A matter of timing
As a tribute to the late Glyn Leach, the former Editor of Boxing Monthly, we are proud to bring his Editorial columns back for you to read again and again on our website. On this occasion we go back to October 1996, and Glyn was ruminating about Chris Eubank's comeback and Frank Bruno's farewell ...
After over a year out of the ring following his second loss in succession to Steve Collins for the WBO super-middleweight title, Chris Eubank is scheduled to make his return on 19 October in the unlikely setting of Cairo, Egypt, a promotion that has been dubbed "Style by the Nile".
Eubank has elected to come back with the backing of an Arab consortium with no previous history in boxing, the aim being for Eubank to make a couple of appearances on Arab soil and then challenge for the world title.
It is an ambitious project befitting one of contemporary boxing's great visionaries, but one which has drawn scepticism in Britain, where world boxing's most prominent Arab fighter, WBO featherweight champ Prince Naseem Hamed, said: "I don't think he can pull it off because every country in the Arab world knows that the best fighter in the world is me. There's only one fighter the Arab world is looking out for and that's me...and probably Mike Tyson too, of course, since he turned Muslim, for which I take my hat off to him. Tyson is a living legend. But Eubank..."
Eubank will return in the light-heavyweight division, although the fighter he is due to face in Cairo - Argentina's Luis Dionisio Barrera - is a career middleweight; some things never change, it seems. Britain's most successful ever - statistically, at least, Eubank having fought 21 world title contests - meets an opponent who has lost four fights and is anything but the contender Eubank promised he would return against. Barerra' won-lost-drawn record reads 35-8-4, while Eubank will aim to increase his stats beyond the 43-2-2 (21 KO's) he left off at.
It is, in effect, a showcase engagement for Eubank, little more. This seems to have been recognised by British TV companies, who have not exactly been falling over themselves to take the fight. As we go to press, ITV's relatively paltry £50,000 offer reportedly is the best that Eubank has received. The TV companies appear to want to see what Eubank has to offer in 1996 rather than enter into the kind of panic-bidding that saw Eubank earn a reported £10 million TV deal from Sky prior to his "retirement" following the second Collins fight in September 1995.
But if it all comes together and Eubank can put in an impressive performance against Barrera, one that suggests Eubank has recovered from the rigours of the busy schedule that while making him a rich man depleted his energies as a fighter, then Eubank will hold the advantages in further TV negotiations.
Eubank intimated that he would only be retired until the market improved and that time has come. There are precious few stars in British boxing today and the return of the outrageous Brighton showman can only be to the benefit of the sport he has so often criticised but, like many others before him, seems unable to say goodbye to.
See ya later?
One fighter who does appear to have said goodbye to boxing is Frank Bruno, the former WBC heavyweight champ, who announced his retirement last month. It is hoped that Bruno will stay true to his word as he has earned ridiculously well, had all the glory he could hope for, and has been a fine role model during his career.
Bruno's retirement comes following the advice of a specialist who warned him that fighting on could endanger his sight (Bruno has a history of eye problems that were he an overseas fighter I would be surprised if he would have been allowed to box in Britain. But no governing body has banned Bruno - it is rather a case of his choosing to follow advice on this occasion that has probably been given before. If doors are closed, Bruno has shut them himself.
The retirement follows Bruno's announcement that he intended to fight on following the ignominious loss to Mike Tyson in March (made to look a wonderful performance by Bruce Seldon's pathetic capitulation reported on page 6). But as I reported in this column, the public response was not over-whelming. However, by withdrawing from the game for a while, much as Eubank did, he could create a demand for his services in the future, particularly if a British fighter such as Scott Welch were to become a world champion and a big payday was in the offing. It's not as though Bruno would ever let himself get out of condition, he's a fitness junkie.
Maybe I'm wrong, but all I'm saying is don't be surprised if 1997 sees a Bruno comeback. Let's hope I am wrong, because Bruno achieved more than could ever be expected of him and has nothing more to gain.