Will Chris Eubank Jr. ever get over the Nick Blackwell bout?

By Cain Bradley on May 16, 2016
Will Chris Eubank Jr. ever get over the Nick Blackwell bout?
Maybe Chris can learn from his Dad about how to not lose the killer instinct. (Reuters)

Chris Eubank Jr. will maybe consider himself to be lucky as Nick Blackwell’s fate was not that of Duk-Koo Kim and Roman Simakov…

Will Chris Eubank Jr. ever get over the Nick Blackwell bout? A look back at how boxers fared after damaging an opponent.

Boxing is, by definition, a dangerous sport. Simply put it is two competitors repeatedly hitting each other very hard. They are protected by gloves which “cushion” blows. Despite this protection, it can still go very badly. Some of the people who have boxed to a high level weigh 250 lbs. compared to the 8-oz. gloves that cushion blows. One punch too many, a bad fall or a slow reaction from medical services can lead to an awful conclusion. Although all boxers understand the risks that the sport brings, very few have to deal with the chilling reality. Most adopt the attitude of believing it could never happen to them. It is very rare for a boxer to acknowledge the possibility of serious damage or death. Jim Jeffries rarely punched with full force as he feared killing someone. Whilst Mike Tyson claimed, he was disappointed during his campaign to have not killed anyone. A notable example in recent months was Chris Eubank Jr. in a fight which was a terrifying reminder of his father’s defeat of Michael Watson which led to him spending 40 days in a coma. Opponent Nick Blackwell thankfully was only in a coma for a week but the effect could also harm Chris Eubank Jr. How have fighters come back from incidents that have left opponents badly hurt or even dead?

Perhaps the most famous example of a death in the ring was Griffith against Paret. Emile Griffith is one of the most interesting characters in boxing history. One of the greatest welterweights of all time, he fought an intense trilogy against Benny (Kid) Paret at the beginning of the 1960s. They had both won one bout each and the bad blood both men felt for each other was clear. Paret would call Griffith a “maricon” (Spanish insult for homosexual) and threatened to get Griffith and his husband. Paret also thrusted behind Griffith when he bent over. Griffith was deeply ashamed over his homosexual feelings and only his trainer Gil Clancy kept him from attacking Paret then, by telling him to save it for tonight. Then in the twelfth round that night, Griffith would stun Paret with two right hands sending him back to the ropes. Griffith used his left arm to pin Paret and continued to throw big right uppercuts. He landed 18 punches in six seconds before the referee jumped in to stop the bout. It would be too late, Paret never woke up and ten days later was officially pronounced dead. The first time Griffith watched it back was during an in-ring post-fight interview. As he watched, visibly shocked, he said, “I just kept punching.” Griffith would receive death threats because of the fight. He has since stated he would have quit but did not know how to do anything else and that he was the never the same fighter. He would fight to win on points and not to stop his opponent. For a man with such power, the fact that he only stopped 11 opponents in the 81 bouts after Paret says a lot. Griffith went down as a legendary boxer, but the tragedy no doubt affected his ability.

Ray Mancini was a big prospect in the 1980s. The young American had an exciting style and looked to capable of filling, to some extent, the Sugar Ray Leonard void. He had lost his first attempt at a world title to Alexis Arguello but would rebound to stop Arturo Frias in a devastating round. He was entering his prime and looking at a potential Aaron Pryor fight. His second defense of the WBA title came against Duk-Koo Kim. It emerged that the Korean probably did not deserve his position as number one contender. However, he was determined to take the fight to Mancini. For ten rounds he took the fight to him before Mancini came on strong. In commentary, Gil Clancy ominously stated “either one guy’s gonna get busted up, or nail the other guy very badly.” Mancini ended the brutal fight in the 14th with a strong two-punch combination. Kim would collapse in his corner and enter a coma, which he did not wake up from. Mancini was wracked with guilt. He traveled to Korea for the funeral and as he got off the plane, someone asked him if he was the man who killed Kim. It ate away at Mancini and he could not avoid it. He expressed how sorry he felt and described himself as a mental wreck. It remains something that Mancini struggles to talk about. He retired at 24, shockingly losing his world title to Livingstone Bramble. Bob Arum explained that after Kim he no longer had the same zest for fighting.

Jim Lampley was on the Bill Simmons podcast a few weeks prior to the Eubank - Blackwell bout, and talked about not many boxers being the same after such an incident. He describes two elite fighters who he believed showed no signs of being affected by tragedy. One was Sugar Ray Robinson. In the 81st fight of his career he stopped Jimmy Doyle. It was a perfect left hook that saw him never regain consciousness. Robinson told after how he had been afraid prior to the fight as he had dreamt that he would kill Doyle. Some writers have declared that this haunted Robinson throughout his career and that when his brain was addled he repeatedly said I didn’t mean it Ma. People have claimed he held back afterwards however this can be argued. Jim Lampley believed he was not affected. He won his next five bouts by stoppage and some of his most physically punishing bouts were still to come. The other man mentioned on the podcast was Sergey Kovalev. He took on Roman Simakov in his 18th bout and Kovalev would stop him in the 7th. Simakov collapsed in the arms of his corner and would die from his injuries that week. Kovalev would take a break from boxing and wrote a heartfelt letter, asking for forgiveness. He would return by stopping Darnell Boone in the second round and his manager said he believed straightaway he was not pulling any punches. He has stopped 12 of his 13 opponents since the Simakov bout and seems to have a vicious streak, rare for even a boxer.  When asked if the fight has affected Kovalev his trainer answered that “he couldn’t care less, it’s his job.” Kovalev coldly stated after the second Pascal fight that he carried him in the last few rounds to dish out more punishment. Kovalev is a machine of a man and his attitude is particularly unique.

Chris Eubank Jr. will maybe consider himself to be lucky as Nick Blackwell’s fate was not that of Duk-Koo Kim and Roman Simakov and he survived. Maybe this makes it easier to deal with. However, his Dad showed just how difficult it still is after he left Michael Watson in a coma. He was trailing heading into the last round but a barrage of punches stopped Watson. The eeriness around Nick Blackwell was increased as Chris Eubank Sr. told his son in the corner to stop hitting the head and target the moment, a somber reminder of what he had done. Eubank would struggle to finish fights after, no longer showing his finishing instincts. Joe Calzaghe and Carl Thompson fights both saw evidence of that. Arch domestic rival Nigel Benn was also involved in a dramatic fight which left rival Gerald McClellan in a coma. The young American was an explosive, knockout artist but Benn lasted through the onslaught and would stop McClellan after a punishing bout. Benn would only have five more fights, three of which were losses and would probably be described as uncharacteristic. Benn also dealt with demons and would attempt suicide after retirement.

Chris Eubank Jr. has stated that he will not lose his killer instinct like his Dad. It is a bold statement that is difficult to make flippantly. Until you are in that ring with your opponent wobbling, how can you know? Some boxers are able to get over it and continue to box in the same manner however the majority find it hard to come back from seeing the damage you can do. Knowing the danger and being on the brink of it actually happen are completely different ideas. Maybe Chris can learn from his Dad about how to not lose the killer instinct. Maybe we see him go to the body with a higher frequency, although that takes away one of his great weapons which is the uppercut. My guess is that Chris, like most boxers, will never fully recover from the damage he caused Nick Blackwell. It is human nature and although Eubank is a driven individual who wants success so are most boxers. Nigel Benn is one of the more determined boxers ever and he still struggled with what had happened. Time will tell, but if a increasingly timid Chris Eubank turns up for his next bout, do not be surprised.

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Chris Eubank Jr vs Nick Blackwell Full Fight 2016 03 26

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  1. KB 09:59am, 05/17/2016

    Injuring an opponent is much different than fatally injuring one. Griffith was never the same. Never.

    Same with Syphon.

    Same with Mancini.

    Same with Ghana’s Steve “The Destroyer” Dotse

    Same with Jesus Chavez

    Nigel Benn was never the same after GMAN.

    Richard Gonzalez was involved in two fatalities and never lost a second. Ugh.

    Bottom line: Fatalities play a definite role in the winners subsequent career. Injuries may or may not.

  2. Cain Bradley 07:13am, 05/17/2016

    Mancini was not a knockout puncher but the sheer volume tended to stop opponents. I would say Eubank was a fair hitter, majority of his bouts at that point were stoppages. Griffith to me looked like he should have had more power than he actually did. I don’t think Eubank JR is a particularly hard hitter to be honest, but it is more about what you do when your opponent is hurt.

  3. Eric 07:02am, 05/17/2016

    I don’t think Griffith was a huge puncher even before the Paret tragedy, he had some power, but I wouldn’t call him a banger. I’ve heard of deaths in fist fights involving teenage girls, and yet seen two huge burly men beat each other with bare fists and live to fight another day. If any fighter had the power to kill, it would have been George Foreman, and yet Foreman remarkably never seriously injured another fighter. Nigel Benn was a huge banger, but I wouldn’t have classified Eubank Sr, Mancini, or Griffith as huge punchers at any stage of their career. Eubank Sr & Mancini had respectable power but nothing extraordinary. Actually while the gloves cushion the blow, it could be said that fighting with bare fists is actually safer. The boxing glove is actually more meant to protect a fighters hands than anything else and allows someone to throw punches without worrying a great deal about injuring their hands.

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