By Corey Erdman
Chris Eubank Jr. may never find his way out of his father’s shadow, but he’s coming as close as you can get to creating a legacy separate from his famous Dad’s.
Eubank advanced to the super middleweight World Boxing Super Series semifinal on Saturday with a brutal, one-sided stoppage of previously unbeaten Avni Yildirim. After dropping the Turkish brawler in the first round with a trademark uppercut, he never bothered to do anything other than stand right in front of Yildirim and rattle off combinations that perhaps no other super middleweight in the world can put together.
Eubank’s father has always been mere steps away from his son at all times during his professional career. In his son’s early career bouts, he came through the curtain before him, with his defining tune “Simply The Best” playing over the speakers. Though he’s gradually given his son some autonomy over the years, he’s still more than just a famous name attached to his son. He’s played everything from matchmaker to promoter to public relations agent for Junior. Once, I approached the sociable Junior in the media room prior to Floyd Mayweather-Marcos Maidana II, and after chatting for a few moment, asked if he’d be willing to film a quick interview for a television station in Canada. At that moment, the charming youngster short circuited, effectively. “Oh, uh, you’ll have to go ask my father.”
Unlike many second generation fighters, Eubank is not just good, but special in his own right. Just watch the videos of Eubank hitting the uppercut bag and landing nearly 100 punches in eleven seconds. You’d be hard-pressed to find a minimumweight who could throw that fast, let alone a man who walks around as a light heavyweight. It perhaps works to his detriment that he has a famous last name, at least insofar as garnering respect for his abilities. It’s certainly opened doors for him, fetched headlines and as a result, money, but when your Dad was a great fighter, it’s assumed that you probably aren’t.
Statistically, it’s a fair guess. In boxing history, there have only been five father-son combinations to win world titles: Floyd Patterson and Tracy Harris Patterson, Guty Espadas Sr. and Guty Espadas Jr., Leon Spinks and Cory Spinks, Wilfredo Vazquez Sr. and Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. and Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. and Jr. (This list counts only full champions in major sanctioning bodies, meaning Eubank Jr.’s interim title and his IBO title aren’t recognized.)
“Even after winning 21 fights, I still have people say, ‘You’re only where you are because of the things that he did, and if it wasn’t for him you never would have made it,” Eubank Jr. told Hayley Campbell in her excellent 2016 profile of him for Buzzfeed. “It doesn’t matter what your name is — if you don’t have any talent, then you can be Muhammad A-Bruce-Lee and you’re not going to be able to win fights, which I have. You’re not going to be able to win titles, which I have. And you’re not going to be able to inspire the public and get people talking about you, or make headlines, which are things that I have done already.”
While fighters can come from all walks of life, the general rule is that that they come from a life of hardship. An even more concrete rule is that they don’t come from affluence. So even if it makes sense that fighting skill would be passed down genetically, it’s rare that you see a great father and a great son in the ring, if for no reason other than a lack of necessity. Eubank Jr. had a comfortable childhood with a three piece suit and monacle wearing father, and could have looked towards a life of opulence rather than one of violence. Why bother getting punched in the face if you don’t have to? Moreover, Eubank Sr. experienced tragedy inside the ring (something his son nearly had to endure as well), and to most people in the world, that too would have been enough to spook them into going into any profession other than their father’s.
But Junior couldn’t do that. He discovered his father’s fights on a VHS at a friend’s house, and his yearning to fight never went away.
Even today, Eubank’s ferocious style inside the ring screams anything but “pampered golden child.” He is most certainly athletically gifted, but he trains and fights with a savagery and desperation that wouldn’t be expected of him. Just four hours after throttling Yildirim in the semis, he was already back in the gym doing shoulder workouts and rows.
Eubank Jr. is now slated to face George Groves in what promises to be a massive event, and one that could potentially set up something bigger if he were to win the tournament. There is the potential, if Eubank wins, for a colossal tilt between two underappreciated UK operators in him and James DeGale, which would in theory decide ultimate super middleweight supremacy, now that Badou Jack has moved up in weight.
Eubank’s father was never able to win a lineal title, and has been passed up on Hall of Fame ballots in recent years. Junior would have to go on a prodigious run to match the length of his father’s title reign, but in terms of his place amongst his peers at the time, he does have a chance of surpassing it. If he can, the Eubanks would then enter the discussion as perhaps the best father-son duo in boxing history.
Who would have thought that Eubank Jr. could ultimately be the one to enhance his father’s legacy?