Eddie Hearn thinks there are more alluring fights for Chris Eubank Jr. on the horizon than a rematch with Liam Smith, and it does not necessarily involve his troubled charge Conor Benn.
A couple of weeks ago, Liverpool’s Smith upset Brighton’s Eubank via fourth-round stoppage in their middleweight bout in Manchester. Now there are talks that the two could be headed toward an immediate rematch, but only if Eubank decides to activate his rematch clause.
Hearn, however, thinks a rematch between recently retired two-division titlist Billy Joe Saunders and Eubank would be a far more lucrative and buzzworthy event than one involving Eubank and Smith.
Saunders defeated Eubank on points nearly a decade ago, in 2014. Saunders, the controversial and often profane southpaw from Hatfield, retired following his stoppage loss to Canelo Alvarez in 2021 but has in recent months hinted at a ring return. Saunders finished out his career under Hearn’s Matchroom banner, while Eubank is handled by Kalle Sauerland of Wasserman Boxing. Smith parted ways with Hearn last year after knocking out Jessie Vargas in a 154-pound match and is now signed with Boxxer.
“Another fight there for Chris Eubank Jr. is Billy Joe Saunders,” Hearn told iFL TV. “Those kinds of fights, whether it’s Conor or Billy Joe Saunders, are super compelling because of the buildup you are going to receive and the hatred between everybody. So, he has a lot of options, Chris, but again it’s his business, it’s his decision personally to say 'do I feel like I’ve still got it.'”
Eubank was originally supposed to take on Hearn’s welterweight, Conor Benn, last October, but the 157-pound catchweight fight was cancelled after it was discovered that Benn had tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug. Subsequently, it was revealed that Benn had failed a previous test in the summer for the same substance. Benn is currently the subject of two investigations, one with the World Boxing Council regarding his ranking and the other, the far more significant one, with United Kingdom Anti-Doping. Hearn has repeatedly stated he expects Benn to fight in the next six months.
In the iFL interview, Hearn said he has had brief discussions with Saunders about a comeback fight in the past but not anything recently. Saunders, according to Hearn, also expressed interest in fights with Gennadiy Golovkin, Callum Smith, and John Ryder, the latter two of whom are signed with Matchroom.
“I would love to see Billy Joe Saunders back in the ring,” Hearn said. “One, because he’s a fantastic fighter, and two, he’s a personality, love him or hate him. He’s gonna bring eyeballs, excitement and chat to the shows. Billy Joe against Gennadiy Golovkin. He mentioned Callum Smith. He mentioned John Ryder. He mentioned these guys.”
“The fact is that Eubank-Billy Joe, 168, is still a huge, huge fight,” Hearn continued. “It’s a much bigger fight than Eubank-Liam Smith II, and that’s just the reality because Billy Joe Saunders comes with a huge amount of controversy. Sometimes to make a big fight you need the uncertainty of not knowing what could happen. Liam Smith against Eubank II, you’d be very confident Liam wins that fight. Billy Joe against Eubank [would be more uncertain], with Billy Joe being out for what, nearly two years? Coming back, especially if he comes back without a warmup fight.”
Smith himself has indicated that in the event that a rematch with Eubank fails to materialize, his top priority would be to land a fight with Golovkin, who holds the IBF and WBA titles, at Liverpool's Anfield Stadium.