For many years Chris Eubank Jr thought no one could teach him. Then he met Roy Jones. Matt Christie sits down with the new team inside the Bubble
CHRIS EUBANK JR shovels chips into his mouth as his new trainer, Roy Jones Jr, sits nearby with his backside on one chair, his feet on another and checks his phone. The duo exude contentment inside the latest Matchroom Boxing bubble in Manchester. There is no awkwardness, no sign of any jostling egos and, even though Eubank is due to weigh-in for his middleweight clash with Marcus Morrison in just two days’ time, no rollickings for over-indulging at lunch.
“I’m blessed with a body that just knows when I’ve got to cut weight,” Eubank tells Boxing News. “I’ve never had an issue with making weight. At super-middleweight I’d have to eat breakfast on the day of the weigh-in to make 168 and then I’d eat for 24 hours straight, as much as I could, and I’d get into the ring at 168. I wouldn’t put a pound on. The guys I was fighting would be putting 15lbs on so that’s why I’m happier to be a middleweight.”
Jones Jr gained pounds, lost them and won titles in four weight classes with dizzying speed, power and flair. He is regarded as one of the greatest fighters in history. The appeal to Eubank, who for so many years rejected the idea he could be taught anything by anyone, is obvious.
Yet it’s often been said that great fighters rarely make good trainers. The thinking goes that they have such high standards they get frustrated when their pupils fail to perform to a similar level.
“I can’t relate to that at all because I don’t train guys to try and be me,” Jones, 52, tells BN when the theory is put to him. “I train guys to maximise their DNA. So maximising your DNA is going to be a lot different to maximising my DNA.
“When I was young I learned how to box then I learned where, genetically, I was different to other people. One of my genetic differences was my speed. The other was to improvise or to pick something up and transition that into a boxing ring. Some people can’t do that. So you can’t expect them to do what I do – I was different animal. God made me, then he made you, then he made him, then he made her. He didn’t make us all the same. So, no, you can’t expect them to do what you do, you’ve got to expect them to do what you tell them to do. And that is, to maximise their genetics.
“So I just try to add to what he already has. It’s not like everything he was doing is wrong but he may need a little bit more if he wants to get to the top and win at the top. So we’re just trying to add those extra ingredients that he needs to get him over the top.”
It’s true that Eubank, particularly when losing to George Groves in 2018, looked like he was missing the finesse and patience to go with his undoubted stamina and strength.
“He needs a few things,” Jones agrees. “He needs timing with his explosiveness. He’s very explosive but sometimes he goes way up here and then comes way back down here for a while – and that causes a bad balance. But if you bring that down, and bring that up, then that creates a better balance. All I’m trying to do is give him a better balance.”
The paths of Eubank and Jones crossed in Las Vegas last year prior to the world plunging into lockdown. Within weeks the fighter asked the former champion to train him. “He called and asked me to be his trainer,” Jones recalls. “I said, ‘Of course, come and see how you like it.’ I was expecting him to come and then go away again and make a decision. But he came and he stayed [laughs].”
Eubank – not so long ago a fixture on the streets of Brighton wearing expensive clothes driving his McLaren – moved to Jones’ farm in Pensacola, Florida and went to work. He soon found that training with Jones, and being surrounded by animals of all shapes and sizes, was the polar opposite of the life he had grown accustomed to on the south coast.
Eubank explains: “That’s the thing about Pensacola, Florida – there’s not a whole lot going on down there. I’m a city boy. I love Las Vegas, London, Brighton. I love training in those environments. I didn’t have to put myself in that situation, I didn’t have to surround myself with racoons and armadillos and drive a pick-up truck to and from the gym every day, instead of a McLaren. I didn’t have to do any of that. I could have stayed comfortable. But I chose to put myself in that position because I want to get better. Boxing is about sacrifice and doing the things you don’t want to do to become a better fighter.
“I knew I needed to use Covid, the time, to try and improve. Even though I haven’t fought, I still think I’ve improved as a fighter. I don’t think many fighters during Covid can say that. Most guys stayed the same or they got worse because they weren’t training or fighting or pushing themselves. I feel like I’ve gone up. I’m very happy to get back in the ring and show everyone what I’ve been working on over the last year-and-a-half.”
“In my eyes he has improved tremendously,” Jones says. “But what he has to improve on for me is going to be hard to see right away. You’re not really going to able to tell until you get into a world class fight because he was good enough to beat these guys [like Morrison] before I met him. I think he’s added another dimension to his game now and I think you’ll see that more when he gets into a fight with a bigger name. He’ll be able to compete mentally and physically. He’s always been able to compete physically but when it got mental, he would lose it sometimes. Now he can compete mentally and physically, and that’s what I like the most.”
The contest with Morrison is widely regarded as a mismatch. Eubank is a 1/50 favourite and he laughs when asked how many times it’s been put to him that he’s overlooking his opponent. “Every single interview,” Eubank chuckles. “The answer is the same. I’m not overlooking the guy, I am not underestimating him. This is a multi-million pound fight for me because if I was lose to this fight, I won’t get that money in the future. I won’t get those title shots. I cannot lose this fight so, no, I am not and will not overlook Marcus Morrison.”
Jones also adds caution to what on paper appears a straightforward assignment. “Having been a fighter you understand things from the fighter’s perspective. So one of the most important things I told him [Eubank] yesterday was, once he’d got out of the isolation, ‘This guy is in his hometown and he’s not here to lose, he’s here to make the upset. Nobody wants to give up on their own yard so we can’t just think he’s some guy. We have to take him serious because he’s at home. If we don’t take him serious, we could find ourselves in trouble.’ So no matter how good we are, or how good I am as a trainer or how good he is as a fighter, we can’t overlook the hometown guy.”
Morrison’s hometown is nothing like Jones’ hometown. The former fighter glances out of the window at the grey skies and the bustling streets. It is to him what a farm on Pensacola was to Eubank. “It’s completely alien to me,” Jones says about Manchester. He laughs heartily, looks again at his surroundings and shakes his head. “But just like he made the sacrifice to come to me, I make the sacrifice to come to him. He came there and worked for me and now I come here and work for him.”
Fight fans are accustomed to seeing Eubank with a different superstar of the nineties by his side, his father Chris Eubank Sr. The enigmatic Brightonian is not here but he has, Junior insists, given his son’s new relationship his blessing. Jones talks to Senior on the phone, Eubank says, and the old rivals who never fought each other in the ring now have a common bond.
Even so, it’s peculiar not to see father and son together. They became one of the most fascinating staples of the British fight scene as Senior talked up his son while Junior bristled in the background. From the moment he turned professional on a Tyson Fury undercard in this same city 10 years ago, Junior has been seen by many as a prickly character. Today he is relaxed and effortless to talk to. It’s natural to wonder if the absence of Senior has eased the pressure on this young man’s shoulders.
Junior agrees that the constant comparisons with his father grew tiresome in the end: “Of course. But I don’t feel like that pressure is there any more. I feel like I’ve done enough in the sport to create my own legacy. I have proved that I am the real deal. I’ve proved that I’m fully dedicated to the sport, that I’m serious, I’m elite. It’s up to me to build and build and do the things that I say I’m going to do.”
With his father’s unconditional support he moves forward with his new leader. Eubank Jr and Roy Jones Jr are aiming for the very top.
“The goal for the end of this year is Gennady Golovkin,” the fighter purrs. “However I get to that fight is still to be determined. I want to fight three times this year. So I want to fight two more times after this. And I want Golovkin at the end. There’s a lot of big names out there, a lot of big fights. So we’ll have a big fight in the summer and then Golovkin after that. That’s the plan.”