By Chris McKenna, courtesy of The Daily Star
CHRIS EUBANK JNR’S career has been guided by his world champion father.
But it was another British boxing icon who actually helped him get started in the ring.
Eubank Snr had refused to let his then teenage son follow him into the sport until a chat with former heavyweight king Lennox Lewis changed his mind.
“Around the age of 14, he finally gave in,” said Eubank Jnr, ahead of his IBO super-middleweight title clash with hardened veteran Arthur Abraham at Wembley Arena tomorrow night.
“I remember Lennox Lewis coming over and we were all sitting down in my father’s office, he said to Lennox ‘I don’t want my son fighting’.
“Lennox said: ‘You telling your son he can’t fight is like a parent telling their son he can’t drive because they might get into a car crash. You have to let them experience life’.
“I think that was a starting point for my dad kind of changing his mind. Pretty soon after that I was in the gym."
Eubank Snr is now the central figure in his son’s career but he never meant another generation of the family to enter into the murky world of boxing.
In fact when he was involved in huge clashes with Nigel Benn and Steve Collins, his children were in the dark as to what their dad’s source of income was.
That was until Eubank Jnr stumbled upon an old video tape of his father when he was a friend’s house and then suddenly he inherited his addiction to the sweet science.
“It was normal for me watching my dad taking pictures with strangers and signing autographs,” said Eubank Jnr, who has lost just one of his 25 bouts.
“When I was younger I thought everyone’s dad got that sort of attention. As I grew up I started to realise that not everybody’s dad is getting this attention so I started to think: ‘What is he doing to get it?’
“He used to keep boxing away from us. I actually found out when I went to a sleepover when I was around nine and the friend who I was staying with had a video, a VHS, of my father fighting.
“I saw a picture of him on the cover so I popped it in and there was my dad fighting.
“I was like, ‘OK, this is why I have to stand around and watch everyone buzz around my dad and why we get free meals, why doesn’t wait in line’.
“From that my point is where my interest in the sport started to build.”
Once everyone was old enough to know who is father was, Eubank Jnr felt the weight of his dad’s reputation on his shoulders.
“I had bad experiences and I had good experiences,” he said. “Some people wanted to be friends with me because of the name and some people didn’t like me because of the name and who my father was.
“I kind of had to balance it out. In general, I had a great experience in school.
“I got into my fair share of scuffles as we all did back in the day, but I enjoyed being the son of the world champion.
“The respect and love he received kind of trickled down to me. People would come up to me and talk to me about my dad and most of the time it was positive.
“But I didn’t want to just be known as the son, so I thought, ‘How can I get my own respect?’. That’s when I started thinking, ‘If he can box and fight then why can’t I?’
There was still some convincing to do with his father who was trying to encourage his sports-mad son to pick one of the many other disciplines he was succeeding at.
“He kept saying ‘no’ for a few years,” Eubank Jnr said. “I was heavily into sport; cricket, football, athletics, swimming, and more.
“He would say ‘you’re great at all these sports so pick one of those, pick a sport where you can make a great living without having to get punched in the head every day’.
“It makes sense, him as a father not wanting his son not going through the hardships he had to. It’s a dangerous sport, I understand that now but at the time I didn’t.
“I thought, ‘What is this forbidden thing he is not letting me do? It’s unfair’.”
But finally the head of the family relented and Eubank Jnr was sent to a small gym in Hove to try out the sport he had craved to be involved in for so long.
“They knew who I was so they said: ‘Glove up and hit the bags’,” he said. “There were sparring sessions going on that day and they thought because of who I was that I had experience and I was able to fight.
“They said: ‘So you want to spar?’ and because I’m the new kid in there I don’t want to back down.
“They put me in with a kid a couple of years older than me. I think he had 10 amateur fights and he beat the hell out of me for three rounds.
“That was my first real boxing experience.
“I’d been in fights before on the street but this is the first time I’d been in a fight situation and not got the better of the other guy.
“I thought I could go into a boxing ring and do what I did on the street but it didn’t work. I wasn’t used to losing in any sport. I would always win in other sports. This was a new feeling for me.
“I said this to myself, ‘I don’t like this’. It was embarrassing so I said I will make sure this was never going to happen again. I quit all other sports I was doing to completely focus on boxing.
“Then I got in the ring with the same kid about a month later and I battered him. That’s when I knew I was on to something. I knew I had found what I was put on this earth to do."
Eubank Snr brought his son to Las Vegas when he noticed how committed he was to the sport.
There is where both believe the foundations of a fierce fighter were laid as he competed in American competitions while sparring with seasoned professionals in the many gyms in Sin City.
Despite the attention he has received since turning professional, has career has often stalled and staggered with defeat by Billy Joe Saunders in 2014 and promotional wars holding him back.
Then there was the emotional turmoil of the injury he cause to Nick Blackwell, the Trowbridge fighter who lost his British middleweight to Eubank Jnr and was left in a coma.
Blackwell recovered only to return to the ring to spar and fall into another coma and suffer more life-changing injuries.
But while Eubank Jnr will never forget that night, his focus is now looking forward and his displays against Tom Doran and Renold Quinlan since prove he has not lost any of his viciousness when in the ring.
There are still plenty of questions to be answered about his credentials and some of them will be found tomorrow night against Abraham.
The German-based Armenian has shared the ring with the likes of Andre Ward and Carl Froch and lost just five times in 51 outings, winning the WBO title along the way.
It is Eubank Jnr’s toughest test since he lost to rival Saunders in 2014 and will go a long way to proving his ability at world level.
The prize on offer is also a place in the new cash-rich World Boxing Super Series tournament which could set up a huge domestic clash with WBA champion George Groves next year should both come through their quarter-finals in October.
But there is a sense that no matter what he achieves, his father’s presence will always mean he has something to prove.
“I believe I’m out of my dad’s shadow now,” he said. “I’ve performed enough to be called my own man, to be called my own fighter.
“But will I ever get away from being compared to my father? Never.
“I’m not just in the position I’m in because of who my dad is, you can’t be with the fights I’ve won and the fashion I’ve done it.
“But I still have a lot more to do in the sport. I’ve a hell of a lot more to prove. This is the beginning of that step to the top.”
Should the son of one of Britain’s finest warriors go on to seal his own name in the history of the sport while earning a fortune, would he dissuade any future children of his own from extending the family’s stay in the sport?
“I would never push them towards it,” he said. “But I wouldn’t stand in their way.”