Honesty generally takes a backseat during fight week. Everybody is injury free, convinced of victory and bang on the weight. It is much safer to believe what you see rather than what you hear.
The final press conference for Saturday nights rematch between Liam Smith and Chris Eubank Jnr was a case in point.
Rather than completing his final contractual obligations and darting off to boil his body down to the 160lb weight limit, Eubank Jnr hung around for 30 minutes afterwards, clear eyed, relaxed and happy to talk.
Eubank Jnr had spent months insisting that Smith’s shocking knockout victory earlier this year was “a miracle” and that things would be - had to be - different second time around but hadn’t been able to attract much support. The following few hours won’t have been much fun for a man surely better suited to the super middleweight division but on Thursday lunchtime, Eubank Jnr appeared fit, determined and - most importantly - confident in what he was doing.
By the time he left the New Century Hall he had begun to make believers out of hardened boxing people who trust their eyes rather than their ears.
So it proved. Two days later, Eubank produced the best all round performance of his career, dismantling and dropping a depleted and out of sorts Smith on the way to a 10th round stoppage.
“I had to fight some demons. There were a lot of things to prove,” Eubank Jnr said after the fight. “People were saying I was shot. People were saying I don’t have it anymore and that I’m too old. That my punch resistance had gone. I had to live with that for six months knowing it wasn’t true. That was tough.
“I’m not gonna lie, what happened tonight was supposed to happen in January. It just wasn’t my night. I trained hard for that fight and I trained hard for this fight."
The fourth round stoppage Smith inflicted on Eubank Jnr in January was the culmination of a nightmare period which began with Conor Benn’s adverse analytical findings and the late postponement of their highly anticipated - and extremely lucrative - catchweight fight last October. In a typically maverick move, Eubank Jnr put himself through the ordeal of making the middleweight weight limit anyway, reconnected with former trainer, Roy Jones Jnr, and then signed to fight the under appreciated Smith. Three months later he had to stand on the scales for real and the inspired Liverpudlian took a directionless, fragile looking Eubank apart in stunning fashion.
Only Eubank Jnr and those closest to him know just how different his routine and attitude was in the weeks and months immediately following the loss but it is beyond question that the decision to break the habit of a lifetime and subject himself to Brian ‘BoMac’ McIntyre’s rigid regime for the last portion of training was a wise one.
‘BoMac’ may be a hot hand at the moment but even he would be unable to reinvent the wheel in such a short space of time. That isn’t what Eubank Jnr needs at this stage of his career and McIntyre quickly realised that guidance, support and structure were the order of the day. Eubank Jnr stopped short of heaping praise on his new team but it wasn’t difficult to read between the lines and find an acceptance that, at 33 years of age, he has finally found the key to success.
“The weight had nothing to do with it. The mindset had nothing to do with it either,” he said in the ring after the fight. “I’m always focused. I had to prove to the fans and boxing public that I’m not a fake. I do the things I say I’m going to do.
“They [new trainers and nutritionists] all add percentages. What I’ve learned over the years is that you have to take every percentage you can. There are some tough, tough men in this sport and they have all hands on deck. If you don’t have the same then you’re at a disadvantage. We’re not doing that anymore.”
Ordinarily, a third fight with Smith would bring a natural end to an unexpected but exciting rivalry but the one-sided nature of Eubank Jnr’s victory on Saturday may mean that the search for even bigger options is already underway. Benn’s shadow continues to loom large even though the Londoner is still embroiled in a battle to clear his name and Eubank Jnr also called out Kell Brook and Gennady Golovkin.
Eubank Jnr would have been able to continue his career and trade on his name even if Smith had repeated his feat but in one night he salvaged his reputation and firmly re-established himself as one of the biggest draws in British boxing.
“I’ve promoted some huge fights with Junior since 2017. Tonight he was the best I’ve ever seen him,” Eubank Jnr’s promoter, Kalle Sauerland, said. “There is no plan right now. We’re going to enjoy our celebrations and on Monday morning at 9am we’ll get cracking.”
“If the fans want to see a third fight then you know me, I won’t back down from a challenge,” Eubank Jnr added.
“I’m coming for you Conor. I’m coming for you Kell [Brook]. Anybody else who wants it, we’re putting on a show for the fans, that’s for sure.”