Last Saturday evening saw the eagerly anticipated ‘Bad Blood’ clash between Billy-Joe Saunders and Chris Eubank Jnr which ended in a split decision in favour of Saunders. This meant not only did he win the Lonsdale outright, he also retained his Commonwealth and European titles in the process.
Many bought in to the hype that surrounded this fight. It must be said, for his part in attaining the fight for his son and building it, I give Chris Eubank Snr his due. He has gradually built his son’s profile by utilising his famous name and infamous ego, talking ignorantly about his son’s opposition, his capabilities and his future status which landed Junior a totally undeserved shot at all three of Saunders’ titles.
I openly said before the fight that I didn’t believe Eubank Jnr was anywhere near ready for the level of opposition he would face in Saunders and I didn’t expect him to win a round – he proved me wrong, rallying in the second half of the fight to make the scorecards a lot tighter than they should have been. However, I still believe he wasn’t ready for that level of opposition and don’t see him being ready anytime soon.
Junior looked like a complete novice for long periods of the fight (including the whole first half of it) throwing shots with his feet off the ground, missing and spinning around a full 360 degrees, but he did make the second half of the fight very entertaining.
So then I ask ‘Why such a stark difference between rounds 1-6 and 7-12?’ Simple, Eubank Jnr’s irritating father!
If it wasn’t obvious before the first bell that Saunders was technically superior to Eubank Jnr then it became awfully apparent, awfully quickly during the fight. Eubank’s one hope, you sensed, was applying constant pressure and tiring Saunders out as he is noted for fading down the stretch. Granted, Saunders did fade down the stretch of this fight however, Eubank couldn’t do enough to change the outcome as he started to turn the screw far far too late.
The reason he started to apply that pressure too late? Simple, again it was Eubank Jnr’s irritating father! Senior’s presence was not only making me want to throw my shoe at the TV as he waltzed arrogantly to the middle of the ring in between rounds and stood posturing and not saying a great deal but it was also way outside of the BBBoC regulations due to his ridiculous attire and his actions. What’s much, much more important than him acting like aristocrat in the middle of a working class sporting event is that he was actually stopping Ronnie Davis (a very good trainer) from doing his job and educating Junior on the progress of the fight. At one point early in the fight Eubank Snr actually put his hand on Davis’ shoulder and pushed him back out between ropes when he attempted to give some advice. Davis seemed to spring to life in-between the 10th-11th round and 11th-12th rounds, imploring Eubank Jnr to go for the knockout as he must have grown tired of the Eubank Snr show but by then it was too late.
I don’t believe Eubank Jnr has the punch power that everybody seemed to think he had before the fight however, he does appear to be very physically strong and fit and he should have utilised these attributes right from the opening bell. This is where I believe Davis would have made a difference if he was allowed to do his job. He would of presented Junior with the problem and advised on the solution early on. That being said, it wouldn’t have likely changed the scoring in the first half of the fight as Saunders looked like he was a cat playing a mouse for the most part of it due to his vastly superior skills however, I do believe that if the pressure was applied earlier, Saunders would have tired quicker and this could have changed the second half of the fight completely.
I don’t want to detract away from Saunders performance as, when he was at mid-long range his boxing and movement was very good, although he did seem to be a little timid of throwing his backhand and I noticed he was also wearing “Winning” gloves so there may be a hand problem I am not aware of. He showed a lot of heart, courage and a great chin but a very concerning issue from a Saunders point of view is that he STILL seems to gas down the stretch. He dug very deep last Saturday in the last four rounds but his fitness over 12 rounds just does not seem to be improving which will be a massive concern for Saunders fans if he gets himself in to a scrap with Koborov anytime soon.
As for Eubank Junior’s future, without sounding too critical, he didn’t deserve the fight in the first place and I don’t think he deserves or should push for an immediate rematch. He needs to go after the British title when Saunders relinquishes and really utilise Ronnie Davis to develop him as a fighter. His dad now has him national recognition, he should use this recognition to his advantage, drop the persona and win over the fans then push for a rematch 18 months down the line when there could possibly be a world title on the line.