Chris Eubank Jr on a mission to prove he is simply the best

Nick Watkins 15/02/2018
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On a mission: Chris Eubank Jr

For Chris Eubank Jr, Saturday’s clash with British rival George Groves is merely a step on his path to greatness – a path he has planned meticulously and with a razor sharp determination to be the best in the world. When the two step into the ring on Saturday night in Manchester, both Eubank Jr’s IBO strap and Groves’ WBA title will be on the line in a highly anticipated grudge match, which is also the semi-final of the World Boxing Super Series tournament – the winner facing either fellow-Brit Callum Smith or Germany’s Juergen Braehmer in the final later in the year.

While he’s not looking past George Groves, Eubank Jr sees nothing other than a win coming his way, but is not taking any chances. “If I knock him out in the first second of the first round it’s still not an easy night, because of all the punishment and sacrifice I’ve had to go through to get to this stage, so no I don’t expect it to be an easy night,” he told Sport360°. “I do expect to be completely dominant in the fight and to get the victory. I know myself what George is capable of and I don’t think there’s anyway he will be able to survive twelve rounds with me.”

Rivals: WBA champ George Groves and IBO king Chris Eubank Jr

Rivals: WBA champ George Groves and IBO king Chris Eubank Jr

Under the watchful eye of his illustrious father, Chris Eubank Snr, Eubank insists his dedication to the sport can only see him reach the top of the game. It is his belief that nobody in his division is working harder than him with traditional pre-fight camp schedules thrown out of the window as the Brit does things his way.

“I prefer to just live the life of a champion, I train everyday in some way shape, or form, I don’t wait to be given a fight date to prepare,” says the IBO king. “Whether it’s mentally or physically, I do some form of exercise everyday. I’ve been training intensely since the age of fourteen. When you live the life of a champ things can get stale so it’s good to switch things around. “I break things up by doing morning or evening runs, some yoga or a strength and conditioning class. I change things in the evenings by running on the beach or hill sprints. It’s my decision what I do, I plan out a week in advance but if a body part is feeling fatigued then obviously I’ll work something else.”

At 28, the Brighton-born boxer is at the stage in his career where a marquee name on his record is needed to get him the mega fights he says he’s destined for. Despite Eubank’s IBO title is the lesser-recognised of the world titles and was won against Australia’s Renold Quinlan, leaving most needing convincing Eubank Jr should be considered in the elite bracket of fighters.

Since a loss to rival Billy Joe Saunders in 2014, Jr has remained unbeaten, winning his last eight fights – including a convincing win over seasoned veteran Arthur Abraham. His overall record now stands at 26-1. In his head, Eubank had his route to the top already mapped out, with plans of defeating fellow Brit James DeGale for the IBF super middleweight belt following the tournament. However, DeGale’s surprising defeat to the un-fancied Caleb Truax in December soon put paid to that idea. Nevertheless the slanging match between the two continues via social media, as well as during our chat with the IBO champion. “DeGale is an embarrassment” Eubank Jr affirms. “That last fight was a let down to British boxing, especially after all the trash talk leading up to the fight. To then go and perform like he did is unforgivable. Now he’s got no belt so I’m already ahead of him. I’m the champion and he’s nothing, an average fighter beat him. He was number one on my radar after this tournament because he had the belt and the public wanted to see that fight, but now he’s screwed it all up with that performance.”

Shock defeat: James DeGale no longer holds a title

Shock defeat: James DeGale no longer holds a title

Despite the simmering rivalry, Eubank Jr maintains he didn’t enjoy seeing the Olympic gold medallist lose. “What DeGale needs to do now is get back in the ring with that same guy and try and win his belt back and we can talk about a potential match up. You can’t go from a loss like that and demand a big fight, so he’s got to rebuild. I don’t like DeGale but I wanted him to win because I wanted to beat him and win that belt. But he’s ruined it now. If he can get his belt back then the fight will be of interest again.” Whatever the outcome against Groves, Eubank Jr will be in no mood to rest on his laurels. Rather than find an excuse to celebrate, he chooses to knuckle down and focus on the next fight rather than toast a win. That has been his way since his teens, with boxing being his sole focus – and success being the only thing he measures himself by.

This is difficult when you have a father who climbed to the peak of the Super Middleweight mountain, becoming a household name in the glory days of the division on the British boxing scene. While Eubank Snr never made the transition across the Atlantic, comparisons between him and Jr are always going to be made.

At this stage in this career though, regardless of rankings and titles, if Eubank Jr is to eclipse his father’s achievements, he has to start becoming a household name in his own right, and the only way to do that is beat the big names in his division. The next step on that journey is on Saturday night – and he can’t afford to stumble.

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Russian MMA promises less show and more fighting with Absolute Championship Berkut 81

Nick Watkins 14/02/2018
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Main event: Aslambek Saidov

Mixed Martial Arts is heading to the UAE with Absolute Championship Berkut 81 taking place at The Dome, Sports City. ACB, the leader in Russian martial arts is live in Dubai for the very first time, featuring a packed card with the experienced Roan Cornero taking on the number two-ranked ACB welterweight Aslambek Saidov. The co-main event also features Great Britain’s Luke Barnatt, who fans will recognise from the UFC’s Ultimate Fighter, taking on the hard-hitting Maxim Futin.

The event, which is fully supported by the Dubai Sports Council, features over 24 fighters in competitive bouts. Fans will get to see a range of fights from different weight classes, with the winner of the Cornero v Saidov headline attraction will likely earn a shot at the welterweight title. Britain’s Barnatt is making the permanent move to light-heavyweight while the card also sees action in the flyweight division, including the highly anticipated return of Yoni Sherbatov as he takes on Josiel Silva.

Ex-UFC: Luke Barnatt

Ex-UFC: Luke Barnatt

The ABC’s stop in the UAE is sandwiched between tournaments in Russia and Brazil as the organization looks to increase its worldwide profile, having already put on events in the UK, Poland, Georgia and Tajikistan. The company prides itself on focusing more on the fighting side of the sport, rather than the more flamboyant elements associated with the UFC, in turn, giving mixed martial arts fans more of the sport they love. The promotion held it’s first recognized event back in 2010 but began numbering the events in 2014 to push the brand higher in the MMA market.

Luke Barnatt has experience in the UFC, making his debut in 2013, having appeared on The Ultimate Fighter, where he reached the semi finals, earlier that year. He won his debut fight via unanimous decision. He fought five more times in the UFC, losing three times, before being released by the promotion in 2015. After fighting around independent promotions following the UFC he made his ACB debut in March last year.

Headliner Roan Carneiro also has UFC experience having made his debut with a win in 2007. He would fight four more times – winning once – before being released from the company. However, the Brazilian made a UFC comeback, against Ryan LeFlare, last year, losing the bout via unanimous decision. ACB 81 will be his first bout back since the defeat as he looks to get back to winning ways.

ACB 81 – FIGHT CARD:

  1. Welterweight: ASLAMBEK SAIDOV (Poland) – ROAN CARNEIRO (Brazil)
  2. Light heavyweight: MAXIM FUTIN (Russia) – LUKE BARNATT (UK)
  3. Middleweight: ABDUL-RAKHMAN DZHANAEV (Russia) – LEANDRO BATATA (Brasil)
  4. Flyweight: YONI SHERBATOV (Canada) – JOSIEL SILVA (Brazil)
  5. Flyweight: NAREK AVAGYAN (Armenia) – ISAAC PIMENTEL (Brazil)
  6. Featherweight: ISLAM ISAEV (Russia) – THIAGO LUIS SILVA (Brazil)
  7. Welterweight: RAMAZAN KURAMAGOMEDOV (Russia) – GEORGI VALENTINOV (Bulgaria)
  8. Lightweight: BAZ MOHAMMAD MUBARIZ (Afghanistan) – IAIN FEENAN (Scotland)
  9. Bantamweight: MAHARBEK KARGINOV (Russia) – FRANCISCO MACIEL (Brazil)
  10. Heavyweight: TANNER BOSER (Canada) – DJ LINDERMANN (USA)
  11. Lightweight: AHMED WALI HOTAK (Afghanistan) – TBA
  12. Featherweight: KHASEIN SHAIKHAEV (Russia) – DIEGO LOPES (Brazil)
  13. Featherweight: KADIR DALKIRAN (Turkey) – SHOAIB YOUSAF (UK)
*FIGHT CARD SUBJECT TO CHANGE

What: Absolute Championship Berkut 81
Where: The Dome, Dubai Sports City
When: February 23.
Contact: acbmma.com/en/tickets

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Boston Marathon win sees Skechers now giving Nike and Adidas a run for their money

Nick Watkins 13/02/2018
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Marathon man: Meb Keflezighi

When you think of running shoes the usual candidates spring to mind, Nike, Adidas and Asics, but when Meb Keflezighi was first over the line of the 2014 Boston marathon another brand cemented themselves as worthy candidates in the marketplace.

Keflezighi, who became the first American to win the race since 1983, was sporting a pair of GO Meb Speed Skechers, which legitimized the footwear company as a serious player in the sportswear sphere.

Founded in 1992 by Robert Greenberg, the man behind the launch of LA Gear in the late 1970s, Skechers is now one of the biggest footwear brands in the world, amassing billions of dollars in revenue each year.

Perhaps still recognised more as an everyday shoe, Skechers knew that in order to be taken seriously in the sporting world it would have to develop something which could compete with the rest of the market.

Sketchers Managing Partner: Marvin Bernstein

Skechers Managing Partner: Marvin Bernstein

“In order to be legitimised in the sneaker business you need to have a premium level or a performance level, which is why we now have that, ” says Skechers Managing Partner Marvin Bernstein.

“We recognise that we’re a lifestyle brand but a lot of it stretches into performance so we approached that end of the business, and made some headway in the running business.

“Including marathons and events around the world.”

In order to get a running shoe which can compete with the market leaders, Bernstein says their team take inspiration from what’s already out there and add to it by asking athletes what could be added.

“We have runners and they tell us what they need, different features that would be good on the shoes and what we’re lacking, if anything.

“We look at our competitors and see what they’ve got.

“I don’t know anyone who has an original thought, honestly.

“Nike and Adidas has that edge and now we do too.”

Skechers were in fact the first to add Memory Foam innersoles to their line of trainers, which other sports brands have now adopted.

Speaking exclusively to Sport360 at their customer showcase event at the Meydan Hotel, Bernstein admits the company’s success has not come as a surprise, having worked with the brand since the beginning.

He credits the accomplishments to a driven CEO who along with being an astute businessman has retained his love of sneakers for all these years.

“The only way you get this big is by having that vision, you don’t go into business thinking it’ll be nice to have a $50million company, get that, and then look for a $100million company, you have to have to always have that drive at the top.”

New shoe: GO Run 6

New shoe: GO Run 6

In a bid to conquer every possible market, Skechers releases thousands of new shoes every year, with 4,000 of those being released in the first quarter of this year.

Along with the sports shoes, there’s are shoes for back-to-school, special nurses footwear with non-slip souls, construction shoes with steel-tips, glow-in-the-dark kids trainers and even smart Dress Knit range to wear with a suit in the office.

The UAE is an ever-growing market for Skechers, sitting only behind the United States, Europe and China in terms of popularity.

And while the company has long been established in many parts of the world, the UAE is only just getting started.

Bernstein adds, “Dubai and the UAE is already a huge market for us, and more importantly it’s not over.

“There’s a footwear brand to build and also an apparel line, so it’s just getting started here.”

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