Rivalries sell. And if you speak to any fight fan from the United Kingdom, then Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn’s rivalry in the 1990s will feature near the top of their list of boxing spats.
The pair of Londoners were hardly separated by skill or postcode, but their personalities were of such polar opposition that their only commonalities were a love for fighting and their utter contempt for one another.
Memorable press conferences and media head-to-heads acted as only a hors d’oeuvre to two memorable fights in 1990 and 1993, with Eubank remaining unbeaten across both, until finally losing his “0” to Steve Collins in 1995.
Now, close to 29 years since their rematch in Manchester, England, Eubank and Benn look set to see the next generation of this rivalry take the baton, with reports suggesting that their sons, Chris Eubank Jr (32-2, 23 KO) and Conor Benn (21-0, 14 KO) will fight at a 156 lb catchweight on Oct. 8 in London.
In what would presumably be part of DAZN’s pay-per-view launch in the United Kingdom, this square-peg-in-round-hole solution is a real head-scratcher considering the amount of time that Eddie Hearn, Matchroom Boxing, and DAZN have put into gently nurturing the career of Conor Benn.
Benn has been with Hearn since his professional debut in 2016 and has slowly grown into a welterweight force on the domestic scene, considered by many as being just one or two decent wins away from challenging the top of the 147 lb division.
Eubank, now 32, has kept his name in the headlines as a contender over the past few years. His only two professional losses have come at the hands of former world champions Billy Joe Saunders and George Groves, and his biggest win will be debated between James DeGale and Liam Williams.
But why these two have, seemingly, been crowbarred into a forced grudge match feels peculiar in its timing.
For this catchweight to work, Benn will have to campaign north of 147 for the first time in his career, whilst Eubank will come down below middleweight for the first time in 34 pro outings — this even more concerning for a fighter who claims to walk around naturally up at 170 lbs.
If both men were at the ends of their careers, shared a weight class and had limited other options, then fine, this fight would make sense, à la Amir Khan vs Kell Brook; but for Benn to be lured into this vanity fight after putting years of guided groundwork in would feel all too much like a quick sugar-hit, while more substantial meals are left to go cold.
At the other end of the fighting spectrum for Benn lies David Avanesyan — a much clamored-for welterweight contest that would open the door for world title fights for the winner. Sure, not many outside of the boxing bubble would deem this a particular “sexy” fight, but weight classes are there for a reason, and on paper, you’d struggle to find a better pick ‘em at the weight.
At that’s what we should want from boxing. Well-matched contests in the correct weight classes, irrespective of names, profiles and pay-per-view projections. But once again the lure of a pound note looks as though it will prevail over common sense.
Which is fine, as long as all parties involved are willing to admit that.
Lewis Watson is a sports writer from London, UK, and a member of the BWAA. Follow or contact him on Twitter @lewroyscribbles