After bouncing between gyms and working alone for so long, Chris Eubank Jr finally looks settled with trainer Roy Jones Jr… and after living and training on a FARM the improvements are clear to see
- Chris Eubank Jr has often been slammed for refusing to listen to instruction
- The enigmatic fighter has spent the vast majority of his career without a trainer
- Chris Eubank Snr and ‘overseer’ Ronnie Davies have played important roles
- Nate Vasquez became Eubank Jr’s first ever full-time coach in January 2019
- But now, under the stewardship of Roy Jones Jr, Eubank Jr finally looks settled
For so long, the criticism surrounding Chris Eubank Jr has remained the same: he simply will not listen. Often training alone, fallouts with the likes of Adam Booth and only appointing a full-time coach eight years into his pro career, the enigmatic fighter has certainly contributed to his own hardships in the squared circle.
But now, with a settled and prolonged period working under the stewardship of the legendary Roy Jones Jr, a figure Eubank Jr quite clearly has respect in abundance for, the middleweight finally looks to be putting ego to one side.
The results are clear for all to see: two fights, two wins, two solid performances – though with the necessary caveat that neither Marcus Morrison nor Wanik Awdijan were expected to cause too much trouble.
Chris Eubank Jr (right) looks settled under the guidance of the legendary Roy Jones Jr (left)
He takes on Liam Williams (right) on February 5 with both fighters targeting a world title shot
It’s the manner of the performances that have impressed the masses, though. Controlled, poised, measured – words typically not associated with the bullish, brash fighter who has fallen short against two superior technicians in the past, Billy Joe Saunders and George Groves, though also defeating James DeGale in 2019.
On February 5, Eubank Jr will face his toughest test of the Jones Jr era, as he shares the ring with recent world title contender Liam Williams, another British rival with whom he shares plenty of dislike.
The pair will go head-to-head in Williams’ backyard in Cardiff, Wales, in a bout Eubank Jr is expected to win. And with a world title shot his immediate goal, the 32-year-old will once again look to show what he and his newfound mentor have been working on.
Similar to the current situation with Conor Benn, who was immediately placed under the spotlight upon turning professional by virtue of his famous surname, Eubank Jr has also had the weight of the world on his shoulders ever since his pro debut, a fourth-round TKO win over Kiril Psonko back in 2011.
But unlike Benn, who is now exceeding expectation having emerged as a major prospect in the welterweight division in the last 18 months, there was a belief that Eubank Jr would be further ahead than he is now.
Indeed, there are extenuating circumstances: one being the emergence of Covid shortly after his momentum-building win over DeGale. But more pertinently, he has fallen short on the two occasions he has faced genuine elite-level opposition.
It’s fair to say it’s been a source of frustration for those around him. For both losses against Saunders in 2014 and Groves in 2018, as has been the case for much of his career, it was father Chris Eubank Snr and Ronnie Davies, described by Jr as an ‘overseer’, who were in the corner, rather than an official trainer.
Eubank Jr would briefly work with widely-respected trainer Booth – who has trained the likes of Groves and David Haye – before a disagreement in sparring saw them swiftly part.
Eubank Jr has fallen short against both Billy Joe Saunders (left) and George Groves (right)
Father Chris Eubank Snr (left) and ‘overseer’ Ronnie Davies (right) were in the corner for both
Davies was left highly disappointed after both defeats, insisting his fighter failed to listen to instruction on each occasion. ‘The frustrating thing is he beat himself,’ he said after the Groves fight.
‘It’s so frustrating when you have a boy of that talent not listening. His father and me kept saying, “you have got to close him down because you’re letting him fight his fight”.’
Davies even questioned the appointment of Nate Vasquez in 2019, Eubank Jr’s first-ever full-time coach, believing the Brit would once again opt not to listen.
In fact, it was quite the contrary. Vasquez revealed Eubank Jr was receptive in training as they formulated a perfect game plan to defeat an admittedly declining DeGale, who retired following the loss.
Perhaps it’s unsurprising Eubank Jr’s first major win was while working with a full-time trainer for the first time. But, in a typical tale in the boxer’s story, their relationship also quickly came to an end, after Vasquez found out via word of mouth that his new pupil was training at Virgil Hunter’s gym in California.
Eubank Jr appointed Nate Vasquez (right) as his first-ever full-time trainer for his fight against former world champion James DeGale, which he won
Vasquez subsequently insisted he wasn’t upset with Eubank Jr, but advised the middleweight to stop jumping between trainers and instead employ someone full-time – and that’s exactly what he did.
Incredibly, it was by chance that the partnership was formed. Eubank Jr met his future coach while on holiday in America in February 2020, where they got talking. It was then Eubank Snr – a contemporary of Jones Jr – who got in contact with the legendary figure, and the rest is history.
With the emergence of the pandemic shortly after, and with Floyd Mayweather’s gym – where he had been working – closed, Eubank Jr opted to stay and train with Jones Jr for the next year, swapping city life for life on a farm.
Eubank Jr’s maturity, both inside and out of the ring, grew in that period.
The British middleweight joined forces with the legendary Jones Jr towards the start of 2020
A post shared by Chris Eubank Jr (@chriseubankjr)
‘Out there on the land is how Roy prefers to live,’ he said. ‘I didn’t have to do this. But if I wanted to learn from the master I had to be there. It wasn’t easy to immerse myself in that. Apart from Roy I knew nobody there. I had no friends there. No family.
‘The nearest town was Pensacola. After training I would drive back to my apartment there. I watched a lot of TV. Occasionally I would chill with one of Roy’s other boxers.
‘But mostly I was by myself. I just had to get used to it. The farm and being alone. And me, a city boy. It was nothing like where I was before that; in the comfort zone of my Las Vegas apartment and Floyd Mayweather’s gym. I love the hustle and bustle of Vegas and London. I enjoy the seaside buzz here in Brighton.
‘Out there on the land I had to adapt to a very different atmosphere. There were more dogs than people. I’m proud of myself that I could stick with it.
‘Roy is a genius. We knew that during all those years when he was the No 1 boxer in the world. Now, personally, I have the benefit of all that knowledge and wisdom.’
Eubank Jr returned home to the UK shortly before his May 2021 bout against Marcus Morrison, his first fight in 17 months and the first under the guidance of Jones Jr.
Appreciating that Morrison would be the ideal opponent to shed some ring-rust, the Brit also gave an insight into what could be expected on fight night.
‘It’s not about going to war every time anymore,’ he told Sky Sports. ‘It’s about being smart and not getting hit.
‘Some of those things I had lost focus on. I put that down to moving up to super-middleweight – knowing I was against guys who were naturally bigger, I got it into my head that I had to hurt them early so they didn’t bully me. I lost sight of the boxing.’
Eubank Jr showed improved calm and poise as he outworked Marcus Morrison in May 2021
Eubank Jr was true to his word. He had Morrison hurt on a number of occasions, as early as the second round, but showed previously uncharacteristic poise and maturity in the ring as he outclassed his opponent over 10 rounds.
He gave flashes of the quality, rapid combinations we’ve all become accustomed to, but mixed them in with a newfound patience clearly acquired while working with his new instructor.
‘I boxed. I had him hurt bad in the second round and probably could have ended the fight,’ Eubank Jr said after the final bell. ‘But I wanted rounds. I wanted to use some of the stuff that Roy Jones has taught me. Experience the instructions he was giving me.
‘If I see an opening, I usually take it. But I’m here to learn with a new coach. You can’t get better by knocking a guy out in the second round.’
Determined not to rest on their success, Eubank Jr insisted further improvements would be shown in his following outing, which was initially scheduled to be against Sven Elbir.
‘You saw a little taster of things to come in my fight with Marcus Morrison,’ he told Sky Sports. ‘But there is a lot more. As each fight comes you will see more improvements, more things that you haven’t seen from me in the past.
‘I didn’t know what to expect when I first showed up at his farm. I thought I’d hit the bag for five rounds, shadow-box, skip, see you tomorrow! Someone like Roy, a legend, I didn’t think he would give me his time.
‘I was completely wrong. He was onto me 100 per cent from the moment I walked in. I was amazed. I knew after the first day: this is the guy I need to spend time with.’
He then totally outclassed Wanik Awdijan in five one-sided rounds five months later in October
Eubank Jr would eventually fight two weeks later than initially planned, against Awdijan, after Elbir tested positive for Covid and replacement opponent Anatoli Muratov was ruled out on fight day after the British Boxing Board of Control raised concerns over his pre-fight medicals.
In total control throughout, Eubank Jr pressed his foot on the gas in round five, with Awdijan retiring on his stool and unable to return for round six, claiming he had broken a rib.
The middleweight was visibly disappointed not to get more rounds in the bank, but after the disruptions to the fight – and more importantly given it was his first outing following the tragic death of his brother Sebastian, who he dedicated the bout to – it was a result he will have gladly taken.
Eubank Jr had his brother’s name embroidered on his shorts for his fight against Awdijan
Jones Jr was also delighted with his fighter’s performance, again highlighting patience as a key attribute.
‘With the change of opponent we had to be ready for whoever showed up,’ Jones Jr said. He is ready for the big names and to see him patiently take someone out with body shots was a beautiful thing for me.’
The former IBO super-middleweight and WBA interim middleweight champion then insisted he would take big fights only moving forward, including a match-up with Williams in that list.
Williams, who lost via unanimous decision against WBO champion Demetrius Andrade in his previous outing, is also plotting a route back to world level ahead of their impending match-up.
In a rivalry that dates back circa 10 years, following a swift but stormy sparring session, it has yet more added spice, with Booth, who trains Eubank Jr’s cousin Harlem, recently taking on Williams as well.
While Eubank Jr has played down the significance of the match-up between the pair, Williams has insisted a winning game plan is not difficult to formulate.
Liam Williams (left) has teamed up with Adam Booth (right) ahead of February’s grudge match
‘We all know what his strengths and weaknesses are,’ he said of Eubank Jr at their press conference in November. ‘Anyone with a good jab and a bit of movement he’ll struggle with. If you stand in front of him with no head movement, he will punch holes in you. He’s very tough and durable.’
Indeed, Eubank Jr has struggled at the top level in the past. But with the clear improvements, driven by the willingness to listen to his new coach, he will now surely be a much harder man to beat.
And should he emerge victorious, as expected, perhaps it will be another world title shot next, possibly against a certain Gennady Golovkin.
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