There are plenty of things that Chris Eubank Jr. wants to accomplish in his career.
One box he never thought he’d have to check off was attempting to avenge a knockout defeat.
The second-generation middleweight contender has fully embraced that scenario as he is all business for his rematch versus Liverpool’s Liam Smith. The opponent and venue are the same as was the case more than seven months ago when Eubank was stopped in the fourth round of their January 21 meeting at AO Arena in Manchester, England.
Everything else about the sequel is new ground for the 35-year-old Brighton native. A new training team is on board as he carries a new attitude while forced into the underdog role versus the only pro fighter to drop or stop him.
“I would agree with that statement,” Eubank confessed without hesitation during the final pre-fight press conference ahead of Saturday’s Sky Sports Box Office main event. “I’ve said that throughout camp. Truth, it is a new pressure I never had to deal with before. I’m enjoying it. I’m enjoying the focus it’s getting. I’m enjoying the hardship I’m going through, mentally and physically to execute the game plan.
“It is a new pressure, it’s a new risk I have in front of me. I’m excited to see how I go out and react to a man I have in front of me who has a win over me. Can I keep my emotions in check? Can I stick to what I’ve been practicing these past eight weeks? We’re going to find out [on Saturday].”
Eubank (32-3, 23KOs) remains convinced that he is the superior fighter but is well aware that he carries the burden of having to prove it in the ring. He entered their first fight as a healthy betting favorite and boxed well for three rounds. The bottom fell out when Smith (33-3-1, 20KOs) was able to hurt him in round four and twice floor his countryman. Eubank was unsteady after the first knockdown and deemed unfit to continue immediately after once again going down, the only times in his pro career where he’s ever touched the canvas.
It was quite a statement by Smith, considering that a touted granite chin was the one constant most seemed to believe of Eubank. The same applied to Chris Eubank Sr., a charismatic former two-division titlist and integral part of the UK boxing scene in the 1990s who was mostly able to back out his outrageous claims during his heyday.
The younger Eubank has fared well in the pros but his closest taste to the championship life has been two interim title reigns. He holds victories over former titlists Arthur Abraham and James DeGale, while he has lost to Billy Joe Saunders predating his time as a two-division titleholder and—in his lone full title shot—a 2018 points loss to countryman George Groves with the WBA super middleweight title at stake.
Following each of his previous two defeats, Eubank was able to rattle off impressive win streaks. He won eight straight before he fell short to Groves, and then another six in a row to position himself among the top middleweight contenders. That came to a crashing halt once referee Victor Loughlin rendered him unfit to continue versus Smith, a former WBO junior middleweight champion who is now on the verge of a middleweight title shot.
To this day, Eubank has classified his lone knockout defeat as a “miracle” experienced by Smith.
“What happened in the last fight was not supposed to happen,” insisted Eubank. “Even to Liam… he won’t ever admit it, but he wasn’t expecting the fight to finish how it finished. Nobody was. But again… I have to prove that I am the better fighter. Me saying I’m the better fighter is not enough.
If he pulls it off again, if he does what he did in the first fight, in this fight, then I can’t argue with him. I can’t argue with the boxing public. He will be the better fighter. That will be it. As of right now, I believe… I know I’m the better fighter. I will prove it on Saturday night.”
Nothing was left to chance this time around.
Eubank previously trained under the guidance of Hall of Fame former four-division champion Roy Jones Jr., but has since left him behind. Prior to the two parting ways, Eubank warned Jones to not even think about throwing in the towel as he was dangerously close to doing in the first fight.
The same request has been made to his new training team, led by Brian ‘Bomac’ McIntyre—the leading 2023 Trainer of the Year candidate thanks to his stellar work with now-undisputed welterweight champion Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford. Eubank has spent of the summer weeks training his new team in Las Vegas but it only took a couple of conversations for both sides to gel.
“This is one of the most intelligent, spongiest fighters that I know. He does everything you ask him,” McIntyre revealed. “All the things that a trainer wants to bring to a fighter to bring to that next level, I will say that Chris already has it in him. It was just a touch-up on a few points, We just had to remind him of some things he already knows.
Chris is a sponge. He soaks it up. He goes out there and executed.
“Again, he already knows what to do. He just needs someone around him, a good team to remind him of the small, simple things. Just correct our mistakes. I stated that from day one when we started talking.”
Of course, saying what needs to be done and actually doing it—well, Eubank is well aware of what’s at stake this weekend.
“I relish a new challenge,” said Eubank. “I relish the chance to try to new things. I was always waking up in the afternoon and training in the evenings. Now I’m a morning guy. That’s how Bomac and their team do things. I’m following their lead. Yes, I have a nutritionist for this fight. I came in under weight for the last fight. We don’t want to be doing that again.
“Just little things. Small adjustments. You have to make changes, see where you slipped up and improve those areas where you are weakest. That’s what we’ve done.”
All that’s left now is do something he’s never done before—and in a fight where the odds are no longer in his favor.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox