THE Tuesday before last, November 18, was the 24th anniversary of the night Chris Eubank stopped Nigel Benn to win the WBO middleweight title at the NEC, Birmingham, in one of the most memorable all-British world title fights.
So began the top-level career of Eubank who became, not quite a national treasure, but clearly a sportsman who will live long in the public’s memory.
The career path of Eubank was always a strange one for me. Having met him in January, 1989, at Frankie Howard’s (the footballer, rather than comedian) testimonial dinner, I went to watch him a couple of times prior to the Benn fight.
I was certainly supporting him when I tuned in, along with 13 million others, on that Sunday night in November, 1990.
After winning, it was clear promoter Barry Hearn encouraged him to adopt and develop a defined persona. Initially, it was entertaining and, clearly throughout his career, it sold tickets and had people turning their televisions on. But did it actually detract from the public appreciating his ability as a boxer?
His career as a champion was truly a roller coaster. His unbeaten run and that air of invincibility always gave him that edge.
It’s fair to say, as a fighter, he was never the same after Steve Collins beat him for the first time in March, 1995, but perhaps something was missing before then?
Some might argue that he was fortunate long before that. His third defence and his last fight before moving up to super middleweight against Michael Watson at Earl’s Court resulted in a very controversial points win, which I, and many others to this day, maintain Watson won.
The re-match a few months later at White Hart Lane is sadly etched in boxing history for the tragic reasons surrounding the life-changing injuries Watson suffered.
There’s a very good argument that Eubank’s career peaked that night. While his unbeaten run continued for another three-and-a-half years, the injuries sustained by Watson must have played on his mind.
Watching some of his fights after that, it appeared that the killer instinct was missing at optimum moments.
Two years after the second Watson fight, the long-awaited rematch with Benn took place, with a sell-out crowd at Old Trafford, and a TV audience figure more akin to Christmas Day night.
That one was a draw, and again more controversy. I recently watched the fight again on YouTube and, again, like the first Watson fight, still maintain like many others, some far more knowledgable about the noble art, that Benn should have had his own personal career-defining decision.
It’s now gone full circle for Eubank, with his son, Chris Junior, in top-level title action this Saturday against former Olympian, Billy Joe Saunders, at the Excel Arena, as chief support for the Tyson Fury versus Dereck Chisora world heavyweight title eliminator.
The build-up to the Eubank/Saunders fight could have been straight out of the pages of Chris senior’s career.
Promoter Frank Warren’s tag line of ‘Bad Blood’ doesn’t even get near it.
It’s been entertaining at times, although occasionally has spilled over into exchanges that the sport of boxing doesn’t want or need.
Both fighters now have to back up the mega hype, with a contest right up there with some of the memorable ones during Eubank senior’s career.
The tag line for the first Benn fight all those years ago was ‘Who’s fooling who’, which I think is probably more apt than talk of bad blood.
From what I’ve seen of Chris Junior, at both amateur and pro level, he’s clearly trying to fill his father’s shoes.
History shows that the sons of great British sportsmen very rarely do that, but can he buck the trend?
We will all find out on Saturday night.