Billy Joe Saunders: Chris Eubank Jr. needs his own identity
Unbeaten British middleweights Billy Joe Saunders and Chris Eubank Jr. were born three weeks apart in 1989 and that statistic, combined with the fact that both men punch for pay, is where the similarities end. The pair will settle a long running feud in London on Saturday and UK fans are eagerly anticipating this red hot collision.
“The fans are demanding the fight,” said Saunders, who will defend his British, Commonwealth and European titles. “People really want to see it and sometimes you’ve got to make events like this for the paying public. There are those who say it’s a risky fight for me, but every fight is risky.
“It makes financial sense and, although I’m the one with it all to lose, you need a crossover fight when you’re about to hit world level. The match-up has gained a lot of publicity because of Chris Eubank Sr. but Junior needs his own identity. His dad comes to press conferences and does all the talking and that’s not a good thing. If anything, Junior needs to look at where his dad has gone wrong.”
Eubank Sr., the eccentric former two-weight world title holder, has been omnipresent in his son’s career since its inception in 2011. He is both manager and advisor and has also been known to pose in the fighter’s corner, which comes naturally for the perpetual showman.
There are those who felt “Simply the Best” was reluctant to test his son, but he has confounded those critics by selecting Saunders (20-0, 11 knockouts) for one very big coming out party.
Saunders said, “I always knew they would sign the contract because of the money that was on offer. A lot of people say that Eubank is really up for the fight, but he would be because he’s getting six figures. He’s never had that before and we all know that boxing is a business at the end of the day. He’s skipped the queue, but it’s just not his time.
“He can’t deal with me at my best. I’ve made the weight properly and done everything like a real professional. In prior fights I’ve had five or six pound to lose the day before the weigh, which isn’t good for the body and it affected my performances. I’ve been over in Spain, training, with no distractions and you will see the results come fight night.”
Despite the fact that Eubank Jr. does not have the same amateur pedigree as Saunders, he appears to be one very gifted prize fighter. At 18-0 (13 knockouts) his impressive blend of speed and power has produced some bone crunching stoppages, and many within the trade see those attributes as being decisive.
“We don’t know what Eubank can do because he hasn’t fought anyone,” said Saunders instantly. “People talk about his power but he’s been knocking over journeymen. On the night I’ll respect him, because it takes a lot of heart and determination to be a fighter, but he won’t beat me. My world title shot is at stake and I’m preparing for the hardest fight of my life.”
As well as three belts being on the line, Saunders versus Eubank is a world title eliminator. Andy Lee, from Ireland, meets former Russian amateur standout Matt Korobov, for the WBO title, in all southpaw battle on Dec. 13 and, should all go well for Saunders, that bout will make for compulsive viewing.
“Lee versus Korobov is a great fight and I’m looking forward to it,” said Saunders, who is also a left hander. “Hopefully I come through on Nov. 29 with no injuries, and the victory, and then I’ll be looking to take on the winner in the New Year. I can’t wait to box for the world title, that’s the reason I’ve been in this game my whole life.
“Andy Lee will go over to Vegas with a game plan and I don’t think he wants to mix it. I thought Korobov was going to be a superstar but, despite a quality amateur career, he is yet to live up to his potential. I’ve watched him in one competitive fight and he struggled. Andy is a big, tall, long southpaw and you can’t write him off.”
Saunders, who is strongly favored to defeat Eubank Jr., knows that it’s unwise to dismiss the underdog. His opponent on Nov. 29 is surrounded by glitz, but if he proves to have substance then the betting odds go out the window. Eubank Jr. comes from fighting stock, his father is a British boxing legend, and should that magic be hereditary then fans could be in for one explosive middleweight scrap.
Saunders said, “I see a win and a very clear win. Every fighter wants a stoppage but I’m not looking for anything. I’ve trained for twelve hard rounds and as long as I get the win, then that’s all that matters. They might think I’m coming out guns blazing but anyone can have a punchers chance, so why give him any chance at all?”
British fans can see Billy Joe Saunders versus Chris Eubank Jr., which is a co-feature to the heavyweight rematch between Tyson Fury and Dereck Chisora, live and exclusive on BoxNation from 7.00pm (Channel 437 or HD on Channel 490). Tickets are available from www.eventim.co.uk
In the U.S. the fight will stream live (and free) on ESPN3.
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing