Will The Real Chris Eubank Jr. Please Stand Up?
By Ian Aldous
This Saturday night, Britain’s fastest-growing promotional stable, Boxxer, launch their domestic takeover alongside television powerhouse Sky Sports, as the ever-enigmatic Chris Eubank Jr. (30-2) returns to middleweight action. The SSE Arena in Wembley hosts his crunch headline clash against Anatoli Muratov.
A career packed with ups, downs, promise, excitement and disappointment continues under the guidance of Kalle Sauerland and Wasserman Boxing in conjunction with Boxxer and Sky Sports. The thirty-one year-old, thirty-two by fight night, sits at a crossroads, thanks to inactivity in recent years, some of which has been enforced by the pandemic.
His signature win was achieved in February of 2019, when a battle between two of Britain’s premier 168-pound boxers resulted in Eubank Jr. comprehensively beating former Olympic champion and world champion, James DeGale.
Some believed DeGale would be too slick, but he may have had one eye on retirement. Whatever his frame of mind, he was impressively dealt with. It felt like a standout moment for the former British middleweight king, who captured the IBO super-middleweight world crown with the win, his second reign with that title.
However, his momentum stalled as a depressingly low amount of viewers ordered the ITV Box Office pay-per-view. Had the fight been on ITV’s massive freeview platform, as opposed to its PPV arm, millions, instead of mere thousands of eyes on the new champion would have created priceless publicity. Instead, hidden away behind a paywall, few new fans were garnered.
A ten-month wait unfolded as the Brit ventured to the U.S., part of his then-collaboration with Premier Boxing Champions. In December 2019, a two-round disappointment, this time behind a Premier Sports subscription paywall, ensued as Matvey Korobov retired injured. But, as the saying goes, a win is a win.
A side note during this time was the young Briton’s decision to finally hire a trainer. His career had been ‘guided’ to that point by his father and the veteran Ronnie Davies. For the DeGale bout, he employed Nate Vasquez and the American successfully coached Eubank Jr. to his biggest win. Despite that, he parted ways with Vasquez and pursued a brief link-up with Virgil Hunter that bore no fruit.
Now under the stewardship of the legendary Roy Jones Jr., one ponders if RJJ might finally be the man to help Jr. knuckle down and heed the words of one of the sport’s greatest of all-time? If not him, then surely no-one has the authority to usurp Jr.? The multi-weight world champion led his corner for the one-sided decision win against the overmatched, but talented, Marcus Morrison on Sky Box Office in May of last year.
Prior to defeating DeGale in 2019, Eubank Jr. told me, “I’m at the stage now where I only want to fight the best. I only want to fight for the titles – that’s the level I’m at now.
“Listen, I’m a big name in the sport,” he continued. “I can get fights everywhere and anywhere. Whether that’s in the States or over here, it’s not hard for me to get fights because of the reputation I have and the numbers that I bring in.”
Fast-forward two years, and he still echoes the same sentiments. “2022 is going to be a massive year for me. The middleweight division is on notice. The takeover begins on October 2,” he said in a recent press release.
A win on Saturday is obviously a must, and is roundly expected, for a man only bested by two elite prizefighters, Billy Joe Saunders and George Groves. With the backing of the Sky Sports platform – big fights aren’t far away. He’s never been short on confidence, swagger or arrogance – now is his moment to truly back up the bravado and show us just how good he really is.
Fight fans will also be yearning for Chris to stay under the umbrella of one promoter for long enough to truly make his impact on the sport, and earn the fights against GGG and Canelo Alvarez he consistently expresses a desire to fight in.
Since debuting a decade ago, he has competed under the promotional banners of Mick Hennessy, Frank Warren, Eddie Hearn, Richard Poxon (as part of the failed ITV Box Office experiment), Premier Boxing Champions, Sauerland, and finally Boxxer in association with Wasserman Boxing. In the last five years, those particular bouts have often been hidden behind pay-per-view paywalls. Is it finally time for Eubank Jr. to find a home with Boxxer on Sky Sports?
His opponent, Anatoli Muratov, is a late-replacement for Sven Elbir, who sadly pulled out with a positive Covid test. Taking into consideration Muratov’s 24-2-1 record (17 wins by KO), lofty WBA ranking, and the fact Eubank Jr. was preparing for a different opponent – he possesses a somewhat remote chance of upsetting the odds. But, with one eye on a WBA mandatory position, as well as mega-money clashes with Golovkin and Alvarez, the German should be despatched in impressive fashion.
It’s time to justify the arrogant hype that the man himself has consistently created. If 2022 is going to be the year he predicts for himself, then 2021 needs to end spectacularly.
Boxxer: Eubank Jr. vs. Muratov takes place Saturday October 2nd at London’s SSE Arena, Wembley, and airs exclusively on Sky Sports.
One of boxing’s most avoided talents, David Avanesyan, defends his European welterweight title against Liam Taylor in chief support.
Tickets are available via Boxxer.com/tickets and AXS.com and are priced from £40.