Like many others, I had written off Chris Eubank Jr to a certain degree. I had wondered, essentially, whether the desire was still there and just whether he could do it any more.
I wasn’t sure based on what we saw in the first fight against Liam Smith.
On Saturday night, in the rematch, he proved us all wrong.
In many ways, I think it was the best performance of Eubank’s career because he was an underdog in the eyes of many, written off because of the manner of how he lost to Smith the first time.
Obviously, Smith is no slouch but Eubank has been in with bigger guys, more established guys, and that is why many picked him to win their initial fight.
But right here and now, where he’s at in his career and with all those question marks above his head, this was his most significant win for sure.
The comeback showed amazing resilience. That self-belief and confidence is something I always like to see in fighters but to be that far behind in terms of what people think of him and still turn up and perform like that shows real heart.
We used to spar back in the day and that always impressed me about him, he was a beast.
To be honest, Saturday night was kind of like how I pictured the first fight going.
It made a lot more sense to me before the fight was ever made. But the fact he got wiped out last time just didn’t seem right.
There must have been something wrong but the thinking was that maybe he had just got old, it happens. Fighters get old, boxing catches up with them and they can’t do it any more.
But I think the loss might have been a blessing because he switched on, he turned up focused and determined to do a job. He looked good on the scales, didn’t look drained or like he’d crashed it.
On the ring walk, there were no nostrils flaring, no posturing. It was just ‘I am prepared for this, I am ready to go’. It showed.
The gameplan was great and he had to use mental strength to stick to that. First off, he was trying to control Smith with the jab, win those exchanges, and it worked well.
He varied it, head and body, and Smith, who started slow, just couldn’t keep up. He just couldn’t get any good work off.
Teaming up with Brian ‘BoMac’ Mcintyre was a very good move and it paid off big. He clearly assisted with that discipline in the game plan.
I’m ringside and I can hear the corner shouting “back on the jab” and Eubank is actually listening. Rightly so, because it was working for him all night.
In round four, Eubank catches him with the uppercut and it has a devastating effect and Smith goes down.
But for the first time in both their fights, it suddenly looked like a big middleweight against a not-so-big one. Smith sort of crumbled in front of him.
From thereon in, your mindset changes. It’s no longer Smith just warming into the fight, it’s actually Smith never in a position to throw anything meaningful. It’s up to Eubank then to keep that mental strength, to stick to his plan and perform how he did.
The stoppage was deserved. It was target practice by the end.
Can Eubank become a world champion?
People are talking about a rematch. It is of course 1-1 now, and that’s why we could see it again.
Maybe that would be fair, but I’m sure Eubank will look for bigger options, bigger fights for more money.
I’m sure he will feel it is now a case of job done against Smith, given how he performed.
I think he is well within his rights to do that. It may not seem fair but when you’re the bigger name and you lose the first time, you can put it down to something going wrong, maybe it being a bit of a fluke, but then you win the rematch and move on.
I’m not sure that trilogy fight comes off now.
Eubank spoke about now wanting to win a world title, something he has not managed to do as of yet.
This was a good performance and certainly Smith is a world level fighter, although he did not fight at world level on Saturday night.
He wasn’t very with it, just wasn’t at the races. But can Eubank become a world champion?
Given the right circumstances, he can.
He was in the ring calling out Gennady Golovkin, who hasn’t got a belt at the moment, but is a former unified champion.
That’s a fight that might make sense now but you’d have to go and do some serious research to see what Golovkin has got left in order to pick a winner in that fight. I’m not sure where I would land on that.
Eubank has sometimes been a polarising figure but I think this will be a big win for him when it comes to public opinion.
I think it starts with all of us within the industry to give credit where credit’s due. He comes out into a Smith-heavy crowd, there’s a lot of booing but he did what he intended to do.
A lot of the boos turned to cheers in the end, there was a lot of respect earned.
I think the win will have done great for him in the British public eye and long may it continue.