Inside a boxer's 'warrior' mentality


Story highlights

  • Carl Frampton cuts sparring sessions
  • Eubank Jr. tells CNN sparring is essential
  • Eubank confident of beating George Groves
According to a 2013 report by the Association of Neurological Surgeons nearly 90% of boxers suffer a brain injury of some extent during their career.

No wonder then that one of the sport’s biggest names — Northern Ireland’s former two-weight world champion, Carl Frampton — has taken the unusual step of reducing the amount of sparring he does to lower the risk of developing “problems” later in life.

However, Chris Eubank Jr., a rising star of the super-middleweight division and son of former two-weight world champion Chris Eubank, has questioned Frampton’s decision and says he would never consider cutting his sparring regime.

“Every fighter is different,” Eubank Jr. told CNN Sport’s Christina MacFarlane. “For me, I believe sparring is the number one training method to becoming a great fighter so to cut that training method in half, it doesn’t sound positive to me.”

Chris Eubank Jr. competes in the World Boxing Super Series


The Eubank family knows all about the risks of brain damage associated with boxing.

In March 2016, Eubank Jr. beat a fellow British fighter called Nick Blackwell who suffered a bleed on the brain, was placed into a medically-induced coma and then forced to retire. Blackwell recovered but suffered a second serious head injury eight months later and is currently unable to walk.

“I’m celebrating. And then I turn around and Nick’s on the floor with an oxygen mask on his face and paramedics all around him,” Eubank Jr. told CNN in April 2016. “It was a shock, you don’t expect that. As a fighter, even if it’s tough you don’t expect somebody to go to hospital afterward.”

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Eubank’s father famously knocked out Michael Watson in 1991, inflicting near-fatal brain injuries on Watson who has never fully recovered.

After the 2016 Blackwell fight, leading consultant neurosurgeon Peter Hamlyn, who operated on Watson, urged the Boxing Board of Control to tell referees to stop fights earlier.

“From all the data we have looked at, post-Michael Watson, what we found was that title fights are the high-risk fights,” Hamlyn told The Daily Telegraph . “By definition these are the most dangerous fights, and the ones that should be being stopped early.”

Eubank Jr. trains in Brighton in September 2017

However, sparring is a part and parcel of the job believes the 28-year-old Eubank Jr. who has said on several occasions that he would never quit in a boxing ring.

“Yeah sparring can be dangerous or painful, but that’s something you have to go through as a fighter, to become a champion and to better yourself as a warrior.

“So, for me, I think sparring should be done, if not every day, then every other day. It should be intense, that’s how I’ve gone throughout my career but every fighter is different.”

Father and son

The British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC) recognizes the danger of brain damage and says it has “been active, and remains highly willing to join, in research particularly in areas that concern the brain”.

Earlier this year, it was reported that The British and Irish Boxing Authority (BIBA) planned to introduce a portable technology device which can detect signs of head traumas in boxers.

However, the BBBofC told BBC Sport it “does not recognise” BIBA and would carry on using its own safety policies to protect fighters.

Eubank Jr. has lost just one of his 27 professional fights and currently holds the IBO Super-Middleweight world title.

His dominant knockout-victory over Turkish fighter, Avni Yildrim, earlier this month has fired him into the semifinals of the World Boxing Super Series where he is set to face WBA world champion George Groves.

If Groves wins his quarter-final against Jamie Cox — and most experts predict he will — the all-British showdown would take place in January and Eubank is convinced he would come out on top.

“Me and George have a long history of sparring and training together,” Eubank Jr. said.

“I’m not going to go into detail but I know how I performed in those sparring sessions and that was very early on in my career and I wasn’t half the fighter then that I am now, so I’m very confident in my abilities.

George Groves beat Fedor Chudinov to win WBA Super-Middleweight World title

“I know what he is, who he is as a fighter. I know what he’s capable of and I know I can exploit the weaknesses that he has.

“It’s a huge fight, a fight that boxing fans and the British public have been asking for, for a number of years now.

“We have a rivalry, we have a history and that’s a super fight, that’s a stadium filler and that’s the type of fight I’ve been chasing my entire career.”

Eubank Jr. and his father after win over Avni Yildirim

Eubank’s father is a constant presence by his son’s side.

The 51-year-old — who is also known as “English” — is a former WBO Middleweight and Super-Middleweight world champion and remains one of the biggest names in British boxing and certainly one of the most eccentric.

His flamboyant style — often pictured with a gentleman’s cane, behind the wheel of a monster truck, or wearing a fake monocle on reality TV show “I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!” — has also made him a British household name far beyond the boxing ring.

“Cringe worthy to me?” Eubank Jr. asks. “No. I am used to him. He’s a character, he’s eccentric, he does things that aren’t orthodox but, in terms of boxing, you can’t have anyone better than that man in your corner.

“He’s one of the most experienced and known figures in boxing in British history so to have a man like that, with all his experience and advice, it’s only a benefit to me and my career. “

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