A Boxing Memory: Benn vs Eubank 1
We have seen many great fights in a British ring. Boxing News has recently meticulously gone through them all and ranked them in order of their perceived greatness.
Such lists are of course, highly subjective, one man’s preference is another’s disdain.
Despite many worthy contenders for the honour, the timeless publication decided that the coming-out party of Chris Eubank was the greatest fight ever seen inside a British ring.
The enigmatic marmite character challenged the marauding Nigel Benn for the then lightly regarded WBO middleweight title in November 1990. Benn was making the 2nd defence of his title against Eubank.
The NEC in Birmingham played host to one of the most savage fights you are likely to see. The importance of the belt on the line was irrelevant, the two traded blows for much more than a belt around their waist.
‘The Dark Destroyer’ had rebuilt his career after suffering his first career loss at the hands of Michael Watson. Benn punched himself out against Watson, and dreams of world titles looked remote. Believing your own hype has been the downfall of many.
But Benn went to America to rebuild and ripped the WBO title from Doug DeWitt and then defended it against Iran Barkley in the most emphatic reputation making fashion. Barkley was destroyed inside a round, the American may well have been past his prime, but Benn left America with a very big statement made.
When he faced Eubank, Benn only had the Watson blemish on his record in 28 fights.
Eubank had started his pro career in America before coming back to the UK and eventually signing with Barry Hearn.
Twenty four straight wins earned Eubank his opportunity with his arch-rival. Some said it was his mouth that earned the opportunity, the Brighton showman knew what he was doing. Eubank was eccentric, over the top and the sort of fighter you either loved or hated.
The hatred between the pair was very much real rather than manufactured to create a desired narrative, highlighted perfectly in a televised contract signing, which threatened to boil over at any moment.
It generated so much interest, promoted with the tag of ‘Who’s Fooling Who’ the fight certainly didn’t disappoint anyone. The two polar opposites delivered in every way imaginable.
The fight was more or less even right up to the conclusion, a back-and-forth war. Each fighter had their moments, some of the exchanges were breath-taking in their ferocity. Benn admitted later that he was fighting not to lose from the early stages. Eubank was also on auto-pilot for much of the contest. In many ways, it was a fight for survival.
Benn was badly hampered by a fast closing left eye, which left him struggling to see the man in front of him.
The challenger had his own problems, a right uppercut from Benn made him bite into his own tongue. Eubank consumed his own blood, but he would not be denied.
Eubank was dropped in the 8th, he argued it was a slip, but Richard Steele gave him a count regardless, but Benn was starting to fade.
Eubank was over again in the 9th, but this time it was ruled a slip. Eubank landed a right-left combination and that was the beginning of the end for Benn.
Eubank got the stoppage soon after to end one of the greatest fights ever seen on UK soil, was it the greatest ever, it comes extremely close.
Barry McGuigan in commentary said it was the sort of fight that makes an old man out of you, he was right.
Eubank proved he was the real deal, and Benn, even in defeat, in many ways enhanced his reputation.
The scores at the finish highlighted the closeness of the contest.
Judge: John Stewart 76-75 Benn
Judge: Robert Balogh 75-76 Eubank
Judge: Dalby Shirley 76-75 Benn
A rematch three years later failed to match what we saw in Birmingham. Many observers felt Benn deserved revenge rather than the draw the judges gave him. Thankfully, a rumoured third fight a few years ago failed to materialise.
Both fighters achieved plenty after this incredible war, but I wonder how much did they leave of themselves in that Birmingham ring.