- Chris Eubank Jr invited Business Insider to his gym for a photo-shoot and to his Brighton home for an in-depth interview.
- BI got to know the real Eubank Jr, a far-cry from a fighter deemed too arrogant and too difficult to deal with by the boxing community.
- Eubank Jr told us his Netflix preferences, what life was like when he lived in Las Vegas, and, of course, his plans for world title domination.
Team Eubank has been called a lot of names. Former two-weight world champion Chris Eubank Sr, 50, and his 27-year-old son Chris Eubank Jr, are “a nightmare” and “impossible to deal with” if you believe what the boxing establishment tells you.
It feels like a good opening question to put to Chris Eubank Jr as we sit down in a living room with a high ceiling, original coving, and a customised pool table with #teameubank etched onto the cloth.
So, is he a “nightmare, impossible, and arrogant” or is there more to it than that? “Of course there’s more to it,” he says. “General people see a handful of interviews and watch me punching people in the face — in style — on TV.”
“But you can’t really know the real me unless you’ve spent a day with me, sat down with me, and seen me for who and how I am, in general.”
Business Insider has spent the day with Eubank Jr. He invited us to his Brighton gym to take photographs of him train as he prepares for an IBO super middleweight world championship fight against durable contender Arthur Abraham on Saturday. He then invited us to his apartment which is inside a Victorian mansion on one of the most desirable roads in Hove.
After four hours with Eubank Jr one thing is clear — he has one hell of a poker face. It is tough to find out what he is thinking as he measures up questions, considers his answers, and articulates his response. His voice is quiet but commanding. He is also consistently polite, clearly intelligent, and, on occasion, cracks a smile.
As you can see from our photos, Eubank Jr is incredibly athletic. It is one of the first things I said when we shook hands at his gym earlier in the day. His weight looked on point and he was fighting fit. He had a vein bulging out of his biceps, an eight-pack, and an unmistakable ferocity when it came to unleashing combinations of punches at a heavy bag that was almost bursting at its seams.
Eubank Jr trains in a tired underground facility that is right near the seaside. There are monkey bars fixed to the ceiling, two standard sized boxing rings in separate rooms, and all kinds of uppercut bags, punching pads, and two trainers on hand to watch over his workout. Considering the deteoriating paint job, the dust on the turnbuckles, and the rusty stench of blood-soaked phlegm that has collected inside a plastic spit bucket, it’s surprising how well-dressed and clean-cut Eubank is when we get back to his home.
Will the real Chris Eubank please stand up?
What is Chris Eubank Jr like away from the ring and away from boxing? “I’m actually a very laid back guy,” he says.
“It might be hard to tell that from the way I conduct myself in the ring or the things I say online, but you need to understand that this is the entertainment business. I cannot be dull, I cannot be a grey character, and I have to excite. I have to be interesting, controversial, and get people talking. Otherwise why I am doing this? I’m not in the most dangerous sport in the world to just fly under the radar.”
What does he do during his downtime? “I Netflix… most days,” he says with a smile. “I loved Breaking Bad, the first two seasons of Fargo, and though it wasn’t a Netflix show, Game of Thrones has been good. I watch a lot of UFC, It’s no joke. I’ve done MMA as a kid [so I’ve had a go] but you’d have to pay me a lot of money to do that.”
He also reads.”The last book I read was the autobiography of Nelson Mandela.”
Though some athletes try to get away from their sport when they rest, one of the things that can suck them back in is a video game. Specifically, the video game that corresponds to their sport. Footballers, for instance, often play FIFA. Boxers have Fight Night.
“I always played Fight Night when it was around,” Eubank Jr says. Business Insider asks which boxer he would play as. He looks at BI like it’s a stupid question. “Come on, I played as myself!”
“People could create characters and share it online so loads of gamers made characters of me. Some were terrible looking,” he stops to laugh. “But some were ok so I’d download them and played them myself. I mostly fought [former four-weight world boxing champion] Roy Jones Jr.”
Growing up as the son of British boxing royalty
Eubank Jr has one of the most recognisable surnames in British sport. He is the son of British boxing legend Chris Eubank Sr, a fighter revered for his classic battles with Nigel Benn, Michael Watson, Henry Wharton, Steve Collins, and Joe Calzaghe.
Eubank Sr attempted to protect his children from boxing and even refused to let them watch him fight. But Eubank Jr had a few scraps of his own when he was a kid. So which came first… trying to watch old clips of his world champion boxer dad, or getting into trouble on the streets of Brighton?
“What came first…” Eubank Jr laughs at the question.” I first realised my father was a fighter when I was nine or ten years old. I went to a friend’s sleepover and went through their VHS video tape collection. I remember thinking, ‘Wow!’ as there was a tape with my dad on the cover. So I put it in the VHS and saw that my dad was a fighter.”
“That’s when I really understood why my dad got so much attention whenever we were out. He always kept us away from that, all his children, we were never allowed to watch his fights on TV. So that came first. The scuffles and the life of a kid who got into trouble… that came a little bit after.”
Did kids at school ever treat him negatively as a result, or did older children pick on him if they fancied their chances? “Do I look like I’d have been the type of kid who’d have been picked on?” Business Insider says it didn’t see him as a kid to know. “No, I never got picked on.”
“People asked me what it was like to have a famous dad and there may have been certain kids who treated me differently at school in positive or in negative ways. Actually, yes… there were situations where older kids would know who I was, knew who my father was, and maybe they wanted to make a name for themselves. Some kids would target me and test me and I made sure they would regret that decision pretty quickly.”
“But I was never a bully,” Eubank Jr hastens to add. “I was the kid at school who bullied kids would come to and say ‘Could you help get this guy off me?’ I was the guy who beat up the bullies. Everyone knew I could fight and my heart was always in the right place. I never got a kick out of bullying people and beating up kids who were weaker. That kind of thing actually always really annoyed me. But I did like fighting, so other kids knew that. They’d say ‘Oh, this guy just punched me’ or ‘He’s stealing my lunch money’ so I’d go deal with it.”
Chris Eubank Jr is the son of a millionaire boxing legend, he grew up in a beautiful, artistic, and liberal city in Brighton, and was private school educated at Brighton College.
Why did he choose boxing as a career and why not a lawyer, doctor, or a Business Insider journalist? “I had everything I needed as a kid growing up,” Eubank Jr says candidly. “I lived in a nice house and went to a nice school, before I was kicked out.”
Kicked out for fighting? “Yes,” he pauses. “For fighting but really just an accumulation of bad behaviour. Nothing too bad but it was a private school. They want everything to be perfect and I was far from that. But why boxing.” He then looks at BI like the answer is simple. “It’s in my blood.”
He continues: “From a very early age I was always attracted to, not violence per se, but the idea of heavy competition. Being faster, strong, and better than another man appealed to me. At school I played every sport you could do, every day. Swimming, athletics, rugby, football… I just loved competing. I still love being the best.”
“So once my father let me in a boxing gym I learned that boxing was the ultimate form of competition. Once you’re in the ring with another man it’s just you and him and only one of you will leave victorious. All other sports just couldn’t compare in my mind.”
“Obviously, growing up and seeing everything my father had… all the admiration, respect, love, and fame he received. I knew he had gotten that from boxing. I didn’t see anybody else getting that level of respect. I went to movie premieres and celebrity events and there were lots of of different types of celebrities, movie stars, and sportspeople but nobody got the respect that he got. So I understood that boxing was the sport that everybody looked up to.”
“People respect fighting,” Eubank Jr says. “And that was a big thing for me, I wanted to gain that respect, work for that respect. I didn’t just want to be the son of Chris Eubank. I wanted to be Chris Eubank Jr, earn my own respect, and earn my own place.”
Then Eubank Jr shares his motivation to get out of bed in the mornings, to train even when its raining, and to stay in shape all year round. “I understand I have a legacy to uphold. I have a lot of expectation and a lot of people who support me and hope and wish I become the best fighter in the world. I cannot take any breaks. I cannot slack. I have to and want to become the best.”
The conversation turns to the intracacies of boxing and Eubank Jr rises to his feet and gives BI a brief tutorial on punch placement, blocking, and strategy. Eubank Jr believes that fighting with emotion can cause a fighter to make mistakes. So rather than thinking about how he wants to break an opponent’s nose and cause the most damage, how does Eubank Jr actually view an opponent’s body? Does he, for example, see an opponent’s chin, his temples, and his liver as a bullseye much like an archer would eye up a target?
“Yes and I do call it target practice,” Eubank Jr says. “Every fighter is different but I look at how a fighter moves, how he holds his hands, and I’ll see vulnerable areas. Once you get to a higher level you can look at a man and see where he is open. You can see what punches are going to be more effective and what punches aren’t going to be so effective.”
He then raises his fists to head height, parting his elbows so that they are either side of his belly button. “Everybody’s guard is different. Some guys have a high guard and leave their stomach open [Eubank Jr now closes his elbows together but keeps a gap of roughly three inches between his fists] while others have a standing guard and there is a gap between their hands. You can get behind that with uppercuts, or break through it with a straight shot.”
Eubank Jr bounces on his feet and starts shadow-boxing, throwing a couple of jabs, an uppercut, and then a booming right hand.
“Some guys have a netshell guard like this [Eubank Jr adopts a peek a boo position where both fists block the entirety of his face] and this can very effective at stopping punches but you effectively become a punch bag. When you go into that shell, mostly everything is covered but you cannot counter punch. You cannot see properly either, so an opponent can rain punches down on you.
“When you have a looser guard [he now adopts his natural fighting position] you can see the punches coming, so you can slip and punch off of it [Eubank Jr dips his shoulder and fires off a quick five punch combination] but this is high level stuff. You can just see a guy and can tell which tactics and which punches will work.”
So when it comes to his ITV Box Office opponent Arthur Abraham this weekend, what does he see? “He’s very one-dimensional. He’s good in that one-dimenson and I would say this is the toughest fight of my career, but it takes multiple dimensions to be competitive with me and I have trained accordingly. He’s very predictable and I know exactly what to do to beat him.”
The winner of the Eubank versus Abraham fight at Wembley Arena in London will progress into the lucrative eight-man World Boxing Super Series [WB Series], a bracket style elimination tournament that will propel the winner into super stardom.
“That is something I plan on going into after the Abraham fight. It’s a huge opportunity and against elite fighters you will see the best of Chris Eubank Jr.”
He then says: “I plan on winning [the WB Series].”
Why Team Eubank is branded ‘impossible’
It is rare for an athlete to operate outside of the big boxing promotional companies in the United Kingdom and still be a success — but Chris Eubank Jr is managing it.
Eubank Jr has been promoted by the three most prominent promoters in British boxing. Mick Hennessy launched Eubank Jr’s professional career on Channel 5 before Eubank Jr moved to Frank Warren. Eubank Jr then signed terms with Eddie Hearn. However, he is now associated with Poxon Sports, a little-known company who don’t have a website.
But it is refreshing for a fighter to refuse to bad-mouth his detractors. In fact, during our entire day together, Business Insider did not hear one negative word come out of Eubank Jr’s mouth. Instead, he actually praised Hearn.
“Eddie is the main man at the moment with everything he is doing with A.J [world heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua]. Who knows, we may have a relationship in the future.”
Fighters exist in a low-paid sport
A recent Business Insider study found that only 0.001% of fighters become multi millionaires in a single year. Yes, there are high-profile cases — think Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor — where fighters crack the Forbes rich list, but most boxers and combat athletes turn to the gig economy to prop up their pay.
Eubank Sr always recognised this, even in the 1990s.
In Donald McRae’s renowned book Dark Trade: Lost in Boxing, there is a notable paragraph about how Chris Eubank Sr viewed the work of promoters. “I saw them all,” McRae quotes Eubank Sr. “Mickey Duff and Frank Warren and every one of their greedy breed. They were insulting. I was the fighter. I was seeking a manager or a promoter to work on my behalf — but it was as if they were doing me a favour even seeing me. The offers were laughable. They are used to dealing with fighters willing to be mugged.”
To paraphrase McRae, it was as if Eubank Sr felt the promoters should work for the fighter, rather than the fighter work for the promoter. Dark Trade was published in 2005, but over 12 years later, little seems to have changed as Eubank Jr believes promoters still “want the lion’s share [of the money a fight generates].”
He says: “It should always be the boxer first and that is something that promoters don’t want. They want the lion’s share but they are not getting in the ring risking their lives, health and their pride. Team Eubank are not ‘Yes men’. Other fighters are and do not know contracts or have lawyers around them and don’t know how to negotiate contracts. They [other fighters] have pieces of paper put in front of them, they are told to sign and they say ‘yes’ as they see a decent number.”
So where are they going wrong if they are still paid a “decent number.” Eubank Jr says: “Because they are not looking at rights, pay-per-view shares, and royalties. They just look at the immediate number they get at the end of the fight. We [Team Eubank] are smarter than that. My father has been through too much and seen too much to let his son fall victim to what other fighters are falling victim to these days.”
“Promoters say they have a tough time dealing with us as they are not happy with a knowledgable fighter saying ‘Listen, we are not happy with this part of the contract and want this part changed’. It’s not difficult. We’re just competent, fair, and I know what I’m worth. I have a solid team, including lawyers, that works 24/7 to ensure I’m not screwed.”
Lessons learned in Las Vegas
Expelled from private school, Chris Eubank Jr — at just 16-years-old — moved to the United States with his brother Sebastian. Legally, they were both minors, so a family friend of Eubank Sr’s, Irene Hutton, became the legal guardian of the Eubank boys.
Eubank Jr went to high school in Nevada but his education at the Top Rank gym in Las Vegas was where he really became top of the class.
“I trained most of the time at the Top Rank gym with [former three-weight world champion] Mike McCallum and then moved on to Floyd Mayweather Sr.”
Mayweather Sr is largely credited for the defensive fluidity that his famous five-weight world champion son Floyd Mayweather Jr inherited. Mayweather Sr’s work with Mayweather Jr is unrivalled yet his results with British boxing champion Ricky Hatton were mixed.
“Sr is one of the best trainers in the world but is only the best for certain fighters,” Eubank Jr tells Business Insider.
But why? “His training style doesn’t change. It’s based around speed, combination punching, volume and precision. There’s a clip of me and him on YouTube called World’s Fastest Padwork. That type of training probably wouldn’t suit a heavyweight, or even a lower weight who isn’t focused on speed. Some fighters just look for one punch knockouts. That might not be the best training for them but for me it was great.”
“I learned a lot and not just from Senior but from the whole environment, including watching Floyd Jr train and seeing all the champions that came in and out of Top Rank. Sparring at a young age was also a priceless experience and is what made me understand this was something I could do [for a living] and that I was made for this.”
Eubank Jr adds: “It was a test. Go to the States, go to Vegas, go to the toughest gym there and see if you can survive, earn respect, and not get kicked out. I held my own.”
Eubank Jr returned to Britain a few years later but once again found himself in Las Vegas in his early 20s. This time he was training at the Mayweather Boxing Club in Chinatown. “The second time I went back to Vegas, I trained at Floyd’s gym.”
Floyd Mayweather Jr’s is notorious for “doghouse” boxing. A brutal type of sparring that involves lengthy rounds where you can effectively only leave the ring when one fighter quits.
So how did Eubank Jr fare in this unforgiving environment? “I did what I needed to do. Floyd watched me spar many times and even gave me tips.
“It’s funny… guys would be doing technical sparring, or even just going through the motions but as soon as Floyd walked into the gym, all the power punches and haymakers came out. People would suddenly try and knock each other out to try and impress him. It was an experience being in that gym, for sure.”
Business Insider asks Eubank Jr to isolate one moment with Mayweather Jr he will never forget. He stops looking at us for a moment and looks at his fists. “I was maybe 19 or 20 years old and sparring with a guy who was a professional, maybe with ten or 15 fights behind him. He was also a weight above me… but I can’t remember his name.”
“Anyway, Floyd was watching. I wanted to impress him. I was young, the gym was filled, and everybody was watching around the ring apron. You know how it is… you want to be the baddest guy in the gym so I put everything into the spar and really got into this guy.”
“Technically, he should have been on top of me as he was the pro, he was older than me, bigger than me, and heavier. But I was beating this guy up to the point he just quits in the third or fourth round. The bell rang, he got up, got out of the ring, walked down the steps and Floyd shouts ‘What are you doing? You think you can just spar and quit? Get up and finish the spar!'”
“So the guy turns around, walks up the stairs, gets back into the ring, and I literally just rain combinations of punches down on the guy. The bell goes at the end of our spar and Floyd says ‘That’s the type of fighter we want in this gym! That’s the guy right there!'”
Eubank Jr says that memory always stuck with him.
On Saturday, in front of thousands of Wembley Arena fans in what he admits is “the fight of his life,” Eubank Jr gets one more chance to prove he’s Floyd Mayweather’s “type of fighter” — that he’s “the guy.”