The James DeGale versus Chris Eubank Jr clash in England is gaining rock solid buzz across the pond.
Less so in the States, understandably, but there’s some, because DeGale has fought here enough to have a decent fan base in the US and so his recognition factor is higher here than is Eubanks.’
I confess this one is on my To Do watchlist and mind you, not everything every weekend is, because with streaming, there is often so much boxing on Friday and Saturday, I cannot watch it all, not if I don’t want my wife and kids to be irked at me for inattention.
And as is often the case, my interest level for the fight has more to do with the outside the ring elements, rather than my curiosity about how the style clash will play out.
In particular, I’m intrigued (drink! The Al Bernstein drinking game!) by the dynamic between the father, the Brit pugilism legend Chris Eubank Sr, and the son.
Dad is 52 and it is clear that him and the son have their rough patches. Chris is 29 and by no means out of dad’s long shadow. No wonder; Senior fought from 1985-1998 and collected middleweight and super middleweight crowns. His fights, like those against Nigel Benn..
….and Michael Watson, two of them, Steve Collins, two more, and Carl Thompson late in the game, made him a very buzzed about bright star on the UK scene at his height.
Senior’s toughness, apparent in losing efforts which made him even more endearing, for his mettle, was clear and undeniable.
And he read his own press clippings, shall we say.
Senior, who really learned the trade while living in NYC after a rough stretch as a teen, would come to the ring to Tina Turners’ “Simply The Best.” He was not one of the humble Brits who assumed a high-road sporting humility. No, he thought he was the best, wasn’t afraid to proclaim it and often succeeded at showing it.
In England, his fanbase was comprised of a very healthy “I love to hate him” crew, for sure. He was and is a narcissist, if we want to play outside the shrink’s office diagnostics. And to be the offspring of that sort of person isn’t easy.
Junior could attest…
The kid, and I use that term deliberately, as I believe, outside looking in, that even as an adult, the offspring to such a character as Senior can have much difficulty exiting the childhood stage, because, oftentimes, their childhood experience lacked a degree of normalcy and support that are ideal for babies, infants and toddlers. The height of Senior’s popularity came when Junior was an infant, when attachments are cementing. Copious hugs from mom and dad are useful in showing a growing brain that the world is not as bewildering as it can seem. But while dad was being caricatured…
..on “Spitting Image,” the son was trying to figure out his place in the world. Still is, I dare say..
And maybe more so after listening to Chris Senior say this when given a microphone at the final presser to hype the DeGale-Eubank Jr tango:
CHRIS EUBANK SR.:
“I’ve seen the pinnacle of James and it’s intoxicating. With Chris, not everything I’ve said has been applied. It may have been heard, but not applied. What I said works. I wouldn’t have 19 championship wins if it didn’t.
“I’m not convinced [Chris will win] because James DeGale has pedigree. Being an [Olympic] Gold Medalist and former world champion is real. I respect the man’s abilities. Junior hasn’t.
“My son looks at the physical aspect of boxing and, from a physical point of view, I don’t think there is anyone who can stand with him. But boxing isn’t just physical – it’s also spiritual, and that’s where Junior lacks. I don’t know whether he has that.
“This is a 50/50 fight and for the first time I am petrified of what the outcome can be. I am petrified that Junior may not win this fight.
“This is the wisdom of someone who has been here. You never underestimate your opponent based on past performances. Anyone who thinks this guy is on a slide because of past performances is making a mistake.
“From a physical aspect, Junior has the upper hand. From a spiritual aspect and pedigree aspect, James has the upper hand, and that’s why this is a 50/50 fight.
“I do know Chris has learned and let’s see what is produced. It can be a brilliant fight.”
Hey, maybe all this sort of stuff will motivate Junior to give the best showing of a quite mixed career; but outside looking in, it reads horribly. Senior jabs his kid for not listening well, and manages to cite his own more gleaming resume. He tears down his kid’s pedigree as compared to his opponents.’ He offers up to the masses what he sees is his son’s biggest deficiency. He calls the fight a tossup, not even pretending to own massive confidence in his flesh and blood. He again cites his own accomplishments. He assesses that the other guy has a better set of intangibles than his blood. And he tells the assembled that he too doesn’t know what the fight will look like…instead of bolstering his son by telling everyone that he is confident that Junior will prevail.
So, all that is in mind as I ponder that Junior lost his step up fight, in 2014, to BJ Saunders..
..and that he’s had to deal with a foe, Nick Blackwell, suffering a brain bleed after their match…and that Junior has to live with frittering away opportunities against Saunders, in a rematch, and then Gennady Golovkin. He lost that step-up again fight, to George Groves, which had to hurt, if indeed he’s been wanting, craving to exit dad’s shadow.
The part of me that feels for Junior, for having to wrestle with having such a “colorful” celebrity father roots for him to win Saturday.
Some of my smart UK friends think that DeGale at 80% of peak powers beats Junior.
Hey, the best predictor of the future is past performance. People revert to form, all of us do, statistically.
But maybe Junior, having trained smarter and harder, in Las Vegas, is dialed in, in a different way, and he can show fans, and De Gale, and himself, and his dad that he may not be “Simply The Best” but he is pretty darned good, and more than worthy of humble affection and unconditional love of Chris Eubank the senior.