On this day 27 years ago, 42,000 fight fans crammed inside a rocking Old Trafford in the heart of Manchester. The most intense British boxing rivalry of the decade was to be settled, as bitter super-middleweight rivals Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank met in their hugely anticipated, three years in the making rematch. All of Britain had been talking about this fight for weeks, and now “Judgement Day” had finally arrived.
Eubank, a genuinely polarizing figure, had shocked Benn in November of 1990, ripping the WBO middleweight title from the big-hitting “Dark Destroyer” and becoming a household name in the UK as a result. Benn thoroughly disliked the eccentric Eubank from the start, this dislike eventually reaching a level of very real, burning hatred. Eubank had got under Benn’s skin and he had also knocked him out in the fight.
Benn craved revenge.
By the time the rematch rolled around both men have moved up to 168 pounds. Benn had won the WBC crown, Eubank the WBO title. The unification clash that was also a repeat or revenge fight would settle things. Only it didn’t. The rematch, a good fight but not a classic as fight-one had come very close to being, saw both guys boxing smart, looking to pick up points instead of going for the stoppage win. There were some good exchanges but the rematch was a fight that was best described as a technical fight, a battle of wits and nerve.
Benn paced himself superbly, appearing to do more work than his rival while at the same time keeping his shape. Benn was a different fighter compared to the first fight, when his heart had ruled his head. Eubank, often a lazy fighter, didn’t look to be pushing himself hard enough. Who wanted it more? The final round was special, as both men, instructed in the corner to lay it all on the line in an effort to win the final, crucial round, went at it hard. The 12th was easily the best round of the fight.
Then came the unsatisfactory result. With both men eyeing each other, the scores were read out: 114-113 for Benn, 115-113 for Eubank, and 114-114 a tie. Both men went home with their belts. The fans filed out of the arena, still arguing between themselves over who the greater fighter was.
All these years later, it is quite amazing there was no third fight between Benn and Eubank. There was enormous money to be made from a third fight, a rivalry needed to be settled and both men still harboured a very genuine dislike for one another. But for whatever reason, Benn and Eubank never fought again – their combustible rivalry ending at 1 win for Eubank, zero wins for Benn and one draw.
Instead of fighting each other again, Benn went on to fight Gerald McClellan in one of the most savage fights in 168 pound history, and Eubank took his show on the road as he defended his WBO belt.
To this day, the question: who was the greater fighter, Nigel Benn or Chris Eubank, can start a most passionate debate.