Ahead of his rematch against Liam Smith this weekend, Chris Eubank Jr sat down with Gary Neville to discuss his predictions for the fight, as well as his upbringing and influence, in Sky Bet’s next episode of The Overlap.
“My prediction is that two fighters get into a ring, and we put it all on the line because we have to.
“I’m going to win, I’m going to stop him – this fight isn’t going twelve rounds, but two fighters will get into the ring, fight for their lives, their families, money, legacy, their careers, and it will be fantastic to watch.”
Chris Eubank Jr Exclusive: This is this biggest fight of my career, I want no distractions
“I’m a couple of weeks away from the biggest fight of my career, so that really is all that’s on my mind, getting in that ring and avenging the loss. There’s a lot of other things that are going on in my life, but during a fight camp especially this close [to the rematch against Liam Smith] you’ve got to block it out, you’ve got to try anyways. Any distractions, anything that gets in the way of focus is detrimental and you get better and better at that over time.
“Right now, I’m just in fight mode, during camp so that I can give it my all and be 100% on the night. You can’t be 100% on the night of the fight if you’re going out with your mates, if you’re drinking, if you’re having sex, if you’re travelling, if you’re trying to run a business. You’ve got to be all in if you want to be able to give yourself the best chance at performing how you want to perform on the night.”
Chris Eubank Jr Exclusive: I paid the price for a mistake in the first fight against Smith
“Every defeat hits you, did it [loss against Liam Smith] hit harder? I wouldn’t say so. It wasn’t like I got battered for four rounds and then got knocked out, I was winning the fight, I made a mistake, and paid the price.”
“When I got out of that ring I wasn’t depressed or upset, I was annoyed, I was pissed off – ‘how can I let this happen, I know I can beat this guy’ – so it was a different type of sting. That’s boxing, you’ve got to take your licks when they’re there and can come back stronger, tougher, more resilient and improve on your mistakes.”
Chris Eubank Jr Exclusive: I got complacent against Liam Smith
“I think I got complacent [in the first fight against Liam Smith], I was very comfortable in the ring, probably more so than I usually am in fights in general. I was very comfortable, I was very relaxed, he wasn’t catching me with shots, in the third round I hit him with some great combinations, and I was fully in control. I went back to the corner after the third round and was like ‘this is in the bag, I’ve got this’.
“You’ve got to have confidence but as a veteran you can gauge their ability, especially being in the ring for a few rounds with another man. You know whether it’s going to be a hard night or whether you’ve got it, and I believed after that third round I was like ‘I’ve got this, this is where I’m going to start taking off’.
“That relaxed attitude and thinking there was no danger in front of me, caused me to let my guard down for a split second, literally. My opponent capitalised on that split second mistake and now we’re here, about to settle the score in a rematch.”
Chris Eubank Jr Exclusive: The pressure from my dad prepared me for my career
“I guess it’s both [On whether his dad Chris Eubank Sr was a mentor or added pressure], in his way it’s mentoring but that would’ve been towards the beginning of my professional career and my old man was heavily a part of that time in my career.
“With him, he could never separate being a dad from being a coach or an advisor, or a mentor, it was always boxing 24/7, even on the train. Did that add pressure? Absolutely, but that pressure that he was putting on me, prepared me for pressure that the public put on me.
“From day one, my first fight on Channel Five, two million viewers, and the commentators are comparing me to a legendary world champion in my father, you can’t get any more pressure than that. The things that my dad did, said, and how he brought me up prepared me for the journey I had to make to becoming my own man in the sport of boxing.”
Chris Eubank Jr Exclusive: My dad’s strictness prepared me for boxing
“I don’t know if I would say it was unhealthy, [his fear for his dad] he was extremely strict, I got away with nothing. If I messed up in school, didn’t do a chore or got into a fight with my brothers, there was physical punishment whether it was a belt, a cane, whether it was a slap.
“Back then, in the 90s, that was how you disciplined your kids, so that’s where my fear originated from, having to deal with that. Again, that type of punishment, that type of upbringing and that type of strictness made me who I am today, and it prepared me for the brutality of the sport of boxing.”
Chris Eubank Jr Exclusive: My dad’s discipline was necessary
“Absolutely not [on if his dad’s discipline was considered abuse]. In my opinion, abuse is unwarranted, abuse is somebody doing something for no reason. Abuse is a parent coming home drunk and taking their anger out on their kids, that was never the case with me. I got punished when I stepped out of line, when I got into fights, when I messed up at school. He was teaching me that for everything you do there are consequences, good and bad. When I did good things he rewarded me immensely, but when I did something bad, he punished me.
“These are life lessons and not abuse at all, I was still such a bad kid, I was a terror way, I was in a gang, getting into fights. At 11 years old I spent two hours breaking into a sweetshop with my mates and emptied the place. We left the cash register but filled up bin bags with Cornetto’s and Coke’s and Snickers bars.
“As a kid you’re not thinking about money, you just want your sweets, I’ve got a million stories like that, and I was doing that knowing that if I got caught, when I went home, I was in serious shit. I look at as, imagine if there we’re not consequences for what I did. Imagine I had a parent that was like ‘oh come on son, take a time out’ I would’ve been off the rails.
“I remember getting into a fight at school and I knew the school was going to call my dad afterwards so I would prepare. I would go into my gym bag, and I would put layers of shorts and pants and socks tucked into my boxers because I knew as soon as got home, I was getting my ass kicked.
“That worked for a while and I had to pretend it was hurting when really, I couldn’t feel anything which was great, I did that for a little while. One time I’m rolling around [pretending he’s hurt] and a sock falls out of my boxers, my dad found it, and that was a bad day. At the time it’s scary and you hate it, but looking back on it, what would I have been like if I hadn’t had that discipline because I was still in gangs. There are videos of me even now on YouTube in street fights, and I was doing that every week.”
Chris Eubank Jr Exclusive: As a kid I wanted to prove myself as Chris Eubank’s son
“Both [on if he was ill-disciplined or liked fighting], I just had it in me, I had that fire in me and I wanted to prove myself as tough being Chris Eubanks son. All the time [he was judged based on his dad] I was tested, all the time I was poked and prodded by kids. When you pull up to school in a two tonne Peterbilt truck, and a man with a monocle and a jacket and cane jumps out, he’s honking the horn and you’ve got to step down the stairs and go into the school. When you put that kid in that type of environment, he’s going to become a target.
“Did I benefit from that type of stuff? Sure. Yeah, there were kids that loved that – ‘I want to be mates with him’ and girls like ‘I want to be his girlfriend’ – but you’ve also got the flip side of ‘look at this flash bastard, let’s show him something’. I dealt with the good and I dealt with the bad, being in that spotlight and having tough upbringing made me who I am today.
“Would I be able to go and fight in front of 20,000 people and millions of people on TV if I was just left to do anything I wanted as a kid with no consequences and with no punishment? Would I have the resolve and the discipline to stay in the gym every day? If it was just like – ‘do what you want son’- No. I had to go through hardship as a kid to understand what hardship really is and then to be able to deal with it and as an adult, it hardened me.
“Now I can walk into arenas with 20,000 people booing me, hating me, and wanting me to lose, I’ve done it before, and I can do it with a smile on my face without it affecting my performance. There are very few people that can walk that path. My father and the way he raised me enabled me to deal with that type of pressure, so I love him for that.”
Chris Eubank Jr Exclusive: I love my dad and I appreciate my upbringing
“We speak, we text, he’s a busy guy and I’m a busy guy. I’ve been in America for the last four months and we’ve not grown apart but, he’s taken a step back in my career over the years. As you grow into a man, you start wanting to do things your own way, you start understanding your environment and being comfortable speaking on your own.
“I didn’t need this huge character next to me 24/7 like I did at the beginning when I was coming in and I didn’t really know how to talk to media. I didn’t really want to talk to journalists and do interviews and all of that, I just wanted to fight and to prove myself, so my dad kind of took that pressure off me.
“He took it off me, but he also added a huge amount of pressure with the things that he would say. As you get older as you get more comfortable as you get more successful then are like – ‘let me have my say now’- So I didn’t need that huge character next to me.
“I love my dad. We’re close and I still incorporate all the things he taught me as a kid and as a teenager. Even now, I still listen, and I still incorporate the things he says, I appreciate my upbringing.”
Chris Eubank Jr Exclusive: My dad doesn’t want me to fight Conor Benn
“We’re at a very specific time right now where there’s things going on that maybe he doesn’t agree with; he doesn’t want me to fight Conor Benn, he’s against that. He called it attempted murder with me having to cut that weight, it’s a little bit dramatic but again, he lost a son, I lost a brother. So, if you look at it in that sense, it’s not dramatic at all. It’s a very dangerous sport. And if you’re going in there with a weight drain, with weight clauses, and with rehydration clauses then it is a cause for concern for a father, and I completely understand that.
“That type of fight [vs Conor Benn] is a once in a generation type of fight. So, I said I wanted to do it and I will take that fight, but he doesn’t want me to take it. Things like that are why he will tell people I’m not listening to him.
“Of course, I listen to him, but I also have to be my own man and make my own decisions. At the end of the day, when my career is said and done, I have to look back at what I’ve done and be comfortable with it and be happy with it. I don’t want to look back and say – ‘imagine if I fought him’. I don’t want to look back and my dad didn’t want me to do it so I didn’t fight, you can’t live like that. Or you can but you’re going to have regret and you’re going to have maybe ill feelings towards people because of the influence they had on you.
“So yeah, in general, I listen to my father, he is extremely wise, he’s been there, and he’s done it. But obviously it comes to a point where you have to be there and do it yourself and that’s what I’m doing now.”
Chris Eubank Jr Exclusive: I credit my dad for the man I am today
“I honestly haven’t seen these interviews [of Chris Eubank Sr talking badly about Jr]. I did see a clip but that’s the only thing I’ve really seen, being called a charlatan is very mild. From what I saw he didn’t call me that, whoever said it, he let them say it. My father always told me no publicity is bad publicity. He knows what he’s doing, we’re talking about it now. If he had said – ‘my son’s great and he’s going to do well’ – no one would say anything. When someone calls me a charlatan and he say silent, that’s news, wow, what’s going on here?
“Am I angry about it? I understand emotions and understanding my father as a man, he’s been through a lot over the last two years. The things that have happened in the family has affected him, so I have to take these things into consideration when he’s speaking to the media. It’s tough dealing with a death in the family, everyone deals with it in their own way, some deal with it bad, some deal with it as good as they can.
“He needs to he needs to just deal with what he’s dealing with, people taking advantage of his mental state right now is poor, these guys don’t care about him, they just want headlines. I can’t stop him from talking to people, but anyone who’s just lost a son and is so clearly devastated by that, it’s irresponsible to be putting them on a platform, but people don’t have morals these days. People are scumbags, people are looking for any way to get a leg up by any means necessary, it doesn’t matter who they hurt or who’s affected. I’m not one of those people, and I give credit to my father and my upbringing, I turned out to be a good person.
“I’m not a bully, I’m not a scumbag, I don’t take advantage of people, so nobody can say the way he brought me up was wrong because look how It turned out. My brother was an amazing man before he passed, he was a people’s man. He used to travel to Sudan and Africa and all these different places to help people who had nothing, and he had the same upbringing as me, the same punishments as me, and he was a great man.”
Chris Eubank Jr Exclusive: I think about my brother every day
“[on the death of his brother Sebastian] You lose a part of yourself when someone that close to you passes, you’re never the same. You have to deal with things internally that you never dreamed you would have to do, and you learn about yourself, you can’t be the same.
“Two and a half years ago before my brother passed, I never thought about death, I’m going to live until 150, we’re all going to die old in our beds and in our sleep. It didn’t register, death, what’s that? Now, it’s so real, it makes you appreciate life so much more, it makes you appreciate it your family and the people around you so much more because you know in a split second they can be gone forever, and you can never get that back. So yeah, it changes you for sure and now it’s all about making him proud.
“I think about him every day, every single day he’ll pop into my head and I’ll say ‘I love you brother’. He had 11 11 tattooed onto his chest, he said it was something he used to see all of the time and I was like – ‘what’s he talking about, this is weird’ – and now I see it all the time, on my phone it’ll be a 11:11 or there will be 11 somewhere, I’ll say – ‘I love you brother’ – I know he’s watching.”
Chris Eubank Jr Exclusive: I’m at peace knowing my brother is still with us through his son
“Being around Raheem [Eubank, Chris’s nephew], I mean I thank God every day that Sebastian [Eubank, Chris’s brother] had him before he passed. The pain is always there, but it goes away when you’re with him because it’s like you’re with Seb. He looks like him, and he is him.
“You’re at peace knowing that Seb is still with us through his son. I didn’t really think about [having] kids for a long time, but since spending all the time I have with Raheem, I want to give him a brother. I want him to have the relationship like I had with Seb, coming up together – that would make me very happy. That’s one of the reasons why I’m thinking about having kids in the not-too-distant future.”
Chris Eubank Jr Exclusive: I take after my mother, more than my father
“My mother is an amazing woman. Kind, smart – my father was the strict one, my mother let me get away with stuff. Thank God – I needed a bit of balance. We’re still very close – I’ve never been a mummy’s boy but growing up she was a huge part of my life. A lot of the traits I have now as an adult come from her – how I think, how I treat people, a lot of that comes from her. Obviously, I learned a lot from my father too, but my temperament.
“My father has influenced me a lot, but naturally I’m more like her – calm, more on the quiet side, not so extroverted – straight to business. She’s re-married now to a good man, and that’s her life now. I’m a grown man now, so she can’t come between me and the huge character which is my father. They live different lives now – the relationship is good, when parents separate sometimes it becomes ugly. It was never like that between my father and mother. They were always still friends, working together to help us as their kids. Great woman, and I’m grateful for how she brought me up, she taught me a lot. If you know her, you can see her in me.”
Chris Eubank Exclusive: I could’ve excelled at any sport I wanted
“The odds were so heavily stacked against me coming into this sport. Even my dad didn’t want me to box. I was alright at football; my life would’ve been a hell of a lot easier if I had taken that path. I really do believe that any sport that I put my full mental and physical efforts into I could’ve made it. I won schoolboy badminton championships; I was swimming and running track for my county – this was all at the same time.
“Once I found boxing, I cut all of that out and started focussing on that – that’s where I started to excel. If I had decided to excel in another sport, I would’ve made it – I’m that hell-bent and driven. As soon as I stepped into that ring, it was like a drug. It’s the purest form of competition, and that’s what I’d been searching for. I was somewhat of a loner – I had friends, but I was alone in a lot of the things I did, so the boxing lifestyle suited me. I walk into the gym with my boxing shoes already on, I wrap up and I get to work.”
Chris Eubank Exclusive: I felt down when Roy Jones couldn’t train me for the Liam Smith rematch
“Roy Jones was training me for the [Liam] Smith first fight, when the original rematch was set for June or July, Roy was in Vegas with me for a week and was going to train with me for the fight. Then Liam pulled out, and the fight got pushed back, and then when it got rescheduled at that moment in time, Roy couldn’t do it – he had obligations to other fighters. Yeah [I felt let down], but what can you do? I’m not going to beg or cry about it – you’ve said what you said, I understand, and now I’ve got to adjust, and do what I need to do to prepare for the fight.”
Chris Eubank Exclusive: I listen to everything my coach and his team tell me
“Every trainer has his different style, methods and ways of teaching. Bomac [Brian McIntyre] definitely has his own way of talking to you, of training you. What’s interesting about him is he comes with other people – there’s strength and conditioning coaches, there’s an infrastructure. With Roy [Jones] it was just Roy – so that’s different. I’m involved with a lot more people now, I’m training in the mornings now, a lot of people probably find this hard to believe, but for the past five years I never did morning workouts.
“Now I’m getting up at 8am, doing strength and conditioning or runs, and then I’ll do the boxing workouts in the afternoons, like 4pm or 5pm. Before, for the last five years, I would wake up at 1pm, 2pm, go straight to the gym, come back and rest and eat, and then I’d do my strength and conditioning or my runs at night. I like it. I’ve never been that guy – sleep through the day, wake up and train – I could get away with that. I can’t get away with that now because I have to be up at 8am. It’s a different regime, but I wasn’t going to say to them how I do things – if I’m going to take on a new team, I’m going to listen to them and follow their direction.”
Chris Eubank Exclusive: My team trained Terrence Crawford – they know what they’re doing
“People always say I listen to my trainers and I’m hard to work with – that’s not true at all. If you are my coach, I’m going to listen to you. If you tell me to get up in the morning, I’m going to get up in the morning. I’m comfortable listening to these guys because of what they’ve done with one of the pound-for-pound greats in the sport right now in Terrence Crawford. I know the things they’re telling me are proven – you’ve got one of the best in the world doing it, so I can’t argue.”
Chris Eubank Jr Exclusive: This is the most important fight of my life
“It’s not about where I am compared to where I was, it’s the mindset, this is do or die, it really is [a now or never fight]. I am not going to put that [retirement talk] into the universe, it’s unhealthy to talk like that. That’s how I’ve got to treat this in terms of my mental state going into this fight, I have to give this fight everything I’ve got. I can’t afford any mistakes, I can’t afford any slip ups, this is the most important fight of my life.”
Chris Eubank Jr Exclusive: I expect tensions to ramp up in the next few days
[on the press conference in the first fight] “It was spicy, it happens. Sometimes emotions get the better of you and you say things you shouldn’t say but that’s part of the sport, that’s why a lot of people tune in. It been tame in the build-up to this fight, partly because I’ve been in another country. It’s very likely, [it will ramp up in the next few days] tensions get high when it’s close to fight time, that’s just how it is. At the same time, you’ve got to be responsible with the things you’re saying, and a lot of people are not in this day and age. They will say or do anything to get attention to try and sell the fight, I’ve never been that type of guy.”
Chris Eubank Jr Exclusive: I’m not the bad guy everyone makes me out to be
“No [the crowd reaction didn’t surprise me last fight], I knew it was going to be hostile and rough. Does it bug me? I’ve been dealing with it for so many years now that you become numb to it.
“I never sit there and think, I wish these guys [fans] would be cheering me on – I’ve never been that guy. I’ve thought, if you don’t like me, it is what it is, I’m still going to win and go out there and do what I need to do. Would it be nice to be cheered and praised into an arena every time – for sure, but I’m comfortable if it’s not that. Some guys are not comfortable with that, they would hate to have to go through what I do.
“For me, I’ve turned it into a situation where it helps me. I become the monster that they are trying to make me out to be – the bad guy. Sometimes you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. Will it change? I don’t know. Will the crowd this time around be more welcoming? Probably not. If you try and get people to like you, they hate you even more – I’m at a stage now where people love to hate me.
“Boxing isn’t a nice sport, we’re not going in there to be nice, we’re going into the ring to take each other’s heads off – it gets hairy, rough, and horrible in there. When you’re in that environment, I can be a bad guy if I have to be, even though I’m not. A lot of people like to paint me out to be a bad guy, but I know the real bad guys in this sport and it’s not me – I’m a stand-up guy compared to most of the fighters out there. I don’t lie, cheat, or cut corners, I’m a straight shooter and the fans that have followed me for years know that.”
The full video of The Overlap with Chris Eubank Jr is available to watch on YouTube: