Chris Eubank’s childhood would do little to suggest that the man would rise to become one of his era’s most disciplined, skilled combatants. Born on August 8, 1966 in London, Eubank was constantly in and out of trouble as as school kid, being both suspended and expelled on multiple occasions. At the age of 16, he was sent to live with his mother in the Bronx. It was in New York that Chris Eubank turned himself around, developing an interest in Church, but also in boxing. He began learning the trade at Jerome Boxing Club, and soon became a devoted student of the sport. In 1984 Eubank won the Spanish Golden Gloves, and then placed in the semi-finals in the New York City Golden Gloves. It wasn’t a bad start for a fighter who had only been in the game for two years. He turned pro in Atlantic City in October 1985.
It was an odd start for a British boxer to begin his career in America, but Chris Eubank was across the pond by 1988, living in Brighton and winning fights in the UK. Eubank climbed up the ladder by knocking off journeymen and tomato cans, earning a 1990 title shot against one of Britain’s leading middleweights in 1990, WBO Champion Nigel “The Dark Destroyer” Benn.
In these days, Eubank was a young, 5’10” boxer-puncher with a 73″ reach, a good sense of ring generalship, and a savage killer instinct. Benn was 27-1 and a pure puncher, having won his first 22 bouts by knockout. The fight opened with Eubank circling Benn and lancing him with hard leads, while Benn walked his man down. Although little leather flew, every shot was thrown with wicked intent. In the 4th, Benn caught Eubank with an uppercut that caused Eubank to bite his tongue, leading him to swallow blood for the rest of the fight. Fearing the doctor would stop the fight, Eubank kept the tongue cut a secret. By the 5th, Benn’s eye was swelling shut. Still the dogged Benn hung on and put Eubank down in the 8th and then the 9th. Eubank rose from the 9th Round knockdown, which caught him off balance rather than really hurting him, and nailed Benn with a left hook as Benn came in. Staggered and exhausted, Benn hung on for dear life. Eubank drove him into a corner with a straight right, and referee Richard Steele stepped in and stopped the bout. Eubank had triumphed through sound tactics, a strong chin and his own formidable hitting power. The fight became an instant classic of British boxing.
Chris Eubank had defeated Nigel Benn, arguably the most popular boxer in Britain. However, before Eubank could lay claim to the title as the best boxer in Britain, he had to beat the man who beat Benn, Michael Watson. After defending his title twice against journeymen, the 27-0 WBO Champion defended his belt against Watson in June 1991. This time Eubank fought not a savage puncher, but a masterful boxer, and the result was a much closer Majority Decision. Many boxing pundits felt Watson had won the bout, and a rematch was soon in the works.
Eubank, however, was already having trouble making weight and the first bout with Watson was his last at 160 lbs. He moved up to 168 lbs. and the rematch was fought for the vacant WBO Super Middleweight Title in September 1991. In this encounter it was Watson who improved, thoroughly out-boxing Eubank and leading on all scorecards (one card had him six points ahead). Watson put what looking like the final stamp on his victory by flooring Eubank in the 11th. Yet just as he did against Benn, Eubank rose and hammered Watson back, this time with an uppercut. Watson was knocked out.
At first, no one understood that Watson was seriously injured by the blow and subsequent fall to the canvas. Even after it was realized Watson was in serious trouble, the ringside officials were totally unprepared to provide medical attention. A doctor from the crowd had to intervene, and no ambulance was on hand to take Watson to the hospital. The result was Watson suffered permanent brain damage. The tragedy also took its toll on Eubank, who considered retiring from boxing. In the end, he chose to continue his career, but he was never the same fighter. After the Watson tragedy, the killer instinct drained out of Chris Eubank.
Simply the Best
By now, Chris Eubank had fully developed his public persona. He entered the ring by vaulting over the ropes to Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best,” and appeared in public wearing a pinstripe suit and monocle. He adopted the arrogant affectations of the caricature of the British aristocrat, and pretended to disdain the sport that made him a success. Eubank quickly became the man every British fight fan paid good money to watch in the hopes he would lose, especially since so few could deny Eubank was the best fighter in early 1990s Britain.
Chris Eubank defended his WBO belt on February 1992 against Thulani “Sugar Boy” Malinga of South Africa. Malinga was knocked down in the 5th, and there is little doubt the old killer Eubank could have gotten him out of there. However, Eubank hesitated, allowed Malinga to get back into the fight, and won by Split Decision. In September 1992 he outpointed American fringe contender Tony Thorton, and he handily out-boxed American contender and former champion Lindell Holmes in February 1993. By October 1993, Eubank had defended his title seven times with six wins and a draw, and not a single win coming by knockout.
October 1993 brought Eubank into a rematch with his arch-rival, Nigel Benn. Benn was now the WBC Super Middleweight Champion, and the fan favorite in Britain. The fight had plenty of action, but both men were wary and it was therefore lacking in the sheer brutality of the first encounter. The end of every round was marked by a strong exchange, as both fighters sought to put their stamp on it, and the final round was a major slug fest as both Eubank and Benn fought hard to earn that last round and hopefully carry the win. The result was a Draw. Comically, promoter Don King had written the contracts so that he became the new promoter for both the winner and loser. In the event of a draw, however, King wound up in control of nobody.
The Sky Sports Deal
After drawing with Benn, Eubank traveled to Germany in 1994 to defend his WBO title against unbeaten 35-0 contender Graciano Rocchigiani and out-point him. The victory clinched a lucrative multi-fight contract with Sky Sports. This led to Eubank’s next five fights that year being with journeymen who looked good on paper, but had limited talent in practice. Many blame Eubank for this poor matchmaking, but in truth Sky was unwilling to hand out a major paycheck to both Eubank and Eubank’s opponent, ensuring that only unheralded fighters were matched with the champion.
In March 1995, that run came to an end. Eubank met Steve Collins, a 28-3 former 160 lbs. champion. Collins claimed he couldn’t lose and that he had been hypnotized to feel no pain, and in the ring he did the one thing Eubank didn’t like: he applied constant pressure on the champion. The old killer Eubank would have made a fighter pay for such effrontery, but the hesitant Eubank preferred to fight tactically and in spurts, and Collins ruffled him out of his game plan. Collins won a decisive Unanimous Decision. In the 1995 rematch, Eubank fought harder, but still dropped a Split Decision.
The first defeat cost Eubank his Sky Sports contract, his undefeated record, his standing as the best fighter in Britain, and his WBO title. The second defeat seemed to effectively shut him out of title contention, and Eubank announced a brief retirement in October 1995.
Eubank began his comeback a year later. While Eubank was on the comeback trail, Steve Collins retired rather than face an up-and-coming Joe Calzaghe. The 22-0 fighter was once again a bad match-up for Eubank, because Calzaghe key attributes were blinding hand speed, high work-rate and constant pressure. Nonetheless, when Calzaghe tired in the later rounds, Eubank was able to counter-attack. Calzaghe always called this the toughest fight of his career, but Eubank still dropped a lopsided points defeat.
The other 168 lbs. champions at the time were Charles Brewer, old enemy Thulani Malinga and Frankie Liles. None wanted any part of Eubank. The most logical promotional course and the best opportunity for Eubank seemed to be moving up in weight, skipping 175 lbs. altogether and challenging WBO Cruiserweight Champion Carl Thompson in April 1998. Eubank boxed well and knocked down Thompson in the 4th, although he was cornered and hammered by the much bigger man in the 8th and 9th Rounds. Overall, it was a valiant effort and a close fight, but Eubank lost the decision.
A rematch was held three months later, but the short interval was a bad call for Eubank. His eye had swollen considerably in the first fight, and although Eubank was doing even better in the early rounds of the rematch, Thompson’s thudding blows caused the swelling to come back with a vengeance. By the late rounds, Eubank’s left eye was swollen shut and the referee stopped the fight. Eubank retired shortly thereafter, and this time he stayed retired.
Eubank continued to be something of a minor celebrity in British life after retiring from boxing, appearing in programs like Celebrity Big Brother. He was also arrested for anti-war stunts in 2003 and 2007. He purchased the title of Lord of the Manor for his hometown of Brighton, which among other things grants him the right to appoint the town crier. He declared bankruptcy in 2005, and was divorced later that year. Eubank has four children.
When Eubank retired, he had a record of 43-5-2 with 23 KOs. A two-division champion, he is best remembered for his reign as WBO Super Middleweight Champion. He held that title through four years and 14 defenses, a reign that helped make the WBO a prominent boxing organization. Finally, in what was the most exciting era of British middleweight boxing, Eubank stood as the top dog.
Sources:Dark Trade by Don McRae; live fight footage; boxrec.com/list_bouts.php?human_id=000804&cat=boxer