Eubank, Quinlan and the pay-per-view party
I once called Chris Eubank Sr. and politely requested an interview. The former two-weight world titleholder couldn’t have been more pleasant and promised to speak to me the next day. I called as requested. No answer. I called again. No answer. I called a third time and was told, again, to call the next day.
I did, and then this happened.
“Hi Chris. Do you have some time now?”
“Tom, I won’t be able to do this interview for six months.”
(Short pause) “Chris, wouldn’t it be best for you just to say no?”
I mention this anecdote only because there is little point in being shocked by Team Eubank. This type of eccentric spontaneity is just one part of the bombastic showmanship Eubank Sr. brought to the fight game and, for the most part, it worked throughout the course of a highly successful 13-year professional career. Simply put, expect the unexpected.
Chris Eubank Jr., who is managed by his father, squares off today against the unheralded Renold Quinlan at the Olympia in London. Despite the fact that Mr. Quinlan happens to be a 16-1 underdog, the 12-round super middleweight non-title bout will be transmitted via a new pay-per-view platform for £9.95 (approximately $12.50).
Expect the unexpected.
The backlash from U.K. fight fans has been severe but there is method to the madness. Below is an attempt to deconstruct what is actually going on here in terms of the matchup, the business model and the audience that ITV and Team Eubank are looking to attract. At the end, you can draw your own conclusions.
The Eubank Brand
Team Eubank: Father and son market themselves as British boxing royalty. Eubank Sr. still flashes the trademark monocle and dominates every press conference he attends. He also prefers to be called “English.” Junior, who is rated No. 6 by THE RING at middleweight, mimics his father right down to the ring vault and flashy pre-fight shadow boxing.
Gray: If you’ve got it, flaunt it. Eubank Sr. fought wars in the ring and can do whatever the hell he likes. People might laugh at him now and again but he’s forgotten more about the sport than most of us know. Chris Jr., a former British middleweight champion, is a terrific young pro who loves to fight. He’s quick, hard-hitting, spiteful and exciting to watch. His record is 23-1 (18 knockouts).
Team Eubank: For Junior’s first ever fight at super middleweight, Team Eubank selected an undistinguished Australian who has a record of 11-1 (7 KOs). Assets-wise, he looks aggressive, heavy-handed and quick for a 168-pound fighter. Quinlan’s biggest win is a second-round knockout of former middleweight titleholder Daniel Geale. This will be his first assignment outside of his native Australia.
Gray: Quinlan has been a professional for nine years and has only fought 12 times. The combined record of his opposition is 140 wins, 121 losses and seven draws. A knockout win over Daniel Geale might look impressive but Geale was 16 months inactive and on the descent. Eubank-Quinlan falls into the mismatch category – end of story.
The IBO super middleweight title
Team Eubank: Father and son, along with ITV Box Office, are promoting the matchup as a genuine world title fight. Quinlan won this vacant belt with the aforementioned victory over Geale. At the final press conference, Chris Jr. looked directly into Quinlan’s eyes and said “That belt is mine.” The future plan is to use the IBO title as leverage against other big name fighters.
Gray: THE RING does not recognize the IBO. The organization means well but the title is frankly irrelevant. It is a non-profit organization that utilizes a computerized rankings system and does not encourage mandatory challengers. Play your cards right and you could be a champion for life. Can the IBO belt really be used for leverage against recognized world titleholders? Doubtful.
Team Eubank: Just before Christmas, it was announced that the Eubank-Quinlan bout would be the maiden broadcast for ITV Box Office. ITV, a free-to-air channel in the U.K. and Ireland, once carried world title bouts involving Eubank Sr. and they did incredible numbers. Saturday’s fight is being billed as “Reborn” with an unapologetic link to the glory days of old.
Gray: You must understand that the decision to broadcast this fight on ITV Box Office is actually part of the show. Team Eubank works off the premise that there’s no such thing as bad publicity and this “pay-per-view” event has been discussed on social media for weeks now. How much attention would it have gotten on free television? Virtually none. Is the fight pay-per-view worthy? Don’t be silly.
Team Eubank: The name “Eubank” has been synonymous with boxing in the U.K. for almost 30 years. ITV is gambling that name recognition and a well-oiled advertising machine, which has been broadcast on free-to-air television, will pull in big numbers. Well edited clips of Eubank Jr. posing in the dark, along with a highlight reel have been widely visible on ITV in recent weeks.
Gray: This show is not aimed at harcore boxing fans. Very few pay-per-view events are. A really nice undercard featuring Kid Galahad vs. Joseph Agbeko, David Price vs. Christian Hammer and Adam Etches vs. John Ryder might please boxing super freaks but they are a minority. This show is aimed at people who are aware of the Eubank name and enjoy the odd fight but don’t know the difference between the IBO and the WWE. And by the way, there are millions of them.
Time will tell if this venture works out but the post-fight aftermath could be more entertaining than the main event, no matter what the results are.
Tom Gray is a UK Correspondent/ Editor for RingTV.com and a member of THE RING ratings panel. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing
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