June 30th, 2016. In the last few months, the momentum of Chris Eubank Jr’s ascent into the upper tier of the middleweight division has become ever more evident from his increased media exposure and increased airtime on big fight undercards. The Blackwell fight, and its momentarily gruesome aftermath, further underlined Eubank Jr’s emboldening presence in the British and, to a certain extent, international boxing scene.
While some may argue this is largely down to him sharing the Eubank name with his father, a figure with a thrilling career himself in the fight game, it would be grossly unfair to deny Eubank Jr of the credit he deserves for his endeavors in the ring up to this point. His training regime, mental focus, and at times brutal power, have contributed to giving an undeniably menacing aura to him. But one thing that has become difficult to ignore, and has in fact become a standout feature for young Chris, is the controlling role and uncomfortably close proximity his father has in his professional life.
Parent and child bonds aren’t uncommon in sport, especially when the parent has previously had a professional career themselves in the same sport. There is nothing inherently damaging about this, on the contrary, there are countless examples that prove that an in-house relationship can propagate substantial success. It is questionable, however, just how productive and sustainable it is for an upcoming talent like Eubank Jr to have tied to him his father, a man who, even at the most inconspicuous of times, stands out like a saw thumb. From watching interviews and press conferences with the two together, the elder Eubank’s frequent interruptions, controversial interjections, and sometimes utterly irrelevant opinions already seem to be placing a strain on the people Jr will need to maintain a good relationship with in the future, namely the networks, sponsors, and promoters. Eubank Senior’s effect seems to already to be taking its toll on his former promoter’s son, Eddie Hearn. There have been nuanced reactions from him when interviewed about Eubank Senior and his comments. For Hearn, will have a bittersweet undertone to it. Although the publicity Eubank Senior brings with him must be something that a promoter will always welcome, the headaches that also result from his involvement are clearly causing pressure to build.
In the build up to Eubank Jr’s last fight against Tom Doran, Eubank Senior, for seemingly no good reason, and under no pressure to do so, thought it a good idea to make a comment about the lifestyle of his former boxing foe Nigel Benn’s son which understandably caused Conor to retort. As he accompanies Jr to press conferences and fights and speaks out on his behalf, he ceases to solely be his father and automatically positions himself as someone who represents him in a professional capacity. Under such conditions, this meddling can only serve to undermine Jr’s ability to represent himself, and complicates how he develops his image as a prizefighter and ultimately also complicates his relationship with his father.
As things stand, the relationship seems as though a collision at some point is inevitable. It would surely be better for both father and son if Eubank Senior took a step back and provide him with the support he needs, behind the scenes. Doing so now could avoid a potentially painful break-up under strained circumstances.
If the reports are correct, it seems like Chris Eubank Jr is about to embark upon a challenge so daring and so rarely seen in this sport that one can only take their hat off to such confidence and ambition. If the fight gets made, it would signal a new era in Jr’s career and therefore now may be a wise time for him to reevaluate the role his father is to play in his professional career. For Chris Eubank Jr, his father stepping out of the limelight would begin a new chapter for him, and importantly, him alone.
Photo source: https://www.instagram.com/chriseubankjr/