Chris Eubank Jr. wasted no time mapping out future plans after the most impressive victory of his career, one that salvaged his status as a man who can operate at boxing’s top table.
Back at the AO Arena in Manchester, eight months after being demolished in the fourth round of his domestic grudge match with Liam Smith, Eubank turned the tables on his middleweight rival, completely dominating the action with a calculated and spiteful performance.
Smith was dropped in the fourth and stopped in the 10th. Even though the Liverpudlian appeared to suffer from ankle problems as early as the second round and later outlined his hazardous struggles to gain weight following a back injury, it should not detract from Eubank’s stellar showing.
Back in the W column at 33 and with his stock on the rise again… time to get on with chasing a world title, right?
“It had to be [revenge], I had no other choice. There are too many other big fights out there for me that the fans want to see and that I want to be involved in. I had to beat Liam,” he told Sky Sports.
“Now we want bigger and better fights. There’s some big names out there. I see a few of these guys in the crowd. I’m coming for you, Conor [Benn], I’m coming for you, Kell [Brook]. Anyone else who wants it, we’re going to put on a show for the fans.”
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Asked to name his dream next fight, he added: “I want to fight GGG. I don’t know where he is right now but wherever you are, Gennadiy, you’ve been holding on to those belts for too long, I want to take one, so let’s get that on if we can.”
Sorry to break this to you, Chris, but those pesky sanctioning bodies have got there ahead of you.
Who holds the middleweight titles in boxing?
Gennady Golovkin (aka GGG) has not boxed since his unsuccessful trilogy tilt at Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez at super middleweight last September.
In February, he relinquished his IBF belt and let go of the WBA strap in May. New IBF champion Vincenzo Gualtieri will unify against WBO champ and Golovkin’s Kazakh countryman Janibek Alimkhanuly.
The WBA belt now resides with veteran Cuban Erislandy Lara, who is only marginally more active than WBC champion Jermall Charlo, who has not boxed since June 2021.
So Eubank’s callout list featured two career welterweights — Benn, who still has positive doping tests hanging over him and Brook, who retired after beating Amir Khan last year — and a 41-year-old who no longer has world titles and appears to be winding down a magnificent career.
“Why does he need Golovkin? Do you know why he doesn’t mention my name? Because I’m a nightmare. There is only one king in middleweight! And that’s me! He is easy work!” an unimpressed Janibek posted to social media after Eubank’s triumph.
In the replies, other posters chimed in to point out they’d never heard of Janibek, with their ignorance apparently a valid counter-point to being a formidable southpaw with a 14-0 record, nine KOs and a gold medal from the 2013 World Championships in his back pocket.
Everyone knows who Eubank is. Considering we reside in the four-belt era, one that boasts ample opportunities to win world honours and champions of contrasting quality, his career as one of the standout box-office stars of British boxing is a curiosity.
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Was Chris Eubank Jr. a world champion?
It’s fairly obvious why Eubank sells. His father was a national hero/villain/treasure (delete as appropriate) he talks well and is usually involved in exciting bouts. But if we disregard his two stints in possession of the lightly regarded IBO super middleweight belt, he has never held a world title and boxed for one once in 36 fights.
That lopsided points loss to WBA super middleweight champion George Groves was five-and-a-half years and eight fights ago. Therefore, it is reasonable to ask where Eubank’s ambitions lie in terms of world titles and where they should.
To a certain extent, it is admirable to see a fighter who has navigated this ghastly business and made a fortune without seeing the need to engage in the rigmarole of securing mandatory shots via the snakes and ladders route of sanctioning body rankings.
Belts in Eubank’s chosen weight classes of 160lbs and 168lbs have been hard to come by, particularly since Canelo has ringfenced the latter division.
With or without an alphabet tile, Eubank should be set for life. That alone, given the countless stories of fighters falling into disrepair after hard careers, is something to celebrate.
But aside from the debatable sporting merits of fighting Benn or Brook, Eubank has done the lucrative domestic grudge match a few times over, winning some and losing some against Billy Joe Saunders, James DeGale, Groves and Smith. There is only so much more those kinds of fights can do for him in terms of legacy.
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Legacy doesn’t pay the bills, of course. The night before Eubank took Smith apart, former three-weight world champion Ricky Burns boxed to a farewell victory against fellow Scot Willie Limond in Glasgow — a bout that took place away from a major broadcaster outside of BBC Scotland and garnered little in the way of mainstream media coverage.
Eubank’s bank balance will have enjoyed a much larger boost than Burns’ following their respective wins. But as the years pass, Ricky’s achievements at super featherweight, lightweight and super lightweight will endure for posterity.
If Eubank can look back on an all-action career where he fought a succession of high-quality domestic rivals before graduating to a victory lap as world champion, he’d really have a body of work to cherish.
When it makes money it makes sense in boxing. It was ever thus. And sometimes, the sanctioning bodies’ selection of world title fights makes neither. There are probable millions to be made in Eubank’s immediate future, but the boldest move, one for the romantics and something to take to the bank decades from now would be to call Janibek’s bluff. A world champion is still something to be.