When Chris Eubank Jr. announced that he would face Renold Quinlan for the meretricious IBO super-middleweight title on February 4, he inadvertently provoked a tidal flow of derision. In fact it’s only just dying down, weeks on.
Eubank is familiar with criticism – it’s followed him from his days as a guileless novice, when his propensity to vault the top rope, flare his nostrils and showboat during fights led observers to brand him an imitator, a less gifted carbon copy of his famous namesake. I doubt the odium will ever fully dissipate, regardless of what Junior goes on to achieve. The Eubank brand, by its very definition, divides opinion.
Not that the fighter tends to brood on the negative publicity. On the contrary, one gets the impression that condemnation merely fuels him; oftentimes he’ll refer amusedly to his ‘army of haters.’ Like his father, he presents as scarily singleminded, hardwired towards unshakable belief in his own fistic preternaturalism – whatever the press choose to write.
The Quinlan fight is to be televised on ITV’s nascent pay-per-view platform, and this is just one of the reasons the bout has been pilloried. The Eubanks have been accused of attempting to fleece the public by misrepresenting the clash as a high-calibre, big stakes showdown. The nature of the bungled Golovkin negotiations this past September has also served to cast a pall over Junior’s career.
Much of the outrage stems, I think, from Senior’s habit of shooting his mouth off. Just the other week he claimed his son would ‘wreck’ the much vaunted Golovkin, whom some regard as the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter. Considering Junior’s level of opposition to date, such an avowal seems patently ridiculous.
But it underscores what makes the Eubanks so disarmingly compelling. They are lucid dreamers operating on the same cosmic wavelength; they predict the seemingly impossible without accepting or acknowledging the absurdity of their statements, which nonetheless carry an air of incontestable authority. Boxers are often self-assured, but they are rarely as dogmatic as this formidable father-and-son team.
After I become IBO Super Middle-Weight World Champion on Feb 4th. I’m coming for James Degale #TakingAllTheBelts
— Chris Eubank Jr (@ChrisEubankJr) January 15, 2017
Degale I’m coming for the rest of those teeth too.
— Chris Eubank Jr (@ChrisEubankJr) January 15, 2017
For the record, I rate Eubank. He is quick and powerful and fights in a dynamic and tireless manner. Such was the ferocity of his recent wins, you half suspected he’d dispensed with gloves in favour of well-stropped razors fastened to his hand wraps.
Although at times he appeared artless in his lone defeat to now-WBO champion Billy Joe Saunders in November 2014, that loss seems like the making of him when you ponder his subsequent ring evolution. It’s plain as day that he has clicked into a higher gear, and generally he puts his pedal to the gas from the opening bell. Taking on Golovkin might be overstepping the mark, but it’s not inconceivable to imagine him claiming a legitimate world title in the near future. Lesser boxers have scaled such lofty heights.
Renold Quinlan has fought just 12 times in 9 years, and he claimed the IBO belt in his last outing, bludgeoning a shopworn Daniel Geale in three rounds. He has never fought outside of his native Australia, and though he is the same age as Eubank, it seems unlikely he’ll present much of a test. In his debut at super-middleweight, Junior will look to dispatch him in good style and move on to bigger and better things.
Should he win, the matchmaking options are plentiful. If he elects to stay at 168, he can gun for IBF champion James DeGale. The pair have sparred in the past, with DeGale having kicked the Eubanks out of his gym after a well-publicised spat a few years back. He could set his cap at George Groves, who contests the WBA title in March, his fourth bid for world honours, or he could aim for Badou Jack if he sticks around at super-middle, though it sounds like the WBC champ is heading north. WBO boss Gilberto Ramirez is another feasible target, as are ex-champions Arthur Abraham, Giovanni De Carolis and Anthony Dirrell.
Or how about this for a novel idea: a face-off with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Whatever the outcome of Canelo vs Chavez Jr., Son of Legend vs Son of Legend has a certain ring to it.
In the run-up to the Quinlan fight, Eubank has been adamant about one thing: he can still make middleweight for the right fight. “After this,” says Eubank Jr., “it’s open season.” Presumably that means Saunders, Alvarez, Golovkin, Jacobs and Lemieux are all on the hit list. It’s a variegated landscape, that’s for sure.
Still and all, detractors will claim Eubank wants no part of these men. He is a talker and a poser, nothing more. Overlooking the ruthless intensity of his performances against Chudinov, O’Sullivan and Blackwell – all admittedly European-level operators – these naysayers will swear that Junior has no intention of endangering his record by squaring off with world-class rivals. Time will tell whether they’re right, but the public’s appetite to see him in a truly challenging fight will only intensify if he hammers Quinlan.
That the forthcoming non-event will appear on pay-per-view is indubitably egregious, and even laid-back boxing nuts implode at the frequent misuse of the term ‘world title,’ but the idea of Eubank in domestic superfights with the likes of DeGale, Groves, Callum Smith or Billy Joe Saunders (again) gets the juices flowing on this side of the pond. Then there’s Golovkin: who wouldn’t want to see Eubank lock antlers with a phenomenal force like GGG? The ‘haters’ will watch it to see what they expect, an annihilation, and the Eubank fans (yes, they do exist) to find out if their man has the mettle to back up his boasts.
Whatever side of the fence you’re on, you’ll follow the Eubank story to its endpoint. And who’d blame you? — Ronnie McCluskey