Chris Eubank Jr: The next generation
Chris Eubank Jr is shaping up for revenge against bitter rival Billy Joe Saunders – and earning a year-round six-pack in the process
Chris Eubank Jr
Age: 25 | Height: 173cm
Achievements: Interim 2015 WBA world middleweight champion
Record: 20 fights, 19 wins (14 by KO)
￼Chris Eubank Jr is in a hurry. When the interim WBA world middleweight champion dismantled Russian Dmitry Chudinov over 12 brutal rounds at the O2 in February, it was his eighth professional fight in a little over a year. Most boxers would take three years to get through the same workload, but Eubank is hungry for opportunities to make his mark.
Having been raised on the same diet of sparring, running and boxing that forged his father’s physical dominance of the middleweight division in the early 1990s, he’s only recently added strength and conditioning sessions to his fight training. And he’s eager to unleash his new speed, power and limitless potential on the division.
POINTS TO PROVE
In Eubank’s crosshairs is fellow Brit Billy Joe Saunders. When MF meets Eubank at Brighton’s Pro Am Boxing Gym his 12-round, split points defeat to Saunders is still fresh in his memory. Yet far from being bitter, he relishes the grudge developing between the two 25-year-olds and says he learned two valuable lessons from their November bout: ‘Start as you mean to go on and never leave it to the judges.’
‘It was my first 12-rounder,’ he tells MF. ‘I’d only gone eight before so in the back of my mind I was thinking, “How am I going to feel in rounds eight to 12?” I paced myself too much in the early rounds but as soon as I put the pressure up, as soon as I pressed him, he was getting bullied around and beaten up. It was no contest.’
Unfortunately for Eubank, the damage had already been done on the scorecards. ‘Now I know I can easily go 12 I won’t make that same mistake again. In my last fight [against Chudinov] I was clearly ahead on points and could have coasted but I went in there and brutalised him, took him apart and hit him 60 times before the ref stopped it.’
NO REST FOR A CHAMP
That capacity for a high workload is in part due to the relentless schedule he’s adopted, taking his cue from the best in the business. In 2014 he spent time with Floyd Mayweather Jr’s camp and was scheduled to spar with him ahead of the five-division world champion’s super fight with Manny Pacquiao, until his own busy fight schedule took priority.
‘He takes no breaks,’ Eubank says of Mayweather’s training. ‘He’ll step in the gym and go straight through for an hour and a half, and there’s no minute rests between rounds. It’s something I’ve incorporated into my training but it’s tough. He’s so unorthodox – I’ve seen him hit the bags, stop and drink a can of Coke because he needs the sugar rush, and then go back to the bag – but people have to remember just because he does it, it doesn’t mean you can do it too.’
Eubank applies this relentless approach to his training beyond the ring too. In a typical day he’ll start early morning by stretching his legs. He either goes for an 8-10km run on Brighton’s pebble beaches, heads for the hills to sprint up the vertiginous valleys of Devil’s Dyke or puts his foot down on the track. Without fail he then heads to the boxing gym for sparring, pad or bag work with his – and his father’s – dependable trainer Ronnie Davies.
Then, with the reserves of energy he has remaining, he meets strength and conditioning coach Jack Laing for late-night resistance and circuit training. Eubank calls it ‘attrition training’, while Laing describes it as ‘replicating the footwork, speed and power you need for fighting, without the risk of getting punched in the head.'
The circuits teach him fast feet and mimic the high intensity of three-minute rounds. He uses squats and deadlifts to build strength – although, to avoid injury, he never lifts too close to his maximum – and uses a barbell wedged into a corner to work on explosive power with co-ordination.
One drill sees him press the barbell overhead with one arm as he rapidly jumps his feet back and forwards in a split stance. Then he dynamically rotates the bar from oneside to another to work his obliques and finishes with a version of a clean and press, picking the bar from low to the floor to overhead, to work his whole body as one.
‘This is all new to me,’ Eubank admits. ‘Until two years ago it was all old school: just sparring, running and boxing. That’s what got me where I am – this is just to add to it. I’m experimenting with different methods. Before that my training hadn’t altered since I was 15, so it’s good to change things up.’
‘As an athlete he’s an absolute beast,’ says Laing, aware he’s simply tweaking an already high-performing machine. ‘His gas tank and fitness is a joke, his hand speed is ridiculous and he looks like a professional athlete 24/7.’
Eubank’s appetite for training perhaps best explains his ability to fight so often – and has the happy side effect of meaning he’s walking around with a permanent six-pack. ‘I’m constantly training,’ says Eubank, who is never more than 3kg off his fight weight. ‘Even if I don’t have a fight coming up, I’ll still be in the gym five days a week. I enjoy it – in this sport if you don’t enjoy it you shouldn’t be doing it. If your heart’s not in it you’re going to get found out. There are days when you’re tired, have a cold, your sparring partner’s on form, but you get through it and it makes you feel you're unstoppable.’
To handle the non-stop workload, sleep is crucial. ‘I don’t feel right unless I get at least nine hours,’ he says, adding that he takes long naps between sessions if he doesn’t get enough at night. ‘If I don’t get enough sleep, if I get hit when sparring, it hurts more.’
By contrast, he’s much more flexible with his nutrition. ‘I’m probably not the best guy to give advice about food because I’m a freak,’ he says, disappointing supplement companies hoping to rubber-stamp their products with images of his ripped torso. ‘I don’t use supplements, no protein shakes, no recovery drinks. I’ve always believed in getting your minerals and vitamins from food. I have an extremely high metabolism so I burn things off very quickly.’
He doesn’t need to rely on liquid courage or cheat days to stay on the straight and narrow either. He’s teetotal, and his guilty pleasure is chocolate – ‘I don’t worry about its cocoa content, if I’m going to do it I do it the dirty way: Cadbury’s and Hershey bars’ – and his only rule is to cut down on gluten in case it adversely affects his training. ‘Lately I’ve replaced my daily serving of porridge oats with organic, gluten-free spelt.’
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
The simplicity in his approach to diet and training is surprising, but it shouldn’t be when you think he’s been learning at the knee of his former middleweight world champion father. For all his eccentricities and bravado, Eubank Sr was a traditionalist. ‘My father was a hard man and that’s how he’s taught me to be,’ the son says.
‘These days a lot of fighters have got so scientific,’ says Eubank. ‘Everything has to be written down and calculated. I say just get in there and fight and be a warrior. As Mike Tyson said, “Everyone has a game plan until they get punched in the face.” One thing I do know is my father never had any of that and I don’t see any fighters in today’s middleweight division that had as much success as he did.’
Whatever his father’s success and reputation, though, now it’s the time of the next generation. Armed with the confidence that his engine is able to keep going when he cranks through the gears, Eubank is eyeing a summer blockbuster sequel with Saunders. ‘I knew I was the real deal,’ he says of their previous bout when he got stronger and Saunders tired as the fight progressed.
‘I felt fit, I felt strong, I was dominating the champion in the championship rounds. I knew all the work, the runs, the spars, the attrition training had all paid off because I was able to perform at a high rate in the later rounds and he wasn’t. I thought I did enough to win, but two of the judges saw differently. In a way, that’s no bad thing because now, once I beat him, there’ll be a third decider. Everything happens for a reason.’
Eubank Sr couldn’t have said it better. Let’s hope the trilogy matches the billing.
Published by Men’s Fitness in the Summer 2015 issue.