Boxing: Eubank erects wall of silence for title defence: WBO super-middleweight bout

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The Independent Online
CHRIS EUBANK has been hiding himself away, monocle and all, in a luxurious suite at the Grand Hotel here before the defence of his World Boxing Organisation super-middleweight title tonight against a rough Berliner, Graciano Rocchigiani. Apparently the Inter Continental, where his promoter Barry Hearn has booked in, was not good enough.

Eubank's reclusiveness, from someone who had courted publicity like no other, is perhaps the strangest behaviour of his professional career, even by his standards. Maybe he feels the vultures are gathering in the hope of picking over his extravagantly costumed corpse.

It is true that in the marbled corridors and bars of the Inter Continental there do hover, if not vultures, the swollen ranks of the British sports media. They are saying that Eubank's incessant pursuit of quick money, preferably in large amounts, may have led him not to the easily unburied treasure he is used to, but a shallow grave.

It could also be because Eubank knows that if he loses to Rocchigiani he has only himself to blame. This fight marks a departure from Eubank's espoused policy of low-risk defences of his title interspersed with occasional big pay-days against the top men he has studied and knows he can beat, like Michael Watson and Nigel Benn.

Rocchigiani is unbeaten in 37 fights - an avoidable proposition one would have thought. But a rumoured pounds 700,000 purse offer was too tantalising a lure, balanced even though it was by attempts at dissuasion from close counsellors. Eubank accepted the bout, and on hostile territory too.

In doing so, he has upset some of the big players in world boxing, particularly Don King. Hearn, King and their fellow promoter, Frank Warren, had mapped out a lucrative super-middleweight unification series - profits to be shared - sponsored by American pay-per-view television and including the guaranteed financial bonanza of Eubank-Benn III. They did not want anything to get in the way of these plans. King is known to be apopleptic that Eubank and Hearn set up the high-risk freelance jaunt to Germany.

Despite Rocchigiani's record, there is little to suggest that his presence in the opposite corner justifies quite such wholesale panic among boxing's high rollers, and a good deal of unsavoury information to suggest otherwise. Rocchigiani has had two fights in the past three years, both against cannon-fodder.

His fistic career has been interrupted by skirmishes with the law. As well as assault charges, his file includes an arrest for allegedly 'importing' a woman sent to work as a prostitute. He also once wrecked a kindergarten in the mistaken belief that it was a bar whose owner had wronged him. Rocchigiani's hobbies are listed as 'pizza and sex'.

These facts, coupled with the scar that divides one of his cheeks (acquired in a pub fight with a group of Lebanese), might suggest that Rocchigiani has not always recently lived life according to the Olympian ideal of monastic athleticism.

But in the late 1980s he was unquestionably a world-class fighter, winning the International Boxing Federation super-middleweight title in 1988 and defending it three times before the Berlin police got in the way. Since he remains unbeaten, Rocchigiani must be viewed as a mystery man. He could be trained and lethal. He might be a 30-year-old wreck returning for one last pay-day.

As Eubank studies his image in the wardrobe mirror of the Grand, he will know that on such threads does his perfumed future dangle.