Boxing; Eubank takes just a minute

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The Independent Online
THE status may have changed, but the style certainly hasn't. Chris Eubank, ex-champion, swaggers just as extravagantly as he did during his long tenure of the WBO super-middleweight title and stunned a 5,000 capacity crowd at Whitley Bay Ice Rink last night with a 55-second knock-out of the Spaniard Jose Ignacio Barruetabena.

It was Eubank's second fight since losing his championship to Steve Collins in March, and his first comeback fight had also finished inside the opening round. Last night, he needed just two punches. A short right-hook to the head dropped the Spaniard at Eubank's feet and he was so dazed that he held on to Eubank's ankles before eventually getting up shakily with the count at seven.

Eubank walked towards him almost casually, and fired another right which caught the Spaniard on the side of the head and sent him crashing. There was never a hope that he could beat referee Mickey Vann's count and he needed attention on the ring floor for several minutes before being helped onto his stool as the crowd chanted "what a load of rubbish".

The result, of course, means little in real terms and certainly does not give any indication of how Eubank will fair when he attempts to regain his title from Collins in Cork on 9 September. Eubank is to be reported to the Board of Control for a disparaging remark about Collins reportedly made on Sky Television last night. But the overall success of the promotion showed that the ability of Britain's best-known sporting eccentric remains undiminished, at least outside the capital. London fans may have gone cool on him, but, like a fading musical hall star, he continues to find responsive and appreciative crowds on the provincial circuit.

Barruetabena was never likely to test Eubank too severely. He had boxed only twice as a super middleweight, having spent most of his career at light-middle or middleweight, and his two super-middleweight victories were hardly earth-shattering: a ten-round points win over Cesar Besualdo, who had not managed to win any of his ten professional fights, and a disqualification over an obscure Portuguese for the even more obscure "Hispanic" title.

He was further handicapped by the obvious weight discrepancy which was heightened by the Board of Control's recently-introduced policy of holding the weigh-in the night before the show. The actual weights were not announced, but the unofficial weights had Eubank scaling 12st 2lb and Barruetabena 11st 11lb. By the time he entered the ring, more than 24 hours later, Eubank probably scaled in the region of 12st 10lb, giving a potentially dangerous pull in the weights over a man whose natural poundage has never exceeded 12 stones.

There is already a considerable body of opinion within boxing that the rule should be challenged, and last night's fiasco adds force to that view.