a wide points victory on all three scorecards.
There was no love lost between the pair in a heated buildup, with Eubank vowing to “teach him some manners” while Williams simply replied by saying “I don’t like this man.” The bad blood was said to have originated from a sparring session a decade ago, an incident which a dismissive Eubank stated he could not remember.
With the down to earth hometown fighter challenging an arrogant English opponent in front of a partisan Welsh crowd, this clash recalled memories of Steve Robinson’s defense of the WBO world featherweight title against Prince Naseem Hamed in 1995 (you can watch that fight here).
IN THE RED CORNER – CHRIS EUBANK JR. (England: 31-2, 23KO)
Following in the footsteps of his former world champion father, Eubank reeled off 18 straight victories to start his career before dropping a split decision to then undefeated Billy Joe Saunders in a Commonwealth, European and British title showdown.
Eubank responded to that defeat by notching quality wins over Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan and former world super middleweight champion Arthur Abraham before suffering his second career defeat at the hands of George Groves in a bid for the WBA world super middleweight crown.
Eubank entered this bout on a five-fight winning streak and had added some improvements to his game courtesy of new trainer Roy Jones Jr.
IN THE BLUE CORNER – LIAM WILLIAMS (Wales: 23-3-1, 18KO)
Like Eubank, Welsh battler Williams opened his career with a long undefeated streak before losing back to back fights against Scouse sensation Liam Smith. Williams responded with seven straight wins before failing in a WBO world middleweight title challenge that went the distance against Demetrius Andrade last time out.
The trainer of Williams added another layer of drama to the pre-fight buildup, with the Welsh fighter joining the gym of Eubank’s former coach Adam Booth to prepare. The gym was already occupied by Harlem Eubank, the younger cousin of Chris who was also under the tutelage of Booth.
Before the main event, John Owen Jones whipped up the Cardiff crowd with a rendition of the classic song ‘Delilah,’ and the crowd noise grew even louder when Williams made his ring walk with the Welsh flag in tow.
The atmosphere turned darker when Eubank made his appearance, the Englishman strutting to the ring through a hostile reception and stopping on the ring apron to stare down the crowd and vault over the top rope just as his esteemed Father had once done.
The combatants circled the ring in the opening minute of the fight, feeling each other out with the jab and exchanging attacks. Eubank sprang forward with a one-two combination only to soon be on the backfoot as Williams returned fire with a combination of his own.
Welshman Williams raised his guard high as he fired out jabs, while Eubank adopted the contrasting style of dropping his guard low to draw in his opponent and relying on his reflexes to avoid blows.
Both fighters became tangled in the corner after a lunging Eubank had his head grabbed under the arm of Williams and referee Mark Lyson stepped in to separate the pair.
It did not take long for the lightning reflexes of Eubank to make an impact as Williams stepped forward with a jab only to be floored by a sharp left hand from Eubank that stunned the Welsh crowd. Undeterred by the early knockdown, Williams continued to step forward and close the distance in round two, only to be held at bay by the swift jab of Eubank.
The aggression of Williams was starting to work against him as he walked forward once more only to be dropped by an impressive four punch flurry from Eubank, receiving an eight count from referee Lyson before resuming the fight.
Punches from Eubank were now flying through the guard of Williams with the Welshman holding onto his opponent and bundling the Englishman against the ropes as he looked to hold on under fire.
Williams raised his guard and continued to stride forward only to be peppered with hooks by Eubank before tying up the arms of the Englishman against the ropes and forcing another separation from referee Lyson. Williams was attempting to gain some traction in the fight by roughing up his opponent and stepped in to wrestle once more, forcing referee Lyson to step in yet again.
Welsh fighter Williams continued to step forward and missed with an errant hook before Eubank taunted his opponent by using the gesture of a matador. Eubank dropped his hands low while circling the ring, ducking under another punch and finding the target with left handed jabs.
At the bell, Eubank landed a late blow and was aggressively pulled back by official Lyson who gave the Englishman a stern warning before the fighters returned to their corner.
Amid a heated atmosphere, referee Lyson admonished the bitter rivals before round four commenced. In the opening minute of the period, Eubank spread his arms and complained to Lyson after Williams connected with a left hook before the crowd was ignited by Williams landing a pair of heavy blows.
The excitement inside the arena did not last as Williams stepped onto another perfectly timed left hand and was sent to the ground for a third time, receiving another eight count before fighting on. Holding position in the center of the ring, Eubank goaded his foe, beckoning Williams forward as the now more cautious Welshman circled the ring.
A confident Eubank started round five on the front foot in ebullient fashion, throwing blows, waving his arms and daring Williams to step forward and attack. Williams fired out an offensive flurry with Eubank against the ropes to rouse the crowd, but the Englishman escaped pressure by ducking under a punch and circling away.
“Liam, Liam” chanted the crowd, with a distracted Eubank using his arms and gesturing to them to chant louder only to be caught with a punch by Williams. The hometown fighter stayed on the front foot and landed another battery of punches against a possibly complacent Eubank who had eased off slightly after dominating the fight to this point.
There was no sign of a plan B for Williams, who continued to step forward and lowered his head before bundling Eubank onto the ropes and forcing busy referee Lyson to settle matters. The increasingly demonstrative Eubank landed a strong hook before nodding his head in admiration of his own work.
The highly skilled Eubank faked a right handed shot before scoring with a clean left uppercut and soon after landed a swift right hook. Eubank was at ease fighting with his back against the ropes, picking his shots on the counter and circling the ring.
Williams connected with a one-two combination and Eubank responded by dropping his arms and mugging to the crowd who were roaring on every attack from their hero. The home fighter did not relent and stepped forward again to apply pressure, but his defense was unable to prevent Eubank from slicing through with surgical counter shots.
In the corner between rounds, trainer Booth warned Williams to be measured with his aggressive approach that had already seen him dropped three times in the act of stepping forward. “Tease it, shift him and then go, but if you lead with it, he will time you” advised Booth accurately.
Williams followed the advice of his trainer, circling and weaving before closing in on Eubank only to receive a warning from referee Lyson for leading with his head. Eubank landed two shots before Williams burrowed forward again and wrestled his opponent onto the ropes before the pair were pulled apart.
The Welsh fighter was trying to drag Eubank into a roughhouse brawl, landing jabs in between clinches against the ropes.
Punch statistics displayed after round seven told the story of a surprisingly even contest, with Eubank landing 56 of 140 total punches while Williams had connected with 47 of 156. Despite these close numbers, the precise counter shots of Eubank that dropped Williams on three occasions will have given the English fighter a likely sizable edge on the scorecards at this point of the fight.
Williams fought behind the jab well and continued to close the distance in round eight while Eubank responded with a three punch salvo that pierced the defense of the Welshman. After a stunning start to the fight, a confident Eubank appeared to be slowing as the blows of Williams were finding the target with greater frequency.
Welsh warrior Williams continued to claw his way back into the fight, stepping forward behind the jab and landing a one-two combination. Williams followed up his good work with a left handed shot but stayed in the pocket a second too long and was clipped by a sharp right hand from Eubank.
Eubank scored with a sharp uppercut and Williams responded with a strong right hand before continuing to walk down the Englishman who circled the ropes with a low guard. Williams landed another straight right hand before suffocating any response from Eubank by holding onto the Englishman, subsequently receiving a verbal warning from referee Lyson after the hold was broken.
Round 10 opened with Eubank showing more aggression, fighting behind an active jab and spending less time with his back against the ropes. The Englishman landed two straight right hands in the final minute, likely banking a 10-9 round to interrupt what had been a good spell in the fight for Williams.
Williams opened round 11 by bouncing around on his toes in spritely fashion, advancing behind the jab and forcing Eubank to tie him up in a clinch during the opening minute. Eubank pushed WIlliams onto the ropes and looked to attack but the subsequent punches were stifled as the Welshman burrowed forward and wrestled his foe into the ropes.
Eubank responded in emphatic fashion when a left uppercut was followed by a cuffing right hook that felled Williams for the fourth time in the fight as the English fighter stood over his rival in taunting fashion. Williams complained to referee Lyson about a push to no avail and the Welshman would now enter the final round knowing he needed a knockout to win.
Trainer Booth was also well aware that Williams needed a stoppage to win, advising his fighter “if you are going to go for it, which you have to, please be clever with the head. Use your head movement and then be aggressive, if you go in on that line he will time you.”
In the opposing corner, legendary trainer Jones Jr. told Eubank “you fought a great fight so far, be smart now, no big shots,” encouraging his fighter to see out the victory with caution.
Eubank drained the clock in the opening minute of the 12th and final round, circling the ring left and right before tying up Williams after an offensive burst by the Welshman. With heavy bruising now formed under his right eye, Williams continued to press forward while Eubank backpedaled out of range, even pausing to perform an Ali shuffle that infuriated the crowd.
In the final seconds, Eubank showed no intention to attack and smiled as he danced away from Williams before mounting the ropes and gesturing to the hostile crowd after what was likely a wide victory on the scorecards.
Notably, there was no exchange of respect between the fighters before or after the scores being announced, though Williams did take the time to show respect to opposing trainer Jones Jr.
The judges saw the bout in similar fashion, awarding Eubank a unanimous decision victory by scores of 117-109, 116-109 and 116-108 respectively.
WHAT THEY SAID
Back in the locker rooms after the fight, Eubank made no secret that bad blood still remained while showing joy with his victory.
“Happy with the performance, I wanted to teach this man a lesson,” said the victorious fighter. “He’d said some very menacing things to me in the leadup to this fight and I wanted to punish him.”
WHAT NEXT FOR THE WINNER
Eubank has expressed interest in a world title shot against the winner of the postponed unification bout between IBF world champion Gennadiy Golovkin and WBA title holder Ryota Murata.
Undefeated WBO world champion Demetrius Andrade is another world champion Eubank could face and the manner of victory here would strengthen that case. Both Andrade and Eubank recently dispatched Williams via unanimous decision, with Eubank scoring more knockdowns and registering a slightly wider margin on the scorecards.
Another potential matchup for Eubank that would draw massive interest on UK shores would be a showdown with undefeated welterweight Conor Benn. The match would be a nostalgic megafight in England, with the father’s of the two combatants having faced off in two high profile world title fights in the 1980’s. Eubank has expressed that for this fight to happen, Benn would have to come up to middleweight to make the bout.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE LOSER
Williams has now faced back to back elite level opposition in the form of Andrade and Eubank, taking both fights to the scorecards. If Williams looks to keep his opposition level in the top 10 of the division, undefeated Englishman Felix Cash is an option or a more domestic level opponent such as Nathan Heaney could be an option.
Author’s Scorecard (round by round)