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Chris Eubank Jr's Biggest Opponent Will Be His Father's Looming Presence

by Richard Lewis
12 November 2011 27 Comments

Not quite a chip off the old block, the son of the former great showed some neat footwork and fast hands, but why was his Dad allowed to completely overshadow his big day?

The professional debut of young boxing aspirant Chris Eubank Jr. lived up to its dull expectations yesterday and showed that nostalgia remains the most popular commodity when it comes to marketing sports. While most of the nation tuned into ITV to watch what had become of the footballing genius-cum- human train wreck that was Paul Gascoigne, those looking for a different type of nostalgia sat and watched Channel 5 hoping to see something that would remind of the former glory of the once noble art.

It was hard not to get swept along with it at first. Has it really been so long since the British middleweight division was full of talent it attracted more interest than the heavyweight bouts? It feels like another lifetime but for the briefest of moments it did feel alive again. The fighter looking lean and mean, dare it be suggested in better shape than his father, came out to the same Tina Turner theme tune. He had the same swagger as he came to the ring, held the same poses… At any given moment you felt he could pop in a monocle and start lisping about his superiority. Either way, the crowd lapped it up.

Then the predictability kicked in. You remembered just why boxing had fallen so far in the sporting hierarchy, why you stopped being interested in it in the first place. Within moments of the fight starting it was clear that, as with all fledgling British fighters, he had been put up against a bum, the sort of athlete that would be known as a “jobber” if this was professional wrestling. They exist only to make the slightly more talented look better than they truly are happy to be a human stepping stone for men they have already conceded are destined for better things than they are.

The big clue to this was the fact that they referred to Kirilis Psonko as “experienced” throughout the bout. There was nothing else more to say about this fighter other than he had been around the block a bit and the Lithuanian didn’t even seem interested in throwing punches. The heavy bag that Eubank Jr. trained on in the build up to this fight would have offered more resistance and thrown more punches in return.

Despite some stylistic similarities Eubank Jr. ultimately looked nothing like the second coming of his father

It was dreadful to watch and it was apparent to all who was clearly manufactured to win within moments of the fight starting. Even when the fight was stopped in ludicrous fashion in the fourth, the referee suddenly deciding that not throwing any return punches was an indication of being in trouble as opposed to the consistent application of the losing strategy Psonko had embraced from the beginning, it was never exciting.

Despite some stylistic similarities Eubank Jr. ultimately looked nothing like the second coming of his father as he failed to penetrate the guard of a fighter who looked hopelessly outclassed even at this level. He seemed to want to only throw that knockout punch, couldn’t apply the basic principles of working the body to open up the head for that winning blow. Without having a test of the chin there was little to be said about the purported prodigy other than he can hit a slowly moving target.

Still, that isn’t the saddest part. It is incredibly hard to be critical about the youngster who, despite being the talent, was only talked about in terms of the heir apparent. All through the fight there were constant close ups of the original Eubank, waving to the crowd in that bizarre regal way he has always adopted, even when most of the British public despised him for being that most hated of creatures –  a successful British athlete.

He liberally walked to and from the corner, giving his son advice, while the cameras followed him and not the fighter. They interviewed him between rounds and the commentators, with a lack of action in the ring to talk about, took to talking about the qualities of vintage Eubank before adding that this event was “all very much about the son”. It’s a statement that would have had a lot more resonance if they weren’t pushing a microphone in his father’s face every two minutes.

He liberally walked to and from the corner, giving his son advice, while the cameras followed him and not the fighter

That’s the blessing and the curse for the boy. He gets a head start because he has the name. He will have instant adoration as the masses go cross eyed and chant his surname without ever really being sure which fighter they mean, or even caring just so long as someone is getting punched in front of them. Yet it’s clear that he’s never going to be free of that, that he will always be held up in comparison to his father and that his father, still clearly hungry for the spotlight, will happily detract from his own son’s achievements to remain fresh in the public memory.

That may well be the curse of following in the footsteps of such a successful father. For every Johann it seems there’s a Jordi, for every Kenny there’s a Paul. Unlike some sports though, where someone will always be willing to take a punt on someone with a famous surname, boxing is so individual and requires such strength of character that anything that dilutes it can not be seen as a positive. No doors it can open are worth the willing relinquishing of identity that is emulating your father’s ring entrance.

To be clear, in case this all sounds too maudlin, the kid has undoubtedly got talent, the product of hard work as opposed to good breeding stock. Fast hands, good head movement and polished technique all point to a fighter that could be something out of the ordinary if allowed to mature and develop without the side show. Boxing is at its worst when it becomes a circus of showboating, which was one of the sides of the Eubank era that many will not remember fondly. In the ring, imperious. Outside of it, impudent.

It’s not likely to be a factor for too long. Like so many British fighters before him he’ll be built up before being torn down, sold to the public as a hero and then used to line the pockets of the promoters, managers and the broadcasters. For all the face of boxing has changed there are some things that remain the same, the most unwelcome kind of nostalgia.

There was lots of talk about the future in the build up to this match, about looking forward, yet once underway the whole affair spent most of its time looking back and not even involving the fighter who was in the ring. It was proof, as if any were needed, that boxing’s best days remain firmly behind it and everyone involved seemed only too happy to publicly acknowledge that fact. The spectacle leading up to this potentially exciting undercard opener seemed like little more than a celebration of days gone by in the midst of mediocrity. If better days are to come for the young fighter one feels that they might arrive sooner if people, famous father included, accept that while it might be a Eubank in the ring it will never be Eubank in the ring again.

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image descriptionCOMMENTS

Marcus Wellby 1:20 pm, 13-Nov-2011

Sorry but an atrocious article! Nowhere near accurate portrayal of the fight / night and polar opposite of the other tabloid reviews. Eubank Jr looks the real deal and what on earth is wrong with a son who clearly respects his Father in every way wanting to pay tribute to him in the same vein? There arent many kids of Jr's age with the respect and manners he has. Dont write about boxing if you dont understand it as an art!

phil poundes 1:43 pm, 13-Nov-2011

Richard Lewis proves how ignorant he is on Boxing. What a stupid article by him. Eubank jnr was very impressive indeed, forget his Dad he shows glimpses of his dads style but he is his own man and boxed very well

DM 1:56 pm, 13-Nov-2011

agree with above....the person who wrote this tosh has never been near a boxing ring and clearly has no concept of the talent of Eubank jr. Ok his dad did get a bit of the spotlight and maybe should have taken a step back but the fact is that eubank jr would be crazy if he did not use his father and his name to make things happen and i am sure he will.

David Brenner 2:12 pm, 13-Nov-2011

Utterly dismal. To describe any fighter as 'a bum' manages to combine utter disrespect with tragically bad sports journalism. No wit; no humour; no insights; no reportage; no knowledge; no entertainment. Hopeless.

Alex 2:41 pm, 13-Nov-2011

Agree with everyone else, not a clue about boxing. It was his first professional fight, he was always going to fight someone he should be as it was about the experience at this stage. He looked fast and in good shape, probably lacking in power though as he should have ended it sooner. Certainly a prospect though.

sarah 3:06 pm, 13-Nov-2011

@Marcus Wellby - hear, hear!!! Slate the youth of today for not having respect and slate the ones that do!! what a load of absolute drivel.... wouldnt be surpirsed to hear that the author of this didnt even watch the fight.

Simon Law 3:22 pm, 13-Nov-2011

It's easier to touch the stars when you stand on the shoulders of giants - It's even better when the giant is your own father that you love and respect. Why should one hide and run from the comparisons that will surely be made when emulating greatness? All great athletes will be compared and put in the shadow of past greats especially if they are somehow related - especially by blood. Kudos to Eubank jr for not following the cliche of others who become defensive when critics yatter about being in anothers shadow. He clearly loves being his father's son and has been brought up well - there is no shame in embracing what your father has achieved and ultimately achieving more.

David B 4:45 pm, 13-Nov-2011

Good God! What naive ill-informed drivel! It was the guy's pro debut! You do not match a debutant against an experienced contender. It would destroy them in one fight. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of boxing knows that. If it was ten or so fights in I'd understand your frustration, but as is you are totally off the mark. For the first ten fights of your pro career (and often a bit beyond) the aim is to learn with every fight and build a test into each bout. What Eubank Jr. learned last night was how to unlock a tricky, conservative opponent with a high guard. The guy is never going to reach the heights that Eubank Jr. undoubtably will, but he is not a bum. He is the sort of fighter that pro boxing relies upon, and you do him massive disrespect by failing to understand even the basics of his job. He didn't get badly hurt. He extended a highly touted young prospect for 2/3rd of the fight, he got paid, he went home. Everyone was happy... Apart from obviously you. He's also nothing like his father. Now I have to say that I was a Nigel Benn fan, but credit where cedit is due. Eubank was stylistically such an oddity that to expect a carbon copy from the next generation just digs the hole you've made for yourself deeper still. I don't know if Eubank Jr. will end up a world champion, but I'd be willing to take a bet today that he'll easily make it to European level. His father's fame exists. He can't do anything about that and neither can his father. He can't help people chanting his name, so why take a cheap shot at him? A quick request to James Brown. Can we pleeeease have someone who knows their subject a bit better write about boxing in future? I've never seen such a unilateral set of negative comments in relation to an article. What I mean is that whilst I have the boxing credentials having boxed, I don't have the literary style and I know it. Richard should know where his own skill set lies and it's not an understanding of boxing.

David B 4:46 pm, 13-Nov-2011

In fact that young bloke that sometimes writes for you... Jake Hanrohan I think? He'd be ideal. He can write a bit and he's fought too.

Mike H 5:24 pm, 13-Nov-2011

Yep. What a silly review! Why write such stuff about a great British prospect and entertainer in the making!? This was his Pro Debut. He would only be put against a guy with the same record ie similar wins/loses so the opponent was right. He will climb the ranks and be champion one day. The fact that he has the utmost respect for his dad and his dad is proud of his son is purely evident and quite touching. This is why millions of people watched Eubank fight in the 80s & 90s. We want a showman, a show off, someone to stir up the crowd. This makes it interesting. But we also have the luxury of knowing that he actually has talent. The future of the British boxing is looking great again! Why knock it after 1 bout.. Which was won convincingly?

Johann Gugèlle 12:06 am, 14-Nov-2011

Eubank Jr. looks a prospect - so what if he was looking for that big punch? His opponent never looked like he was going to cause any damage so why not go for the classy, sweet connecting hayemaker to please the fans? Whoever wrote this should rethink their career choice as a sportswriter.

JohnnyL 2:20 am, 14-Nov-2011

Chin up Rich, at least your spelling and grammar are proving beyond reproach.

Colin 3:28 am, 14-Nov-2011

He looks a very promising fighter. If he has inherited his old mans chin then he could go very far. BTW, is this the lad who was all over youtube a few years ago fighting in an underground car park? I'm not sure how many sons Chris Eubank has?

swelterwear 5:17 am, 14-Nov-2011

if sr hadnt mentioned about the body shots would people like this even know what the problem was? I think not. you shouldnt talk about things you dont understand. This writer is right in one respect though, that british boxing has gone way down hill, but its great to see it on tele again and its got to start somewhere hasnt it. i for one hope that channel 5 has huge success with their boxing events and i hope that fighters like chris eubank jnr will be able to re-energise boxing.

lee 6:57 am, 14-Nov-2011

This richard has never even had a fight in his life ..he said eubanks opponent was a 'bum' ,any body who climbs into a ring deserves respect.Eubank jr fought a boxer with alot more experiance than him self so he deserves credit...The only 'bum' here is the writer of the above artical

johnnyw 12:27 pm, 14-Nov-2011

Eubank snr was a manfactured fighter, all opponents handpicked for him, the only time he fought someone with a decent pedigree he got hammered ie Steve Collins

David B 1:51 pm, 14-Nov-2011

I was no fan of Eubank Johnnyw, and the fact that he was carefully matched to say the least, was one of my main frustrations with him. However, with the benefit of distance I now realise that he was a better fighter than I gave him credit for, but not as good a fighter as most of his fans (who happened to be from outside the boxing community) thought he was. He did also prevail in the spectacularly bloody first fight with Nigel Benn and haul himself off the canvas to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat against Watson the second time, so maybe you are selling him a bit short.

LoneWolf 7:08 pm, 14-Nov-2011

No point in talking about the Eubank Jr fight, everyone else has done that "pro debut" etc. I do however take issue with your and other 'journos' writing about your perceived view of a decline in British boxing, there is actually a lot of interest in the sport in the UK - perhaps British world champions that are holding legitimate belts and in quality fights like Burns, Khan, Froch and Cleverly can change your mind. Or if you want the real up and coming stars that have fought more than 1 fight check out Kell Brook (he's one of the most exciting British fighters since Naz), George Groves (loves a war), Frankie Gavin or the Walsh brothers. Even the Tyson Fury fight was a good show after the Eubank Jr one (which you didn't mention), 3 knockdowns. If only the lad could have stuck with Rob McCracken and get himself in shape, although to be fair he looks a lot better than he did a couple of years ago. Lazy journalism along the lines of 'death knell for boxing', 'everyone likes UFC now'etc gets a bit boring,

Simon CG 1:29 pm, 15-Nov-2011

What utter nonsense. Anyone who follows boxing understands how a fighter's professional record is built up and that early opponents are hand picked. Eubank showed great hand speed, combinations and the ability to follow instructions. Either stick to subjects that you understand or do some basic research beforehand

David Brenner 4:53 pm, 15-Nov-2011

This from Ricard Lewis's Twitter page linking to the above article: "My take on Chris Eubank senior overshadowing his son's debut. Not sure what people are objecting to.." Aside from winning the 2011 "Skin As Thick as a Herd of Rhinos" award, the basic problem people have had with your article Richard is that you know nothing about boxing; your comments are ill-judged are disparaging; and although you seem to believe you write stylishly and amusingly, take it from a fellow hack that you don't. I see that your main area of expertise is gaming and insulting people on Twitter. Not sure if that offers long-term career options, but it's a probably better option for you than sports reporting.

Richard Lewis 5:08 pm, 15-Nov-2011

I've never felt compelled to reply to the responses on Sabotage Times and I doubt I will again but some of the comments to this piece are clearly being made by people who read the title, maybe the opening and final paragraph and little else. As a former amateur boxer myself I find it hard to believe that people can question the lack of willing shown by his opponent. Being put in with an experienced fighter is great to learn lessons, yes. When they throw five punches in four rounds, it's hard to take anything from it. What I wanted to see was a showcase for his talent, not putting an opponent who held guard for the entirety of the fight, not even looking to counterpunch or take advantage of Eubank's low guard. In short Eubank could only look impressive against such an opponent because all he had to do was tee off on him. The stoppage was a nonsense and again, I'm not sure how anyone who knows anything about boxing could think otherwise. The fighter was defending himself and didn't look in trouble. If that was a grounds for a stoppage, then so was the flurry in the second. But the thing I clearly objected to, amidst the praise for Eubank Jr's talents, which are there in black and white for anyone who care's to read more than the headline, is that his father happily detracted from his son's spotlight and the media were more than happy to show that level of disrespect to the fighter. The article clearly criticises the antics of the father, not the son. Don't get me wrong, I realise now what I was supposed to write was "Great to see another Eubank back for Britain. Such an exciting fighter demolishing a dangerous opponent. Was awesome to see his father in the spotlight once more as well" but I don't consider that a true viewpoint of someone who cares about boxing in the way I do. The reverence for Eubank Sr. from some of these people is also hilarious given that when he was fighting himself he was booed by the fans and labelled overrated and arrogant by the same people now giving it the Daily Mail style adoration. In short, the fight was clearly and cynically marketed and this, for me, is a shame for the person we should be focused on - the fighter. Eubank Jr. will go on to good things but this debut left a bad taste in my mouth because he seemed an afterthought in it all.

David B 5:58 pm, 15-Nov-2011

Richard, I don't think you have boxed. I'm not the only one. The wisdom of crowds and all that...You don't seem to know anything about the sport, so you can't blame us all for being suspicious.

Richard Lewis 6:06 pm, 15-Nov-2011

I don't need to lie about what I've done and what I haven't but I can see, in response to this article at least, it's a losing battle because - following this sort of logic - if enough people say something is true, then it must be. I fail to see any wisdom in this crowd.

David Brenner 6:20 pm, 15-Nov-2011

Richard, let me explain Chris Eubank to you. I commentated on most of his fights and knew him well. He came up with the 'pantomime villain' persona for the prime reason that it put bums on seats. He wasn't genunely hated or disliked by anyone. Fans *loved* to hate him. There's a big difference. They came to see him get ko'd. And he played it up to the hilt, with the outrageous clothes and mannerisms. Trust me, it was an act. (Well, most of it, anyway). And you've got to be a fighter of no little ability to carry that off. Now, he's on his way to becoming a national treasure and why not. He's made money; lost the lot; blown a marriage; and had a couple of truly epic fights. He's deserved whatever good reactions he gets now. And if the name of Eubank helps his son - so what ? And if he gets booed or cheered when he's introduced - so what ? The over-riding factor is that the people doing the booing have paid to get in. As for whether you've boxed or not - that's not really important. I don't subscribe to the theory you need to be an ex-sportsperson to write/talk about that sport. But you don't *understand* boxing and that's what's pissing off the people who *do* understand it and who've consequently had a pop at you. Just a touch of acceptance on your part that in this instance, you're in a minority of one would be a start.

Richard Lewis 6:30 pm, 15-Nov-2011

We're not going to agree so let's just leave it by saying because you disagree with my interpretation of the fight and the way it was broadcast I know *nothing* about a sport I'e actively took part in and followed for most of my life. As for trying to imply I didn't understand that Eubank's antics were theatrics... I don't get how you can arrive at that conclusion based on what I've said at all. Still, thanks for commenting on my article even if you're content to sum up my career as being dead in the water based on you disagreeing with one piece.

David B 11:28 pm, 15-Nov-2011

Richard, you just don't come across as knowing anything about the sport at all, and that's why most people doubt you. You don't have to be an ex-fighter to write well about the sport. Hugh McIlvanney and Thomas Hauser are far and away the best boxing writers alive today. With no disrespect intended to him, maybe Donald McCrae gets a fairly distant third, but theirs is a life dedicated to actually understanding the really fine detail of the sport. The guys mentioned can tell you almost as much as the fighters themselves about some of the fine detail of the fight game. You called this guy a bum. Guys like Peter Buckley and Des Gargano... If it was not for them the sport would run out of matches pretty quickly. These guys do actually have a skill that every fighter appreciates. To go in, to not get hurt, to test the prospect put in front of them a little bit, to go home with their senses intact. By and large they manage it. You seemed to be ignorant of the value that they offer the sport and I cannot believe that any fighter would be that ill informed. The only fighter I've heard people have this degree of distain towards is Audley Harrison, because he had the opportunity to make it, but lacks a ticker. The lad on Saturday certainly didn't. Novices are usually put in with someone who's either making his own debut, or who has had up to three fights, usually with lop-sided record. This guy had around 25 fights with 8 wins. That's 8 more wins than most maiden voyage opponents usually have. This guy was no first fight pushover, but Eubank bossed him.

John Regan 2:10 am, 17-Nov-2011

Not much to add to what has already been said apart from suggesting to Richard Lewis to stop sucking his thumb and accept the fact that you got it wrong. Also a message for johnnyw from someone who does know something about Chris Snr, you also talk a load of crap.

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