Eubank Jr. vs Smith: A Stunning Scouse Masterclass
Like many boxing fans around the UK, my otherwise vacant Saturday night was thankfully filled (albeit all too briefly) by Chris Eubank Jr. and Liam Smith’s main card at Manchester’s AO Arena.
Admittedly, Sky Sports’ painfully extortionate demand of £19.95 to access the full PPV was a little out of my student loan funded budget, and so I resorted to more illicit means of watching the fight.
Eubank (32-3), though usually fighting as a middleweight, made weight at 159lbs during Friday afternoon’s weigh-in, with Smith (33-1-3) matching his weight to the pound. Eubank looked to put last year’s doomed ‘bout that never was’ with Conor Benn behind him, seeking what he hoped would be a sure and controversy-free victory against the Liverpudlian. On both counts, this proved not to be the case. Thursday’s press conference quickly turned sour, the pair trading uppercuts for caustic personal insults regarding Smith and Eubank’s respective personal lives and sexualities, the latter of which prompted Eubank to don a rainbow armband to Friday’s weigh-in – a much needed symbol of homophobia’s unwelcomeness in the sport.
With the controversy-ridden buildup fuelling them, the pair looked steely-eyed and hungry for victory as they stepped out for Saturday night’s ring walks. Smith was out first, emerging from his dressing room a little before 11pm to a rapturous AO Arena, dispelling any notions of Mancunian-Scouse acrimony. Although, perhaps fortunately, my ‘wool’ status leaves me firmly out of this particular debate… Eubank soon followed, though the Brightonian’s entry to the ring was met with a comparatively subdued reception, to the extent that even I could discern the chorus of booing over my 140p and typically intermittent internet stream.
Eubank, clad in white trunks to Smith’s black, made his way to the centre of the ring. The pair touched gloves and the bell sounded. Eubank landed the first blow on Smith, glancing, but a hit nonetheless. As round 1 progressed it became increasingly clear that this was a cautious start from Eubank, with Smith landing a flurry of quick right hands and catching Eubank with a decent body shot in the dying seconds of the round. As the bell concluded a somewhat uneventful round, Smith looked to be ahead, but only just.
As round 2 got underway Eubank was more purposeful from the onset, with his favoured jabs starting to reveal themselves. But Smith was yet to back down, throwing a big left-right hook combination, both ducked by Eubank, before landing a clean(ish) overhand right. With Eubank looking more alive and Smith’s last minute whirl of semi-accurate big hooks, round 2 concluded looking level, with Smith still ahead overall.
From round 3’s onset, Eubank’s favoured right jab made its first proper appearance. Eubank landed a right hand to Smith’s head, working effectively through his guard as Smith returned the favour with a body shot. As the round reached its closing seconds, Eubank looking sharper, he exchanged his right jab for a triple chain of huge right uppercuts, slamming yet again through Smith’s guard. Smith stood immobile on his feet as shouts for lateral movement rang out from the red corner. Smith looked weak but was saved by the bell. Round 3 to Eubank.
As the bell signalling round 4 rang, Eubank looked to be gaining purchase in the fight, only to be met with a stronger Smith. Eubank attempted round 3’s right uppercut, though to little avail as Smith smartly dodged it. A huge chain from Smith backed Eubank back up into his corner before a solid uppercut and a mighty left hook sent Eubank sprawling to the canvas. The 33 year old clambered back to his feet almost immediately, though visibly dazed and unsteady. The referee, Victor Loughlin, tentatively allowed Eubank to continue as he was on his feet before the count was out, but Smith’s expeditious attack sent an already injured Eubank crashing to the canvas for a second time in 20 seconds. With Eubank’s second fall, Loughlin called it, waving his arms to a visibly dismayed Eubank securing Smith’s win by TKO 1m 9s into round 4.
The ensuing scenes were complete bedlam with members of both fighters’ camps descending upon the ring as Smith’s predominantly home crowd erupted into exaltation.
The loss, Eubank’s third of his professional career, incidentally now putting him level with Smith on losses, will come as a blow to the seasoned fighter. Losing in as big a fight as this won’t help quash the growing trend of him coming up short when stepping up to a big fight, be it Saunders, Groves or now Smith. Smith on the other hand provided a stunning display of scouse masterclass, returning from a shaky third round with an explosive victory, surely dispelling any remonstrations to the efficacy of his ‘slow starting’ style.
Whether Eubank will activate the rematch clause in his contract remains yet to be seen, though this seems unlikely given Smith’s declaration that any rematch would take place on ‘my [his] terms … at 157 or 158 [lbs]’. Regardless, Smith’s undeniable skill in TKO-ing a fighter as experienced as Eubank, not to mention Eubank’s 2” height and 6cm reach advantage, only reaffirms his place at the forefront of British boxing.
A night of glory for Smith, and one to forget for Eubank.
Image description: A pair of boxing gloves
Image credit: Danielaarceo123 via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)