Chris Eubank Jnr: Fighting for recognition in his own right
He admits his flamboyant father likes to interfere in his nascent career and that he shares a few traits and traditions but in the ring he is on his own
Sunday 08 April 2012
Chris Eubank once said he would never allow his sons to be fighters because boxing was a mug's game. "This is not a reasonable business. You get damaged, you get disfigured, you get used. You're partaking in a tragic form of entertainment. I can hear the slurred speech of many ex-boxers. I certainly don't want to put my sons through that." On Saturday, the former double-weight world champion will be in Belfast supervising the third professional contest of his first-born son, Christopher Livingstone Eubank.
The ever-idiosyncratic 45-year-old explains his remarkable volte face: "I truly did not want Christopher to box, but in saying that to him, I fortified his will. At 16 he said, 'this is what I want to do', and by then he was a young man with a will of his own. As a parent I did not want him to lose my respect. I didn't want him coming back to me and saying, 'dad, you stopped me'. He understands that the first lesson in being a boxer of the highest calibre is that you have to learn how to take a beating, and when you are getting one you stay there and take it."
Eubank Jnr, 22, fights Scotland's undefeated Paul Allison on the undercard of the Channel 5-televised Irish heavyweight title fight between Tyson Fury and Martin Rogan at the Odyssey Arena. Eubank Snr is flying in from Luanda, where he is coaching the Angolan Olympic boxing team. The sport's latest rising son explains: "For me, becoming a professional boxer has always been a dream. At the time dad didn't really approve, he didn't see why I wanted to do it, but I kept on at him and finally he said, 'OK, if you're serious, I'll help you'."
The suffix "Jnr" is no guarantee of greatness. Ask Ross Minter, son of another former British world middleweight champion, Alan. He recalls that after a winning debut, the first words he heard from a ringside punter were: "You're never going to be as good as your old man." Ross won the English welterweight title but retired three years ago admitting: "The punter was right. I pity Chris, he will have to learn to live with that type of remark."
So far, Eubank Jnr has two comfortable wins under his belt and looks good – though he's no dandy – more jeans than jodhpurs, fashionably low-slung. As distinctly different personality-wise from his father as Nigel Clough was to Brian, he followed in his father's footsteps by serving his fistic apprenticeship in the United States, with former world middleweight champion Mike McCallum and latterly Floyd Mayweather Snr, fighting as an amateur 26 times at middleweight and winning the Golden Gloves award in Nevada. He has also honed his skills in Angola and Cuba.
"I teach him about boxing, although I do not train him," says Eubank Snr. "I am a mentor. He is in the furnace, living the life of a young fighter who will have the ability to inspire. What I want him to be is a warrior of the highest calibre. I am nurturing him to be the real thing."
Tutoring the young Eubank is his father's former henchman Ronnie Davies, 61, an old-school trainer who was as much a Jeeves to Eubank Snr, acting as minder, butler and baby-sitter for the then Lord of the Manor of Brighton – and of the rings.
"Chris was a hard man to work with but we had great fun," he says. "The bottom line was that he could really fight when he was up against it. His lad has the same genes."
Once, before a fight in Berlin, Eubank Snr presented Davies with a £700 full-length black leather coat and ordered him to wear it at a press conference. "I can't do that," Davies protested. "It makes me look like a member of the SS. The Germans will go ballistic." "Prethithley, Davieth," lisped Eubank. "Prethithley."
The lisp may have gone after expensive dentistry, as has the monocle. He was declared bankrupt owing £1.3m in taxes 2005 and is now divorced from Karron, his wife of 15 years and mother of his four children. But the old swagger remains. Eubank Jnr knows he has a hard act to follow.
He has never sparred with his father ("well, you can't hit your dad") and his mother has never seen him fight. "She's always been behind me but I don't let her go to the fights. I turn into a different person when I get into the ring and that's not something I want my mother to see."
So does his father meddle? Chris Jnr smiles knowingly. "You must be joking. Can you see my dad not interfering? He never stops giving me advice." Like what? "Stay away from drink and drugs. He tells me how to conduct myself, he says you have to have heart, be a showman. At all times be polite. It's not just about boxing, getting into the ring and doing it, thank you and good night."
He admits being Eubank's son often got him into scrapes. "It goes with the territory. I've had to learn what it's like to be the son of a famous fighter in the school playground and in the street. Sometimes there have been situations that I am not proud of, there's lots of testosterone flying around and you end up in a scuffle.
"My first time in a boxing gym in Hove I got absolutely battered. Everybody assumed that because of my surname I would be able to handle myself, and I got thrown to the wolves. I vowed I would never let anything like that happen to me again."
Being sent to learn his craft in the USA was a priceless experience. "Being around champions like Floyd Mayweather made me the fighter I am today. But for me to say I want to be a world champion in two or three years, I am not that sort of person.
"My goal is to have people looking at me for who I am and for what I have achieved rather than for being the son of Chris Eubank. But I am his son and we share the same DNA. If you watch the way I punch and move I am sure you will pick up similarities, that's natural. But I am not trying to impersonate him or steal ideas."
He has retained two of his father's trademarks: Tina Turner's 'Simply the Best' as he walks to the ring; and a vault over the top rope. "It's something I felt the fans would appreciate," he says. "A touch of nostalgia. When I did it for the first time, my dad was standing in front of the TV camera and moved away. It was telling people that he was then and this is now.
"I am just happy that my father believes in me, everyone knows that he is a straight talker and is not the type to blow smoke up somebody's backside. If he truly didn't feel I could make it, he would have no problem telling me. The fact that he believes in me so much just encourages me to work harder. I can't let him down."
As always, Eubank Snr has the last word. "People looked into my heart and some said: 'We may not like Mr Eubank, but we respect him. He fights beyond the call of duty, he never quits.'
"To be exceptional you have to be alone, that's the life of a warrior. Maybe one day we will have in Christopher someone who will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end." Just like his dad did.
Sons and glovers
One of the most successful scions of famous fighters is Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr, 26, the WBC world middleweight champion and unbeaten in 47 fights; his six-time world champion Mexican father was one of the greatest pound-for-pounders.
Cory Spinks, son of Leon (who beat Muhammad Ali), was a world welterweight champion. Tracy Harris Patterson, adopted son of former heavyweight champion Floyd, won world super-bantamweight and featherweight titles. Marvis Frazier, son of Smokin' Joe, was KO'd in one round by Larry Holmes and Mike Tyson before retiring to be a Baptist minister.
But one who outstripped his pugilistic pater is the Money Man, unbeaten five-weight champion Floyd Mayweather Jnr; his trainer Floyd Snr fought Sugar Ray Leonard in a career cut short by a gunshot injury in a family feud.
Blackpool bruiser Brian London succeeded father Jack as British heavyweight champion in the Fifties. Not forgetting boxing's first belle: Laila Ali, Muhammad's daughter, undefeated women's world champion.
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