Perhaps it was a bluff; pre-fight bravado we have become accustomed to over the years covering Chris Eubank Jr fights.
In the eye of the final storm before Saturday night’s rematch against Liam Smith, Eubank claimed that his team won’t be bringing a towel to Manchester’s AO Arena.
Now, this isn’t some hygiene issue — “oh my gawwwd he’s going to be so sweattttty thoughhhh.” But more a very important safety one, with Eubank essentially taking any power away from his corner to stop the fight.
Ok, the towel is more of a symbol — a fight can be stopped by the corner simply telling the referee that enough is enough — but the 33-year-old, and loser of the first contest via a bruising fourth round TKO, has claimed that he will not allow new head coach Brian “BoMac” McIntyre to stop the fight if he deems his charge to be unable to continue.
It’s a classic move from Eubank Jr who has swam against the tide of instruction since turning pro in 2011. Only until the latter years of the Brighton fighter’s career has he employed a full-time coach to his corner, with father Chris Eubank Sr. and family friend/trainer Ronnie Davies holding these loose roles throughout the majority of his formative fights.
Thursday’s final press conference gave us a look at this new relationship between Eubank and McIntyre and the view was disappointing.
“It wasn’t a conversation, I just told him ‘Keep those towels out of the corner’ and BoMac said ‘If we’re going to go out on our shield, we’ll go out on our shield.’ That’s how we play it, we’re not going to do any of that looking for the easy way out,” Eubank Jr admitted.
“Some fighters need a safety net, some fighters need to be saved. I’m not that fighter, I’ve been through too much and done too much. If I can’t go on, you guys will see it. If I’m on my feet demanding for the fight to continue, let it continue. I’m getting paid too much to take the easy way out if the going gets tough,”
Smith criticised McIntyre for not protecting Eubank Jr’s health by agreeing to the towel ban as he replied: “You’ve already just lost every respect you’ve got for yourself then if Chris is telling you not to bring a towel. Your job is to be the best for your fighter, so if Chris is telling you not to bring a towel then he’s already the boss of you as well isn’t he.”
“What’s going to be funny is, imagine he throws the towel in again after all of this situation with the towel after having it once before. Fucking brilliant. When you’re doing the chicken dance again, the towel will come in.”
Whether or not Eubank and McIntyre will stay true to their words may become apparent on Saturday night, but it’s not a healthy look for a sport where a second’s judgement can make the biggest difference to a fighter’s long-term health.
Eubank Jr should be aware of this considering what happened to his father and Michael Watson in 1991 — a fight that left the latter with near fatal injuries after the fight was called to a halt in the final round.
Of course, we hope that awkward conversations are not needed post-fight on Saturday, but from the outside it feels as though Chris Eubank Jr is falling into the same traps that he has throughout his career.
If you hire experienced voices and judgement, then you must employ them without restriction or contradiction.