Chris Eubank Jr. vacated his British middleweight title after suffering a "severe" elbow injury in a sparring session ahead of his defense against mandatory challenger Tommy Langford on 22 October in Cardiff, Wales.
Like his father before him, Eubank is a polarizing figure to say the very least. Langford was left bitterly disappointed at the news, branding his foe a "time-waster," while his promoter Frank Warren claims Eubank never wanted the fight in the first place. However, Eubank has inarguably angered people with two comments made over the last couple of weeks—derision Langford and Warren could never match their plans to fight Eubank being scuppered.
Eubank's first PR faux pas came hot on the heels of Kell Brook's gutsy performance in his TKO loss to middleweight destroyer Gennady "GGG" Golovkin. The fight was called off after Sheffield native Brook's corner threw in the towel to prevent any further unnecessary punishment from being inflicted on their man—a decision which was celebrated by many in the boxing industry, including David Haye who said it was some of the best corner work he'd ever seen. Though, Eubank clearly saw it as an opportunity to mock his compatriot.
It was a move which was totally at odds with the responsible coaching from Eubank's father seen in Eubank Jr.'s March British middleweight title fight against the tough Nick Blackwell. Sensing that Blackwell was hurt, Eubank Sr. could be heard imploring referee Victor Loughlin to put a stop to this fight at ringside. Ignored and frustrated, Eubank Sr. then took it upon himself to speak to his son after the eighth round to instruct Eubank Jr. to stop punching his opponent upstairs and hit the body instead to avoid causing any further, unnecessary damage to Blackwell.
Eubank Sr. could be heard saying: "If the referee doesn't stop it, then I don't know what to tell you, but I will tell you this: one, if he doesn't stop it and we keep on beating him like this, he is getting hurt; two, if it goes to a decision, why didn't the referee stop the fight? I don't get why. So maybe you shouldn't leave it to the referee. So you're not going to take him out to the face—you're going to take him out to the body."
The fight was eventually stopped in the 10th round, after a doctor ruled Blackwell couldn't adequately see out of his eye thanks to a large, grotesque hematoma inflicted on his face. Unfortunately, Eubank Sr. was correct in his assessment—Blackwell collapsed after the fight and was rushed to the hospital where he was put into an induced coma with a bleed on his skull.
Eubank Sr. was applauded by the boxing world for his actions. But, Blackwell took issue with the Eubanks for their mini PR tour post-fight, giving interviews to the media on what happened despite the wishes of the incapacitated Blackwell's family. Both Eubanks protested their innocence and claimed to have had Blackwell's best intentions in mind throughout.
However, the statement released from the Eubank camp after Jr. had relinquished his British middleweight title totally undermines the supposed goodwill of the pair.
It's rather astonishing. You can read the full statement here. But, here's an excerpt which speaks volumes: "Eubank Jr.'s management team have advised that, in their opinion, there has not been a fighter in the history of British Boxing who has had such a vast chasm of fighting prowess between him and the contenders for the British Championship in ability, speed, strength, accuracy and skill since its inauguration by the Marquess of Queensbury in the 1800's.
"So vast, in fact, that when winning the challenge for British Championship, Chris Eubank Sr. had to advise him to leave his opponent's head alone as he was taking far too much punishment and the referee didn't see what was clear to the former world champion.
"Chris Eubank Jr. was advised to go to the body because of his father's past participation in the great game. If you can disrupt your opponent's breathing, you can effectively stop him quicker than to the head. There is strategic and tactical knowledge in the advice as well as compassion because the body can recover where the head does not always recover.
"The opponent was subsequently put into an induced coma as a result of the punishment he was made to sustain.
"It is now with relief, as it has become clear to Chris Eubank Jr.'s management over these past few months how much danger the health and lives of these contenders are in, therefore the relinquishing of the British Championship due to injury sustained in a sparring session is perhaps a blessing in disguise."
To humblebrag and revel in the near-death of an opponent is simply despicable and completely undoes all the good work from Eubank Sr., who himself has had to endure the grim realities of boxing which has seen him inflict life-threatening and life-altering injuries upon an opponent.
Eubank Sr. has continually expressed the remorse and devastation he experienced after his fight against Michael Watson in Tottenham, North London. As a result of their fight, Watson endured a 40-day coma, six brain surgeries and years of slow and painful rehabilitation in order to have the ability to live his life as "normally" as possible following their WBO super middleweight world title fight back in 1991.
Boasting of the devastating injuries inflicted on your opponents is bad form as it is. But, it totally goes against the story of sorrow and regret that Eubank Sr. has peddled for decades and the tale spun by the pair following Blackwell's coma. Boxing—combat sports in general—is heavily reliant on interesting characters to compliment the in-ring or in-cage action and there's no doubting that Eubank Jr. is one of the more intriguing figures in modern-day pugilism—he's a total chip off the old block. But, this is a new low in the annuals of the Eubank boxing legacy which will take some doing to forget.