Eubank Jr targeting 'the best fighters on the planet'
As Chris Eubank Junior prepares for his ring return on 4 February against Renold Quinlan on ITV Box Office, Luke Byron spoke to the enigmatic Brighton boxer...
On Saturday 4 February Chris Eubank Junior (23-1) will challenge IBO super middleweight title holder Renold Quinlan (11-1) - a contest which will mark the first foray into the Pay-Per-View market for terrestrial television giants ITV.
Prior to the bout, Chris was able to take some time out of his hectic schedule and talk to me about the fight and his plans for the future. Currently Eubank Junior is putting himself through the final weeks of training camp, ensuring that there is nothing left to chance.
For such a usually active fighter (he fought seven times in 2014, three times in 2015 but just twice last year), it has been a comparatively long time since Eubank Junior last fought. Indeed by fight night in February it will be more than seven months since he defeated Tom Doran by TKO in four rounds last June.
"Training’s going very well," the 27-year-old tells me. "I’m back from my injury and I’m feeling one hundred percent. I’m fighting fit and ready to go."
Quinlan is a relatively unknown quantity to most within boxing, and upon being asked if he had seen much of the Australian, Junior is quick to respond. "I’ve seen a bit of him on Youtube, not much," before adding: "All I know is that a man that’s willing to travel to the enemy’s back yard, that’s a man with a lot of confidence and a man that can’t be taken lightly." Overlooking his opponent certainly doesn’t seem to be entering the mind of the hungry Brit.
In the run-up to the bout, Quinlan has been increasingly vocal on social media, specifically Twitter; the Australian has insisted that he won’t enter the ring until more money is offered, and at one point requested that Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn take over and assume ownership of the match-up.
Quinlan's apparent uncertainty seem to have failed to unsettle his challenger though. "I think he’s just playing mind games," Eubank Junior comments. "The contracts have been signed, everything is in place - the fight’s happening. There’s no more negotiating. He’s been saying he’s gonna knock me out, so I’m looking forward to it."
Throughout his career, Eubank has travelled far from Brighton with the hopes of honing his craft - go online and you can see him in action at the famous Mayweather Gym to name just one of many locations.
He now believes that the fruits of his labour are finally coming to fruition. "This is where all the hard work, the sacrifice, the trials and tribulations will have paid off," he argues. "My performances have been explosive, exciting and inspirational so far - that’s what I’ve been told. Now I have an opportunity to further my career by capturing the IBO super middleweight world title and taking over these divisions."
Despite the controversy surrounding the choice of Quinlan as his next opponent, Eubank assures me that following this bout, he is only interested in fighting the top contenders at both middleweight and super middleweight.
"I’m looking to be in the ring with the best fighters on the planet now, as I believe I’m up there with them," he explains.
When I press him for who he would most like to face next, assuming he comes through the Quinlan bout unscathed; he lists four potential opponents.
First up is James DeGale, with whom there appears to be some genuine bad blood, with Eubank's father having been engaging in some back and forth exchanges over Twitter with the IBF super middle champ.
Next, he names George Groves as a potential opponent - Groves has a WBA 'super' title shot against Fedor Chudinov pending and, assuming he wins, a bout against Eubank Junior would make an interesting proposition. "He [Groves] was actually approached to fight me on ITV," Eubank Junior reveals. "But he priced himself out."
Back in his usual middleweight division, Chris identifies two potential opponents: "There’s my arch rival Billy Joe Saunders, or the man they call the best middleweight in the world, who I believe is definitely not the best middleweight in the world; Gennady Golovkin.
"I believe he’s definitely beatable, and I believe I have the beating of him," he adds of Golovkin, before explaining how he believes a rematch with current WBO middleweight champion Saunders would unfold. "I’m a different man, a different animal now," he says, in reference to his November 2014 split decision loss.
"There’s no comparison to the fighter I was when I faced him then, I’d be surprised if it lasted more than four rounds this time around, I would go in there with the mentality of search and destroy from the first round, unlike what I did last time where I tried to pace myself and then come on strong at the end. That strategy was wrong before, and I’ve learnt from that."
A man that many believed would be instrumental in guiding Eubank Junior to victories against world-class opposition was Adam Booth. Back in 2015 the pair linked up, but shortly after they chose to go their own separate ways.
Eubank Junior explains that there was no blood or ill will between the two camps and in fact the reason for the split was far simpler: "Some people don’t gel. He’s a great trainer but it just didn’t work for me at that stage of my career."
Turning his attention to the launch of ITV Pay-Per-View, it’s fair to say that Eubank Junior understands the pressures of having his next contest as the first fight on a brand new PPV platform.
"I’m launching a platform, so the success is riding on me, it is a pressure I guess, but I’m a man that flourishes under pressure, I don’t buckle. I rise to the occasion and I look forward to it."
The potential reach of the Eubank Jr vs Quinlan bout is huge and it will be fascinating to see how ITV PPV unfolds; much of Anthony Joshua’s success has been due to the fact that he not only reaches out to the deep fans of boxing that tune in every weekend, but the more casual fans - the sort of fans who might be drawn to boxing by the big TV promos and eccentric personalities the Eubanks bring to the table.
Eubank Junior agrees that it is a huge opportunity for him. "The reach, the potential that we have to broadcast British Boxing now is massive; you can’t get any bigger than this. The fight and everything directed at the fight will be going out to everyone – the old ladies, the children etc."
Whatever your views on the validity of the IBO belt or Quinlan as a foe for Eubank Junior, it’s certainly great to see boxing back on an outlet with links to terrestrial TV - and with a planned undercard featuring other British fighters including David Price, John Ryder, Kid Galahad and Adam Etches, it will soon be clear if the ITV PPV aim of bringing boxing back to the forefront of the mainstream public's attention has been a success.
Chris Eubank Junior vs Renold Quinlan takes place on 4 February on ITV Box Office. The 'early bird' PPV is priced at £9.95. Tickets for the show at Olympia are available at www.seetickets.com