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Eubank Jnr vs Benn: Anatomy of a nostalgic superfight

PUT the two surnames together, in any order, and you are immediately transported back to a golden era that was defined by two rivals exchanging some of the fiercest blows ever seen in a British ring. This nostalgia isn’t only applicable to you, hardcore boxing fan. Utter Benn-Eubank, or if you prefer, Eubank-Benn, and plenty of a certain age will have their ears pricked. The old Big Fight Live theme tune (baaambaaam-baaam-baaam-baaaaaaam-BAM-BAM-BAM!) will play in their heads as they remember the two rip-roaring battles the enemies shared. So it figures that if the sons of Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn come together in a sumptuous domestic showdown, on October 8 at the O2 Arena, it will surely generate more attention than any other fight between two Britons, Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua notwithstanding, could possibly generate. Chris Eubank Jnr versus Conor Benn is ballsy matchmaking. It’s box office gold. Even if you’re yet to buy into it, and even the naysayers already know that resistance is futile, this will be, if it happens, truly unmissable come fight night. WEIGHT ISSUES With Eubank Jnr currently campaigning in the middleweight division and Benn down at welterweight, a reported catchweight of 156lbs is likely. This is where the matchup can be criticised. There are of course weight divisions for good reason and neither can claim that 156 is their ideal number. For Benn, who has fought at 147 his entire career and never once suggested making that limit is problematic, it’s akin to the leap in mass made by both Amir Khan (versus Canelo Alvarez) and Kell Brook (versus Gennady Golovkin) in 2016. Khan and Brook subsequently endured horrendous beatings that unquestionably affected their careers. Yet now and again – see Manny Pacquiao feasting on Oscar De La Hoya in 2008 – the rising fighter thrives with the extra muscle. Eubank has campaigned successfully at super-middleweight, he hasn’t weighed below 159lbs since 2014 and has never been as low as 156. Regardless, he’ll insist dropping the extra pounds won’t be a problem. But he’ll certainly feel it. He will be 33 come October and some have predicted he could miss weight and forfeit some of his purse. That scenario is unwelcome, unfair, unsafe, and from BN’s point of view, unlikely. Ronnie Davies, Junior’s long-time baby-sitter-cum-chauffeur-cum-coach, has long been against fighters dramatically cutting weight so expect some serious measures to be taken behind the scenes to make the drop sensibly. When they go nose-to-nose, though, Eubank figures to be the noticeably bigger man. At 5ft 11ins, to Benn’s 5ft 8ins, the Brightonian’s advantages in height and reach could be striking when the fighting begins, too.
Conor Benn
Benn at welterweight (Matchroom)
WHO IS THE A-SIDE? Eubank Jnr will be on the left hand side of the posters and he will walk to the ring last. This is of course understandable given his experience and status is superior to his opponent’s. Eubank Jnr, 32-2 (23), has been a professional since 2011 and has fought some top names at both 160 and 168. Benn’s only recently upped his competition level and his record, 21-0 (14), lacks victories over top fighters who could claim to be at their best when encountering the Londoner, who made his pro debut in 2016. Both fighters are regarded among the most exciting in Britain. Style-wise, this one looks certain to entertain and, at first glance, could favour Eubank. He has struggled against quality, educated boxers like Billy Joe Saunders and George Groves but any fighter that goes looking for him tends to come off second best. Furthermore, Benn’s chin is yet to be tested by fists as potent as Eubank’s. However, though it can be rightly argued that Benn has never fought anyone as accomplished as Junior, it’s also true that Eubank’s record isn’t exactly bursting at the seams with wins over young and ambitious punchers like Benn. HISTORICAL SIGNFICANCE Sceptics will tell you {that a} fight between two fighters from different divisions who have not proved themselves to be the best in the world should not be regarded so highly and, when compared to what their fathers were doing all those years ago, it’s a no-contest in terms of significance. By the time Eubank and Benn met in the ring in 1990 it was indeed a massive deal. On primetime ITV, it drew huge audiences that simply cannot be matched today given the viewing habits and options available to consumers in 2022. Yet when the fight was announced, Eubank was not yet a household name. Also consider this: When Benn met Eubank, the best wins on his record were over Doug De Witt and Iran Barkley, who suffered his third consecutive defeat at the hands of the “Dark Destroyer”; the best Chris could boast was beating Hugo Antonio Corti and Kid Milo. Though Benn was already a huge attraction, it’s fair to say he was not regarded as the world’s best middleweight, far from it. None of that affected the appeal of the bout nor its ability to enthral. By virtue of their fight and the accomplishments that followed, Benn and Eubank saw their reputations grow considerably. It can be argued that Junior, having been in with Billy Joe Saunders, James DeGale, George Groves, Arthur Abraham and Liam Williams is actually more advanced than either of the previous generation at the time of their 1990 barnburner. Conor Benn is thus far unproven at the highest level but, in a way, that only heightens the appeal of this contest. Throw in the involvement of their fathers (and Roy Jones Jnr as Eubank’s coach) and this has the potential to leave a sizeable mark in British boxing history.
Chris Eubank
Chris Eubank takes a shot from Nigel Benn
PEAK FACTOR Eubank, approaching his mid-thirties, may already have peaked for all we know. Though there has been some promising moments during his reinvention under Jones Jnr, we’re yet to see the ferocity that accompanied wins over the likes of Nick Blackwell, Spike O’Sullivan and Avni Yildirim in 2015-2017 when he was arguably at his best. However, though it’s fair to say Eubank’s form – or, rather, his development – has plateaued in recent years it would be untrue to state he’s shown any signs of decline. His recent win over Williams was one of his better showings. It’s therefore perfectly feasible, on an occasion like this, that the best is yet to come. Benn’s progress is to be greatly admired and he is yet to experience a loss, whereas Eubank has two on his ledger. The confidence of Benn has unquestionably been buoyed by his recent destructions of fading welterweight contenders and, for a fighter as naturally savage as Conor, that self-belief is one of his biggest strengths. In contrast to his opponent, Benn is showing marked improvement with every passing outing. He is seven years younger, too. When it comes to hunger, something both have in spades, the younger Benn might have the edge but a fight of this size will inflame the desire of both men. When it comes to experience, size, and proven world class ability, however, then Eubank – on paper – leads the way by a considerable margin. PAY-PER-VIEW? Boxing News understands that, should it occur, for DAZN subscribers it will come at a cost of £16.99 with the price £24.98 for non-subscribers. The latter is in line with recent Sky Sports pay-per-views and, with the added benefit of a cost saving if a subscriber, this provides the channel – which will go to town on this event – with a significant growth opportunity.  However, for those who have only dipped in and out of boxing since the original Eubank and Benn were in their Nineties pomps, whether the lure of seeing their sons go at it will persuade them to download the DAZN app is another matter entirely. It is believed that DAZN creatives are exploring different ways to make the purchasing process as simple as possible. Whether it’s as easy as merely pressing a button – undoubtedly a factor in why Sky Sports PPVs fare so well – remains to be seen. The question of value for money cannot be answered until after the fight and only you can decide if you want to pay for it or not. But when compared to recent fights that have been on PPV platforms, this bout – particularly here in the UK – is certainly big enough. The publicity drive will transcend the sport. Social media will be awash with the rivalry, newspapers will lap it up and expect old school marketing platforms – like prime time terrestrial television – to be utilised alongside more contemporary techniques. Even if the fight ultimately falls short, this will feel MASSIVE in the days and weeks leading up to it.
Chris Eubank Jr
Is Eubank in his prime or past it? (Stu Forster/Getty Images)
WHO WINS? BN is not in the business of predicting fights that are months away. However, the early odds would seem about right at this juncture. Eubank Jnr is currently 8/13 favourite with Benn priced at 13/8. It is easy to envision Eubank overpowering the smaller Benn in the first half of the fight or even using his newfound skills at range to outbox Conor over the 12-round distance. But Benn has surprised almost all of us in recent years and his ferocious attitude, combined with fast hands and one-punch power, could surprise us, and Eubank, again. Eubank, though seemingly robust, is yet to meet anyone close to their peak with such quick arms. Benn’s technique has improved immeasurably in a short space of time. Far from a one-dimensional slugger, Benn has exhibited intelligent approach play before launching fight-ending blows. The early feeling is that Eubank will ultimately prove too big and skilled but there’s enough doubt to make this one very appealing. Throw in the backstory, the various characters who will be involved, and the event’s ability to transcend, and it’s one we’re already excited about.
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