By Gregory Doyle
It’s crazy how fast time goes by. As I sit and ponder Chris Eubank Jnrs next move it has come to my attention that two months have passed already since his blockbuster fight with George Groves in the semi-finals of the World Boxing Super Series. Time has gone by quickly for fight fans but how quickly has it gone by for Jnr and what is his current state of mind? Only he himself knows the true answer but lets look ahead and see if we can get some insight into what may be the next moves for the former IBO Super-Middleweight Champion.
I make no secret that I’m a big Chris Eubank Jnr fan, however, I’m a frustrated fan at the moment. The move to Super Middleweight didn’t make sense to me. Not winning the British Middleweight title outright didn’t make sense and while we are here I may as well say the trainer situation has never made sense to me either. So why in a career so full of promise have all of these bizarre career decisions been allowed to happen?
Let’s go back to the start. November 29th, 2014, Jnr made an important first big step in his career and challenged the then British, Commonwealth and European champion Billy Joe Saunders. Before the fight, I was quite confident Jnr would do the job, get the titles and move on to big things quickly but that wasn’t to be the case. Taking nothing away from Billy Joe who has gone on to do himself and British boxing proud, Jnr put in what can only be described as an inexperienced performance on the night. Not a lot of work rate was exerted in the first six rounds. Was this because he was unsure of the twelve rounds and wanted to pace himself as he had never previously been by eight or was it just down to Saunders excellent boxing ability? For me, it was both. I think at times Saunders boxed beautifully to instruction but I also think Jnr should have trusted his conditioning and pushed Saunders harder in the earlier going. Saunders won a split decision with cards of 115-113 and 115-114 in his favour and the other judge seen it Jnr’s way 116-113. Me personally I had it 114-114. At times in the later rounds, Eubank looked great and had Saunders in visible discomfort but left himself a mountain to climb after five/six rounds as he was always playing catch up in the fight.
That night it was visible to me things had to change in the Eubank corner. A corner that seemed to be co-run by the experienced Ronnie Davies and Chris Eubank Snr. Snr was a tremendous fighter in his own right, one of Britain’s best ever to be precise but he seemed to be taking too much of hands-on approach in his sons career. The saying “a great fighter doesn’t make a great trainer” springs to mind. Advice wise, you can not have many better people around you than Chris Eubank Senior but for me, that should be where it ends.
However, the relationship continued. Being fair, Jnr did look like he was getting better and better with each fight but was this just experience beginning to tell? Routine victories followed, beating Dmitrii Chudinov for the interim WBA World Middleweight title, defending in style against Tony Jeter before significantly humbling his next biggest test to date at that time Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan in seven one sided rounds. Next up followed the tragic fight with Nick Blackwell in which the Trowbridge fighter was permanently injured and could not continue with his career. In that contest, Eubank also picked up the British Middleweight Title. “Nxt Gen” seemed to be going from strength to strength although the relationship in the corner still seemed to be an odd one. He then defended his British title against Undefeated Tom Doran, totally overwhelming him in 4 rounds and looked on the verge of a multi million pound fight with current middleweight king Gennedy Golovkin aka “GGG”. This is where things began to take a backward step in Jnrs career promotionally.
Eubank Jnr’s relationship with then promoter Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing began to break down over reporteded purse offers to fight Golovkin. In the end, Eubank Jnr left Matchroom Boxing for ITV and no fight with GGG materialised. Jnr, in a bizarre decision, would instead move up to Super-Middleweight and challenge little know Renold Quinlan for the IBO Super-Middlweight title. Fans and experts could not understand the decision as things seemed to be going well at Middleweight with a high ranking with all four major governing bodies. Eubank would easily outwork and outland Quinlan with the contest being stopped after eleven one sided rounds.
Now the owner of the lighly regarded IBO title (with all due respect) Jnr moved onto veteran former 2 weight world champion Arthur Abraham, who’s best days were visible behind him but was still a step up for Jnr. Again the Brighton man rose to the challenge outboxing Abraham landing some tasty uppercuts in the process winning a near shutout on the cards. Next up followed the World Boxing Super Series, a tournemant in which eight of the worlds best available fighters battle in a knockout format to win the Muhammed Ali trophy and a lot of cash in the process. Eubank chose to draw the undefeated Avni Yildirim in his quarter final. Yildirim known as “Mr Robot” would prove to be just that. A rigid stance proved to be his downfall with Eubank again landing at will before knocking the undefeated Turk out in the third round with a heart stopping left hook to set up a semi final with WBA Super-Middleweight champion George Groves.
Groves proved to be too clever and ring savvy for Eubank who, if we were being honest, never really threatened Groves until yet again, late in the fight. To defend Eubank, a bad cut in the third round seemed to be the big change in the fight but up until that point it was nip and tuck with Groves maybe just edging it. On the night I took my “Eubank fan” glasses off and scored the contest 117-111 in Groves favour. Groves stayed on the outside most of the night proving very tough to pin down and did not give Jnr the opportunity to turn the contest into a slugfest. It seemed as though one fighter had became wiser with experience and the other seemed to be stalling. The massive talking point in the fight for me as a fan was why? Why was there no Plan B? Why did Eubank not press the action sooner yet again? Why did we feel as if we were back to 2014 all over again rewatching the Billy Joe Saunders performance? For me the answer is simple. Eubank Jnr has bags of raw talent, and phenominal combination punching abilities but limited ring generalship. Change was and is needed.
For me, Eubank has to go back to basics. As much as I admire his father and Ronnie Davies, that ship has sailed. Fresh eyes are needed in the corner. Fresh eyes that will 100% be in charge of all training matters and strategic career moves. At one time Eubank Jnr briefly linked up with Adam Booth, a relationship that lasted all of five minutes with Booth rumoured to be unhappy with Snr’s interference. I’d Like to see Eubank Jnr link up with experienced Derrick James. James, who is coach of Welterweight world champion Errol Spence Jnr and Super-Welterweight world champion Jermell Charlo, seems as though he would be a good fit in the Eubank corner. A coach who clearly has a clever boxing brain but seems to encourage his fighters to apply intense pressure in fights which would suit Jnr down to a tee and bring on his ring smartness and thought process in the meantime.
A link up with James and a move back to middleweight would surely be the right move with the career of Saul Alvarez up in the air due to a drugs ban and an ever ageing Gennady Golovkin surely with limited time left in the sport. It could even set up the rematch with Saunders for the World Title. Sadly, I dont think this will be the case. I think we can expect more of the old. The Eubank team are so head strong and stubborn I believe the move will be to “prove everyone wrong” and continue his career inbetween Middleweight and Super-Middleweight until an opportunity arises at either weight class. For me, Eubank Jnr could be very special in the right hands but time is running out. Not a youngster anymore at 28 Eubank has to make the right choice now. Time is still on his side but not for too much longer. Now has to be the time for Nxt Gen to make the Nxt Move in his career. It needs to be the right one.