Chris Eubank Jr. – Time to grow up and move back down
The Manchester Arena was electric on Saturday night. The crowd was in uproar from the moment Chris Eubank Jr. made his ring entrance until George Groves had his hand raised 12 rounds later. From ringside, it felt like one of those nights where boxing was the beneficiary and that’s a great thing.
Despite Eubank Jr. losing the fight, his impact on the promotion cannot be understated. The 28-year-old contender is good-looking, articulate, explosive and those blazing fists produce the type of excitement that appeals to the masses. “Junior” also possesses real fighting guts and he has inherited his father’s concrete chin.
That’s why his career progression is so frustrating.
On the way back up to Scotland on Sunday, I visited with one of the other World Boxing Super Series semi-finalists, Callum Smith, and his trainer, Joe Gallagher, in Bolton. Smith was having a “shake out” before flying to Nuremberg, Germany, where he will face Juergen Braehmer this Saturday.
Our respective opinions on Groves-Eubank Jr. were pretty much identical. No plan B from Eubank, whereas Groves, the superior technician, implemented a superb game plan which left his opponent confused and frustrated.
When I got home, I nailed a glass of wine after my 200-mile drive and watched Groves-Eubank again. A fight can sometimes look different on television but, despite having downed three glasses by the end of it, this one looked the same.
It was the buildup material that blew me away.
“Nobody can tell me anything that is going to change my thoughts or my tactics in terms of getting past an opponent,” said Eubank Jr. when interviewed by ITV Box Office for a pre-fight segment. “The last thing I’m going to be doing is looking for others for support. I know what to do.”
When this quote was cascaded to Groves’ coach, Shane McGuigan, in a separate interview, there was a two-word answer.
You’re right it is. It’s one thing to be a non-conformist and another thing to be silly. Eubank Jr. had already lost a fight, to Billy Joe Saunders in November 2014, by taking the “do it yourself” approach. Shouldn’t that have been a wakeup call?
Boxing is an unforgiving sport where you must learn from your mistakes, and Groves himself is living proof that. The Londoner maintains that he evolved after losing world title bouts to Carl Froch (twice) and Badou Jack. That’s demonstrable, because Groves hired a new trainer, reinvented himself and won a world title at the fourth time of asking.
If Eubank’s self-help philosophy was correct, then the likes of Jack Blackburn, Charley Goldman, Ray Arcel, Harry Wiley, Eddie Futch, Angelo Dundee and Emanuel Steward (all Hall of Fame trainers) would have been out of work.
The knowledge these individuals possessed was invaluable and their respective records speak for themselves. Not all of them duked it out as professionals (Blackburn and Goldman did), but they all had an obsessive and cerebral knowledge of the sport and fighters benefited massively from their experience.
Imagine Eubank Jr. with a few extra modifications. Imagine him being able to slip shots to get inside, rather than simply walking in. Imagine him being able to cut the ring off and walk opponents on to shots by using his feet. Imagine him shortening his punches, so that he doesn’t miss by a mile and leave himself wide open.
The challenger’s corner was a nightmare on Saturday. Chris Eubank Sr. was dressed like it was catwalk time in Monaco. He offered little. Ronnie Davies, Eubank Sr’s old coach, is a wealth of knowledge, but he was habitually underused. Chris Sanigar, trainer of IBF featherweight titleholder Lee Selby, is a terrific boxing guy, but he is not synonymous with Team Eubank and struggled to maintain order.
Eubank Jr. has amazing potential, but he needs help and he needs it fast. Against a certain level of opponent – or against a certain style – those multi-punch flurries will work wonders. However, Eubank lacks the amateur pedigree to make all that pizzazz work against a Groves or a Saunders. Those guys have seen it all before.
And in closing, Eubank Jr. is not – I repeat not – a super middleweight. Get a new trainer, improve your game and make an assault on 160 pounds when a belt becomes available. Change things, before it’s too late.
Tom Gray is Associate Editor for THE RING. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing
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