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Chris Eubank: ‘When I beat Nigel Benn, nobody could criticize me’

Eubank (right) on the attack against Benn in their 1993 super middleweight unification fight. Photo by THE RING Archive




12
Feb

Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn shared one of the most heated rivalries British boxing has ever seen. There was serious animosity between the pair who, to this day, still don’t see eye to eye.

Benn, a former Commonwealth champion, had won the WBO middleweight title by knocking out Doug DeWitt in eight rounds in April 1990. However, the charismatic power-puncher had kicked open the door to stardom when he stopped former middleweight champion Iran Barkley in his first defense.

While Benn was posting these career-best victories on U.S. soil, Eubank was competing at a much lower level in the U.K. and making noise about fighting his fearsome compatriot at every opportunity.

“It was difficult because it didn’t seem to me that anyone saw that (Benn) was behaving like a blockhead,” said Eubank in relation to his rival’s ferocious demeanor. “It seemed like this was normal for how a boxer should behave.

“He made me look like a choirboy. That’s what the press said at the time. The term ‘choirboy’ was used in a derogatory way to suggest I didn’t know what I was doing and that I was naïve. But a choirboy is how you are supposed to behave in terms of manners, conduct, respecting your adults, punctuality; these are prerequisites which makes a man whole. So, I knew, even if I lost the fight, my mother could still be proud of me.”

The pair met at the National Exhibition Center in Birmingham, England, on Nov. 18, 1990. Eubank entered, habitually, to the strands of ‘Simply the Best’ by Tina Turner, but his song was hijacked halfway through by Team Benn who began their own ring walk early. Eubank remained unfazed and performed his trademark vault over the top rope.

The two men stood in their respective corners. Eubank tapped his gloves and eyed his opponent. Benn remained perfectly still and stared daggers at the challenger.

It was an intense encounter with terrific ebb and flow. In the fourth round, Benn landed a huge right uppercut that caused Eubank to bite through his own tongue. The challenger swallowed large amounts of blood for the remainder of the contest but, fearful that the fight would be stopped, he kept the injury to himself. Benn was also on the receiving end, his left eye swollen shut by the end of the fifth.

Ths eye-damage meant the defending titleholder could no longer see Eubank’s vaunted right hand coming, and when that punch landed solidly in the ninth, Benn was unable to recover. Referee Richard Steele called a halt the action and a new champion was crowned.

“It was a close fight, but I think even that was unfair because if you watched the fight, as vicious as the fight was, I don’t think I was behind,” Eubank said. “I think I won most of the rounds on boxing ability, craftsmanship and good common sense being applied.”

Because of the way Eubank conducted himself during the buildup and the way the fight unfolded, he feels that only jealousy could cause fans to dislike him.

“(Benn) was a Godsend,” he said of his frenzied rival. “When I beat him, nobody could criticize me. There was no reason to dislike me. If they did, they were being bigoted, having double and triple standards.

“As a fighter, shouldn’t you want me to behave this way? It was jealousy. What they say about jealousy is as follows: jealousy is a tribute that mediocrity pays to genius.”

Over the next three years, both men moved up to super middleweight to claim world honors. Eubank won the WBO title and extended his unbeaten record to (35-0-1), while Benn captured the WBC belt and won 10 fights in succession. It was inevitable that they would meet again.

Following extensive negotiations, the rematch took place on Oct. 9, 1993. This was a genuine superfight at Old Trafford stadium, the home of soccer team Manchester United, and over 47,000 fans were in attendance. Both sides had agreed, prior to the fight, that the winner and loser would sign with U.S promoter Don King, who arrived in town to add to the theatre.

As Eubank vaulted the ropes on this occasion, hall-of-fame boxing commentator Reg Gutteridge famously bellowed, “The ego has landed”.

Again, Eubank and Benn fought on even terms and the 168-pound unification bout was declared a draw. However, in a way, this was like a win for Team Eubank, because the tied result allowed promoter Barry Hearn to exploit a loophole in the contract with King and they were no longer obligated to sign with him.

“(Benn) should have won the fight; he did enough to win the fight” Eubank said of their second encounter. “For me it was never a matter of hate. This was an individual who I needed to win against to get out of (an apartment) and into a house.”

Stay-tuned for Best I Faced: Chris Eubank

 

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  • AngelMorningstar

    I respect the fact he admits Benn won the second fight. Pussies like Mayweather Jr would never admit Castillo won that first fight.

    • Barley’s back!!!

      Yeah, I’ve never heard Eubank say that before. I thought Benn edged it, but it was close and I’ve seen drawn verdicts in major fights that were far more unjust. Golovkin-Canelo for one.

  • Joey Junger

    To whoever transcribed Eubank’s words, “Manors” means large houses, not one’s behavior or customs. That’s “manners.”

    I think Chris Eubank became a victim of that soundbite, perhaps taken out of context, that “Boxing is a mug’s game.” I think he meant that boxers were exploited (which was and is true) but to a lot of the public (especially Brits) it sounded like he was denigrating an industry that keeps entire families fed (especially when you factor in trainers, cut-men, etc). Eubank was always a preternatural physical specimen (a la another eccentric, Big Frank Bruno) but his fundamentals were never sound. There was a video (probably still floating around) of Lennox Lewis trying to teach Chris to jab, and this after the guy had been a world-class boxer for some years already. The guy was exciting and actually proved tough once his gifts went, but I think Toney would have minced him.

    • Barley’s back!!!

      Nice post. I agree Toney’s far superior technique would have gotten the better of Eubank.

      Chris was abnormally strong and resilient though, and carried genuine one punch knockout power. It was that inconsistent technique, dodgy balance and erratic attitude in the ring that prevented him from really applying those advantages.

  • william ellis

    Boxers who admit they got a gift are rare. Very classy on Eubank’s part. He was also a terrific fighter.

  • Darren James Smith

    I went to that first fight aged 16 – still get goosebumps thinking about the atmosphere, the noise, meeting Lennox, Bruno and telling Michael Nunn he was a legend…..

  • Droeks Malan

    Great story. Eubank and Benn gave us many thrills.

  • JA

    Eubank is rare indeed. I remember reading an excerpt from an interview he did with a boxing magazine and admitted he had no desire to fight Mike Macallum. His words were similar to “I’m supposed to fight him for him to come on strong in the late rounds and stop me to the body? No!”

  • Will Arbuckle

    You are over guy, now you have a made up persona, a different way of dressing and speaking f4om back in the day. A good fighter, but a fake man.