Chris Eubank Jr: "Conor wants to avenge his father's loss"

Chris Eubank Jr vs Conor Benn is the fight of a generation. We caught up with Eubank Jr to discuss the personal history, his boxing struggles and his relationship with the Benn family

Chris Eubank Jr is in a relaxed mood. So what? Chris Eubank Jr is one of the most relaxed fighters in the game, rarely raising his voice or showing emotion of any kind. Cool customer? I doubt the man sweats in a heatwave.

But his next fight is different. His next fight is against Conor Benn, a continuation of the most famous rivalry in British boxing history. Yet while Eubank Jr recognises the stakes involved, his voice never rises when discussing the bout that might define his legacy.

“I don't think his father's ever got over that loss,” says Eubank Jr of Conor’s father, Nigel – defeated by Eubank Sr in 1990. (The rematch was drawn.) “He never will. This might be the only way that he can get over it or put it to rest, knowing that his son avenged his loss. Yeah, that's not happening.”

Whatever the outcome, the nation will be watching a fight like no other. Never in boxing history have the sons of two former rivals – let alone rivals as storied as Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn – followed their fathers’ battles with one of their own.

Speaking at the May Fair Hotel, Eubank Jr may be calmness personified – but expect fireworks come fight night.

Is this fight personal or business for you?

Both! Obviously it's a huge business fight. There are not many fights in the country that could demand this type of attention, this type of money, this type of publicity. In terms of business, this is a huge fight.

And personally, the history that this fight is stemming from? It's incredible. It makes this fight extremely personal for me because of what my father had to go through 30 years ago, fighting Nigel. The things that he had to do, the pain, sacrifice, the triumph – overcoming the demons and the doubters, making his name off of that fight. Knowing all that history, I have a responsibility to my family name to win.

The same goes for Conor – he wants to avenge his father's loss. He's going to do absolutely everything he can to do that. I don't think his father's ever got over that loss, and he never will. This might be the only way that he can get over it or put it to rest, knowing that his son avenged his loss. Yeah, that's not happening. I'm not going to let that happen.

Conor said the two of you were polar opposites, just like your fathers...

Are we polar opposites? I mean, if you're talking personality-wise, yeah. We're two completely different guys. We've walked the same path, we've been on the same journey in terms of having to build our own names in the shadows of legends. Trying to get out of that, become our own men. In that sense we're the same – but as men, as people, we're two very different guys.

I'm a lot more experienced, I'm a lot more refined, I'm a lot more mature. I'm 32 years old – he's, what, 26? [Benn turns 26 on 28 September.] When I was 26, I thought I knew everything. At 32, I look back and I'm like, man, I didn't know shit. So he's there. He's the young, up and coming lion. Some people are saying that I'm the old dog – but I think that my experience and my knowledge is just going to be too much for him. 

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One similarity is you both chose to fight despite coming from privileged backgrounds...

Yes. We have that similar and very rare story of coming from families where you don't really need anything, you don't want for anything, you have everything you need growing up because of the success of our fathers. But we still chose to go into one of the hardest professions on the planet – when we did not have to.

I could have done anything I wanted. I'm going to speak for myself because I can't speak for Conor. But I could have done anything I wanted to do. Whether that was stay in school or go to college and get a degree or work in finance, business, tech, whatever it is. I had all those opportunities, they were all in front of me if I wanted to take them. I didn't want to. I wanted to get down and dirty in the gyms and learn how to kickass. Which is not what people who come from privileged backgrounds want to do. Because they don't have that spirit, they don't have that discipline, they don't have that pain tolerance. They're comfortable. Comfort doesn't breed champions. Most guys who make something of themselves in combat sports come from extremely uncomfortable environments.

I didn't have that. I chose to go into the sport because I love competition. I wanted to prove that I could do it when so many people, including my old man, said I wouldn't be tough enough. I wanted to make my own name for myself, earn my own respect. I didn't wanna always go through life being Chris Eubank's son.

And you're fighting one of the very few men on the planet who will understand that mindset...

I mean, there's a handful of guys who had fathers who were world champions and chose to go into the sport. A handful. And most of those guys never made it. Ninety-nine percent of world champions whose sons go into the sport, they never make anything of themselves. So everything was against me from day one. But I found a way. I found a way to get past the obstacles, to get past the people who said I couldn't do it, to get past the mental doubts.

I wasn't supposed to get to where I am in boxing. But because I wasn't supposed to do it, because nobody ever gave me a shot, especially early on, that's what pushed me to do it. I think if everyone had been on my side from day one – 'yeah, you're great, you're amazing!' – I probably wouldn't have done it. But because everyone said, 'what are you going to do? Private school, lived in a mansion? You're not your old man.' Hearing that was like, screw you, I'm going to do this.

Have you ever met Conor before?

The last time I saw him was at the Sport Industry Awards back in May. We were both presenting awards. Whatever genius running that show decided to have us both present awards at the same time. So me and him were backstage with our awards and getting ready to present them. Someone thought it would be a good idea, which is dumb – because if I was an idiot, and he was an idiot, it could have easily kicked off there.

We were both waiting there backstage – all it takes is a wrong look and you've got something on your hands. But luckily I'm not that kind of person – I only fight when I'm getting paid. We had a brief encounter. I said to him, 'you know we can make a lot of money, right?' He's like, 'yeah, I know.' I said, 'We'll see what happens' – and now we're here.

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What did your dad say on hearing about the fight?

He said, 'wait'. He said, 'wait.' Build the fight more and do it next year in a stadium. Don't do it now. Because it will be a bigger fight – which it would. But there's also risks that come with that and I wasn't willing to take those risks. In the past it's happened when there's been opportunities and I didn't take them and they didn't come back. I wasn't prepared to do that with this fight.

There's always the option of a rematch...

If by some miracle this guy is able to get in the ring with me and pull out a performance to where it's competitive – 'I don't think he won, I think he won' – and there's ifs and ahs then there can be a rematch. That's great because then we can do it in a football stadium next year. I don't expect that to happen. I expect to go in there and chuck this kid out. But if I've misread the situation completely and he is a different animal to what I think he is then, yeah, we can have a rematch next year.

Have you ever met Nigel?

Yes, I've met Nigel a few times as a kid and as an adult. He came down with Conor to my gym a few years ago, I think we took a picture together all three of us. And we were cool. I don't know how it's gonna be tomorrow at the press conference now that I'm fighting his son – I guess we'll find out.

Chris Eubank Jr vs Conor Benn, 8 October at the O2 Arena and live on DAZN PPV.