He climbs up to the ring. He turns around and stares out into the crowd with just a hint of menace. Then, once he’s let them wait long enough, he launches himself over the top rope and explodes into the centre of the ring. It’s quite an entrance, undeniably memorable. There is no way from that description you would know whether I’m describing Chris Eubank Sr or Jr.
Plenty of famous boxing sons go badly off course when they believe that they are as entitled to success as heirs to a throne. Canny promoters are only too happy to indulge them and at that point, no name is big enough to hide a lack of commitment and talent. In contrast, Eubank Jr has treated his famous name like a responsibility, working as if he has to earn the right to it. He knows that the name can fast track him to the top of cards but can’t do the hard yards for him. His cockiness has been enough to alienate a fair few fans, but it seems to be more healthy self-belief than self-delusion; he believes he has the potential to be one of the best, not that he has a right to be.
The Eubank legend is serving Eubank Jr well. He was always going to have to live with his father’s legacy and the only question was whether he underplayed or embraced it. By opting for the latter, he boosted his profile. Yet this seems to be more than just a pragmatic business decision. While it’s common enough to end up in the ring because of a childhood hero, such inspiration must be far stronger when that hero is your dad. Chris Eubank Jr wasn’t supposed to be a boxer; his father’s success ensured that he grew up in a prosperity that was meant to lead to a very different life. What he saw growing up had enough of an impact to compel him to follow the same road.
When Eubank Jr emerged on the scene, I was uneasy about the whole show. The double act with his father felt like it was denying him the space to be his own man. I’ve come to see though that there’s a generosity at the heart of this. Many sportsmen desperately miss the limelight after their careers end and struggle to find a buzz to replace it. Eubank Sr has admitted how much he craves being the centre of attention (so much so that he was happy to hang out on an island with D list celebs for just a few weeks on TV and is now even talking about making a return to the ring).
In allowing his father to be so prominent, Eubank Jr is giving him a huge amount of happiness. The limelight is Eubank Jr’s to share as he wishes, and while some may feel it’s time for Eubank Sr to retire gracefully, why move on when you don’t have to, and you’re clearly still having so much fun? More than that, it is a partnership built on evident trust and affection; many aspiring young boxers would benefit from such strong support. That said, we'll only really start to learn about the power of this relationship if and when Eubank Jr starts to struggle.
And what about the imitation, such as the copying of the ring entrance? It could just be a son’s way of paying homage to his dad and perhaps he’ll mark out a style of his own if he achieves greater success. Or it may all just be for us. We boxing fans are incurably nostalgic, always harking back to golden ages. Eubank Jr may just be indulging our love of historical reenactment.