- Chris Eubank with Martin Roach, Chris Eubank: The Autobiography (London, 2003)
Some great Welsh-interest angles concerning Eubank’s watershed 1997 showdown with Joe Calzaghe at the Sheffield Arena.
pp. 321-4: “p.321 – “There is an exceptionally skilled fighter called Joe Calzaghe whom I took a bout against at 11 days’ notice after his proposed fight with Steve Collins fell through. Despite Calzaghe’s impressive reputation, I was prepared to enter the ring with him with less preparation than would be ideal for such a contest.
“I had been training for a fight against undefeated Londoner, Mark Prince, for the WBO Inter-Continental light heavyweight belt. Consequently, I had been using sparring partners that matched his style and bigger size but that did not deter me from accepting the Calzaghe match. This was a good opportunity to regain the WBO super-middleweight title so I was keen to accept the gauntlet that had been thrown my way – indeed, I said at the time it was like ‘winning the lottery’ just to get the shot. I looked at his record, unbeaten in 22 fights with 10 first-round knockouts and 21 early finishes in all. He was also the three-times national schoolboy champion and a triple ABA champion. He could obviously box and punch, but I wondered if he had fought anyone of pedigree yet. After all, I had been in 21 world-title fights. Even though I was always in superb condition, to accept the bout was nonetheless a brave decision but one Ronnie [Davies] probably would have advised against if he had still been with me at the time. I did acknowledge that I was ‘worried’ about certain aspects of the fight, probably the first time in my career I used that word. That said, I was much more relaxed around the boxing business now, I even told the press I was having fun!”
[Eubank had been having knee problems and had an injection half an hour before the fight, something that would cause him big problems later in his career:]
“I was concerned the knee would play up on the night, especially if you recall the emphasis my style placed on multi-directional foot movements.”
[Eubank discusses the weight problems he had before the fight. Says he went on a liquidised fruit and vegetable diet to make the weight, eventually coming in four ounces under the 12st limit]
[Despite all the problems:]
“I came out of the corner for round one smiling. I was moving around and sizing up the terrain, when ‘Boom!’ Calzaghe hit me with a huge shot that literally came out of nowhere and knocked me down. A first-round knockdown had never happened to me in my entire career. As I picked myself up from the canvas and brushed myself down, I thought to myself: ‘You’ve got your work cut out tonight, guy.’
“My constitution was strong enough to soak up the damage that punch might have done in the longer term, so once I had regained my poise, I thought to myself: ‘I will knock on your door in the 10th or 11th round but, boy, am I going to have to take some stick in the meantime.’ I had no problem with being in the trenches for a while; after all, in some fights, not least [Michael] Watson 2, I had lived in there permanently. Calzaghe had very fast hands and an awkward southpaw style, so he proved to be quite a handful. I know how to absorb punishment, take it and give it back, but to his credit he stayed there through to the final bell and took a unanimous decision, this was despite my promised late attack which nearly knocked him out in the final seconds. After the fight, I went to Joe and complimented him on his performance and made no excuses in the press interviews. In return, the media spoke very kindly about me, which was very welcome. Steve Bunce of the ‘Daily Telegraph’ said the bout was: ‘quite simply one of the finest fights in British boxing history’.”
“I was sitting in the bathroom of my dressing area after the fight, deflated. The eminent businessmen Rory McCarthy and Richard Branson came into the room and I was talking to them, saying ‘I can’t do this anymore, I just can’t.’ Branson said to me, ‘I can’t believe how valiant you were in there, you have inspired the whole country.’ At that point, I was buoyed by his comment but could not envisage a return match.”
“Calzaghe was undoubtedly a very good fighter but he struggled to show his ‘box office,’ which was always going to hold him back. Unfortunately, the nature of the modern game demands that to be gifted, disciplined and technically skilled is not necessarily enough. You must have character, charisma and personality as well. Boxing skills will get you talked about in the boxing press, but charisma will make you ‘box office’ and will get you to the front pages.”