Over the Easter long weekend, Chris Eubank Jr defeated Nick Blackwell to win the British Middleweight Title and move to 22-1-0 (17 KOs) at Wembley Arena, a title his illustrious father never won during his long and decorated career.
That win has garnered a lot of public attention (more so that any of the build-up or either fighter’s popularity would merit) due to the injuries sustained by Blackwell and his subsequent hospitalisation with a brain bleed.
Many are calling the fight reminiscent of Eubank Sr’s clash with Michael Watson, a fight that ended with Watson being put into an induced coma for 40 days, going through six brain surgeries and suffering permanent, irreparable brain damage.
Questions have been raised as to whether the fight could or should have been stopped earlier – in round 8 there was flurry of heavy uppercuts and hooks from Eubank that perhaps gave the referee an opportunity to stop the fight but despite Eubank’s growing dominance, Blackwell still fired back at the end of each barrage and continued to walk forward. He may have been losing but he wasn’t beaten and as the defending champion the ref had every right to give him that opportunity to continue.
By the time the doctor intervened in the 10th round, despite the boo’s heard around the arena, there could be no argument that the fight was over and it was the right call to end it at that point. Eubank had won the British Title with relative ease as many had predicted. However, despite winning a title his father had never won and recording another KO victory, Eubank’s performance did very little in the way of proving he is the fighter he so boldly claims to be in press conferences, interviews and on social media.
Following his defeat to current WBO champion Billy Joe Saunders in late 2014, Eubank has continued to proclaim his superiority over not just British middleweights, but middleweights around the world – with he and his father both claiming on several occasions that they consider themselves worthy of defeating Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin.
However these bold assertions have been nothing more than hot air up to this point. As well as turning down an offer in the region of £900,000 for a rematch with Saunders for the WBO belt, Eubank also chose to vacate his WBA interim belt and not face their regular champion, Daniel Jacobs. That’s two World Title opportunities turned down – all to fight Nick Blackwell (an opponent his rival Saunders beat back in 2012) for the Lonsdale belt and a reported purse in the regions of £50,000.
Looking at the performance itself, Eubank was certainly dominant and successfully bullied Blackwell from beginning to end with power and vicious combinations of brutal uppercuts and hooks. However that is something we had all seen from him before and it was the holes in Eubank’s games that seemed to really show once again.
Firstly and most obviously to me is that he seems to care far too much about his highlight reel – dropping his hands, shuffling his feet, shaking his shoulders and just generally trying to show off at any given opportunity. I actually have no issue with that side of the game when done in the right way but on Saturday night I was almost embarrassed by some of the antics on show.
When Prince Naseem was at his dazzling best, he was flashy but brilliant at the same time, avoiding punches and countering with all the swagger and cockiness mentioned above but in a way that excited the crowd, with Eubank those moments seemed to come when he was comfortable in the fight or at a safe distance and that for me takes it from being flashy to being disrespectful and pointless.
Eubank almost paid for this disrespect as well, Blackwell caught him flush with a right hand as he tried to taunt his rival at ringside before throwing a telegraphed hook with his hands low. It’s a mistake he’s got away and time again but against the likes of Daniel Jacobs and Golovkin he will be punished for any sloppiness he shows.
Secondly, I could not help but notice the consistent inaccuracy from Eubank, particularly early on.
At times it seemed he threw his combinations without thinking, as though he was on the heavy bag and not against a moving opponent – even if Blackwell had countered or stepped away, Eubank still threw the whole combination, missing wildly on occasion with the final punch. Admittedly, as the fight progressed these mistakes seemed to fade away but it was difficult to know if that was down to Blackwell standing in front of him more than he had in the early rounds.
It seems harsh to criticise a fighter after such a dominant victory and full credit should go to Eubank for his win – he was the better fighter on the night and was up on the scorecards before the stoppage came. He is now the British middleweight champion and added another scalp to his record.
However now is the time for Eubank to stop with the posturing and to take these big fights he wants so badly, he’s ranked top 5 in the WBC and WBA and (with all due respect) needs to be chasing much bigger names and belts than Nick Blackwell for the British Title if he is the fighter he and his father claim him to be.
Personally I feel that Jacobs, Saunders and Golovkin beat him easily if he fights as he did Saturday night – we’ve already seen Saunders box rings around him and nothing on Saturday showed me his tactical or mental game has improved too much since then. Blackwell, not known for his boxing ability, was able to land his jab all night long over the low left hand of Eubank Jr and push him back into the corners with far too much ease.
With regards to Golovkin, if Eubank Jr goes into that fight with the same laissez-faire attitude to his defence as he did on Saturday then it will be lights-out for him very quickly, he may carry the confidence of a man that has never seen the canvas in his career but he has also never faced anyone of the calibre or wielding the power of ‘The Kazakh Destroyer’ and that is a lesson many have learned the hard way. To be fair, even if he did go in with the right attitude, there are levels in Boxing and Golovkin is a step above Eubank in every department.
Given his teams propensity to be notoriously difficult to negotiate with, it remains to be seen what American promoters and managers will think of their demands when they finally sit down around the negotiation table. The Jacobs fight may be the easiest route to a world title on offer, but they would surely insist on it being State-side and that may not be in Eubank’s plans.
Personally, I’d like to see Eubank Jnr take on someone like David Lemieux, Peter Quillin or Andy Lee with a view to challenging for the world title later this year, should he pass one of those tests.
At this point it seems more likely that a rematch with Billy Joe Saunders is on the cards but with Saunders talking about a Golovkin fight on the Fury Klitschko undercard (British fight fans will be licking their lips at that prospect) that ship may have finally sailed too.
No matter who it is, Jnr’s next opponent must be a name that will give credence to his claims of greatness.
In his career so far, Eubank has been able to cover his tactical and defensive shortcomings with his undeniable power, fitness and determination – however at world championship level that isn’t enough.
Whether he challenges for a world title this year or not, we will soon find out if Chris Eubank Jr really is the real deal or just another young pretender with some flashy moves and a six-pack.
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