Life outside the boxing ring has changed drastically for Chris Eubank Jr. The 26-year-old has emerged from the shadow of his father and namesake, one of the most successful boxers in modern British history, to capture notoriety of his own. With it, he now finds himself under the watchful eye of mainstream media and in the firing line of social media critics.
Yet, when faced with an avalanche of attention, Eubank has demonstrated a level of maturity and, in light of recent events, sensitivity, which has earned him support for more than just his slick skills in the squared circle.
This new-found level of prominence did not come in the fashion he imagined, though.
Earlier this year Eubank challenged British champion Nick Blackwell for the middleweight title. He was victorious with the fight eventually stopped in the 10th round but the air in the aftermath was not filled with celebration, it was occupied by concern.
At the conclusion of the fight, Blackwell collapsed. On the way to hospital, he flatlined and momentarily died. The 25-year-old would later spend over a week in an induced coma on life support as physicians battled swelling and a bleed on his brain.
Thankfully, Blackwell came through the other side but has since been forced to retire from the sport. It brought back sombre memories for the man sat ringside that night, Eubank Sr, who had fought an infamous bout 25 years earlier against Michael Watson – a man he defeated but would leave with permanent disabilities. Many argue that night changed the elder Eubank as a fighter, that his finishing instinct was blunted by the mental scars left by inflicting Watson’s injuries.
Junior will return to the ring for the first time since the Blackwell fight on June 25 to defend the British strap against unbeaten Welshman Tom Doran.
And given that a brush with tragedy took something from his father, it is only natural to wonder if history will repeat itself. Not a chance, says Junior, who insists he climbs back into the ring with a clear conscience, his focus more intense than ever.
“It hasn’t changed me as far as I guess my father,” Eubank Jr tells Sport360 in Dubai.
“It affected him in the sense that in his future fights, he’s thinking he doesn’t want this to happen again. Maybe he would back off or tailor his fighting style. I haven’t fought since [the Blackwell fight] but I know I’m not going to lose the ferociousness and the relentlessness I have in the ring.
“I have too much to achieve in my career and I know that if I have those thoughts in the back of my mind, it’s only going to affect me negatively. It will put me in danger. I have to be even more ferocious in the ring now because I know that these things can happen.
“This isn’t a movie or a story I’ve read about, I’ve put somebody in hospital so I know that can happen to anybody.
“That realisation has made me train harder and focus even more because I can’t let that happen to me. I have all these things I want to achieve and I’m not going to let anything get in my way. I have to be even more of a beast.”
Indeed, he does, because come through the bout with Doran unscathed and bigger tests await with some of the most feared fighters in boxing topping Eubank’s list of targets. He makes no secret of his desire for a rematch with WBO champion Billy Joe Saunders – the man who in 2014 provided the sole blemish on his 22-1 record. Their clash did little to temper the bad blood between the pair, largely because of the close nature of the fight, and a series of back-and-forth jibes have since reignited the feud. The mention of his name draws more authority and direction from an otherwise relaxed Eubank, and when he explains just why they clash, he describes Saunders as “not a good guy” adding that his rival “isn’t a worthy world champion”.
“That’s what we’re looking for [a rematch with Saunders]. I’ve made it very clear and I was saying it to him while I was fighting Nick Blackwell. In the middle of our fight I was turning around to him and Tyson Fury [sat ringside] and saying ‘lets go, lets get it on’,” he explains.
“That’s the fight everyone wants to see and the fact he is a world champion now just makes it even more of a spectacular opportunity. It’s all to gain from a fight like that.
“He gets absolutely nothing from me this time around. The line ‘give them nothing but take from them everything’ is exactly what I’ll be doing with Saunders.”
At 160lbs the options are good and if a rematch with Saunders can’t be agreed then Eubank has other big names in his sights.
Mexican golden boy Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and Kazakhstan’s KO king Gennady Golovkin are two star names that are most attractive.
“If I can’t get the Saunders fight then I’ll take on one of those guys (Canelo or Golovkin),” says a confident Eubank.
“I believe they’re both more than beatable. I don’t have a preference, I’ll take on whichever one is going to make me the most money.
“If you beat one of them, you’re automatically considered one of the best in the world in the division. If I fight Canelo, you catch me, I’m not going to go down and then what? If you tag me, I’m going to laugh in your face afterwards, I’m not going to go down.
“I love that fight. It would be a huge fight and one I’d be very confident I could win. I have the boxing skills and I have a chin as well.
“He’s slow and so is Golovkin. The thing is, they have that power, that equaliser. If they catch guys they will hurt you. If you don’t have a chin they will stop you. But against someone who can box and move and take a punch, I don’t see them being able to deal with that.”
Conversation with Eubank Jr invariably gravitates towards his father. But his desire is not to emulate the former middle and supermiddleweight champ, it’s to cement a legacy of his own. He laughs at how he’s defied those, who, in his words, thought he “would turn to modelling”, and having inherited the trademark Eubank athleticism and punching power, Junior is confident of one day surpassing his old man’s achievements.
“That’s my goal. That’s definitely what I’m working towards,” he adds. “But it’s not so much I want to be better than my dad. I don’t think about my father when I’m boxing. I’m focusing on me and what I have to do. It’s not about him. People are always going to compare us, there’s no getting away from that.
“But as the years go by and as I fight more and more, I only separate myself from him.”
Know more about Sport360 Application