Liam Smith vs Chris Eubank Jr revisited: The shock and the fall – how the first fight unfolded


Liam Smith always believed he had the beating of Chris Eubank Jr and he proved that in astonishing fashion when they fought in January; now Smith seeks to maintain that dominance, as Eubank Jr looks for redemption, when they rematch this Saturday, live on Sky Sports Box Office

Liam Smith vs Chris Eubank Jr revisited: The shock and the fall - how the first fight unfolded

The sight was shocking. Chris Eubank Jr crumpled on the canvas, his eyes glassy, his right glove reaching up to clasp the middle rope.

Liam Smith stood over him, just for a moment, nodded and spun away to let the referee take up a count. Eubank was down.

Eubank Jr was famous as the son of a legend of British boxing, Chris Senior. But he was also renowned in his own right as fighter of particular toughness.

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Liam Smith vs Chris Eubank Jr revisited: The shock and the fall - how the first fight unfolded

The public, even the crowd in the arena that was cheering wildly for Smith, had not believed the Liverpudlian could put Eubank Jr down, let alone drop, stop and hurt him badly.

In that instant Smith was vindicated. He had insisted prior that in a past sparring session he had got to Eubank with a body shot. Now, in the most public spectacle possible, he had demonstrated he could break his rival’s resistance with a shot to the chin as well.

Yet in boxing even the most conclusive finish imaginable – a knockout – can somehow become questioned. Perhaps only Eubank Jr could dismiss it as a “flash knockdown”, a “miracle”, a “freak” occurrence which, in Eubank’s reckoning, the referee should have allowed him to fight his way out of.

That ironclad self-belief led Eubank Jr to trigger his rematch clause to force this second fight, which takes place at the AO Arena in Manchester on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Box Office.

He is sure that, with one last chance, he can change it all.

Smith finished their first fight in the fourth round. Eubank takes confidence from the first three, and it is fair to say that those early rounds were close.

The Viewers’ Verdict, the function on the Sky Sports app that allows you to live score a contest, had them level 29-29 going into that fateful fourth round.

Even Smith wouldn’t disagree with that. “Because there was nothing in the fight,” he told Sky Sports.

“I took more clean shots against Hassan [Mwakinyo],” he continued with a note of surprise. “I never even got going.”

Liam Smith vs Chris Eubank Jr revisited: The shock and the fall - how the first fight unfolded

If the opening exchanges were comparatively quiet, the crowd wasn’t. Smith’s reception in the arena was deafening and the delirious cheering for him continued even once he’d completed his ringwalk.

Eubank, ever ready to play the villain, stood on the ring apron to gaze out, to stare at the faces jeering him, cheering him, booing him, shouting who knows what. A showman too, naturally he vaulted the top rope and unleashed a fast flurry of uppercuts at empty air, gearing himself up.

But if he fed off that opprobrium in the arena, he didn’t tear after Smith. Instead he looked to box behind his jab. He cycled from side to side, sometimes tapping Smith with that jab, sometimes pawing the air. There were hints that he was finding his timing. He did intercept Smith as he stepped forward. But his arms were loose, his hands too wide.

He wasn’t dissuading Smith from closing in and the Liverpudlian kept his gloves high and tight, slipping to the side or weaving his head away from those jabs.

Liam Smith vs Chris Eubank Jr revisited: The shock and the fall - how the first fight unfolded

In the first round Smith had countered that left with a stern right cross. He continued to tap Eubank with that back hand in the second, marking him out. Smith was the fighter moving forward and he was getting reactions out of his opponent, obliging Eubank to throw his punches before he could sit down on his shots.

Even if there had not been much between them in the first two rounds, Smith was just starting to exert control. Walking away from Eubank at the close of one of the initial rounds Smith had winked at him. He was smiling at something he’d seen.

Trainer Joe McNally had urged Smith to keep Eubank throwing: “You need to keep that mental pressure on him.”

What Eubank will take heart from was the cracking uppercuts he landed in the third.

His jabs from the hip might have been loose, but with half a minute left in the round he drove a right uppercut through Smith’s guard.

Eubank saw that success and repeated the shot. A particularly savage right uppercut, curving through on the inside jolted Smith’s head on his shoulders. For a moment then it looked like Junior’s kind of fight.

George Groves, the former world champion who’s boxed Eubank, reflected: “What you can’t do with Chris Eubank Jr is stand still.”

Roy Jones, the boxing legend training him, was well pleased with what he saw. “You beat his *** that round,” he cried when Eubank returned to his stool.

Even McNally admonished Smith: “Don’t stay in the oven, do you understand me?”

Liam Smith vs Chris Eubank Jr revisited: The shock and the fall - how the first fight unfolded

But Smith insists he was not phased. Later he told Sky Sports: “He got a lot of credit for round three. Thirty seconds at the end of round three, he landed a good uppercut and I thought the round’s gone so I’m just going to make him keep throwing and he gets giddy with the uppercut and throws it a few times. Two uppercuts land.

“It was just down to me holding my feet. The first time in the fight I held my feet and basically tried to be a macho man, was just standing with my hands up.

“Every time I moved my head, the only shot he really landed was sometimes on the end of jabs when again the only thing that surprised me was how long his arms were off the end of his jab,” Smith continued.

“The uppercut that landed didn’t surprise me. It was probably his best shot but it was more just down to me being a little bit macho. Staying, thinking, ‘Well, come on then!'”

Instantly at the start of the fourth round Smith turned the fight back in his favour.

He directed Eubank Jr back into his own corner. Pinned there, he had nowhere left to move. The ensuing combination from Smith just flowed naturally.

Smith’s left uppercut flew up. Eubank reared back from it, but Smith blasted his right straight in, hard. Eubank bobbed down, looking to manoeuvre himself away but he was constrained by the rigging of the ropes.

Following left hooks harried him, they didn’t quite connect. But a tremendous left uppercut tipped his head and his chin back out into the air. The cross just missed, only for a massive, finishing left hook to collide with his jaw and pitch him down into the deck.

Liam Smith vs Chris Eubank Jr revisited: The shock and the fall - how the first fight unfolded

If the public hadn’t had expected to see Eubank there, he certainly had never thought he’d find himself stricken on the deck in this fight.

With that hand on the ropes, he instinctively winched himself upwards, back on to his feet. But his legs, his balance had deserted him and he wobbled on his heels, unsteady and uncertain.

He did want to go on and the referee let him. Smith did not hesitate. He stepped forward and uncorked a flush right cross directly on the head, his hands dropping to flurry hooks at Eubank’s trunk.

Eubank listed forward, his arms out to grab Smith, to clinch, to hold on and try to keep himself upright. But just as he was reaching for his antagonist, Smith pivoted out from the tangle, leaving Eubank to career headlong into the ropes and return to the canvas.

He stumbled up, in the fog of pain and distraction that Muhammad Ali called the ‘Near Room,’ the place that, when hurt in a boxing ring, he imagined inside he could see “neon, orange and green lights blinking, and bats blowing trumpets and alligators playing trombones”.

Eubank was dazed. Stunned badly. The referee stopped him, waving off the fight. Even his cornerman Roy Jones was poised with the white towel ready, about to pull him out.

But Eubank, running on pure instinct at this stage still wanted to fight. He blundered forward after Smith, barely aware, it seemed, that the bout was done.

Smith saw him coming and braced, with his own fists ready again. It was his trainer Joe McNally who spotted it and strode in to embrace Eubank Jr, hold him, and calm at once any potential for chaos.

Eubank would late claim the finish was “inconclusive” and there is no doubt he wanted to go on. His bravery, if it ever had been, could not be questioned.

But Smith is a professional prizefighter. He knew instantly when he had that contest won.

Liam Smith vs Chris Eubank Jr revisited: The shock and the fall - how the first fight unfolded

“People are missing, the first right hand wobbled him to his boots. The last left hook was probably the weakest shot of them all maybe. The left hook just before the left hook that drops him was a big shot. But again just Chris being Chris,” he told Sky Sports.

The combination that sealed the first knockdown and, essentially, the fight was a fine piece of work.

“It was good variety,” Smith said. “There was a straight right hand, there was left hooks involved in it. I think it was nine, 10, 11 punches, a flurry before the last left hook dropped Chris.

“It was good, a good combination.”

Sometimes in boxing, when you know, you know.

“I knew I hurt him. Once I knew his legs were gone, I knew I’d stop him,” he said. “There were two minutes left in the round and there was no way I was going to let him hear the bell.”

Liam Smith vs Chris Eubank Jr revisited: The shock and the fall - how the first fight unfolded

For Eubank, ahead of Saturday’s rematch, it has to be a teachable moment.

“It’s all exciting stuff,” he told Sky Sports. “I enjoy the experience of it.

“It’s made me more respectful of the game. Now I know that even if you’re in there with a guy who isn’t a big puncher – and I’ve been in there with big punchers – things can still happen.

“That’s a good lesson learned in my opinion.”

How he reacts to that though will only be known when he fights Smith this second time.

Liam Smith vs Chris Eubank Jr II is live on Sky Sports Box Office on Saturday. Book it now


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