Eubank Jnr takes on the ex­cep­tion­ally dan­ger­ous Yildirim in Stuttgart, writes Matt Christie

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EYE­BROWS were raised back in July when Chris Eubank Snr, out in Monaco and be­hav­ing typ­i­cally lav­ishly at the open­ing of the World Box­ing Su­per Se­ries, picked Avni Yildirim to take on his son, Chris Eubank Jnr, in the su­per­mid­dleweight quar­ter fi­nals.

Ju­nior was ab­sent due to the then­im­pend­ing bout with Arthur Abra­ham that would seal his place in the lu­cra­tive tour­na­ment, yet Snr’s fail­ure to pro­nounce Yildirim’s name cor­rectly caused sev­eral ob­servers to ac­cuse the Eubanks of not know­ing what they were do­ing. Be­cause to many in­sid­ers, Yildirim – a rough, tough and ca­pa­ble 16-0 prospect who is re­ported to have given the likes of James De­gale an ex­cep­tion­ally tax­ing time in spar­ring – was the ba­nana skin of the un­seeded fight­ers, and one to step over.

“Of course we talked about who I wanted to fight,” Eubank Jnr told Box­ing News in July when it was sug­gested his fa­ther may have made a mis­take by not choos­ing an eas­ier op­tion. “Do you think we didn’t talk about it be­fore­hand? It’s my fight. It’s my ca­reer. Of course we talked about it.”

The 26-year-old Yildirim has made steady progress since turn­ing over in 2014; within a year he’d outscored vet­eran Glen John­son at light-heavy over 10 rounds, be­fore drop­ping down to su­per­mid­dleweight where his big­gest scalp came in his most re­cent out­ing, a gru­elling 12-round points win over former WBC ti­tle chal­lenger Marco An­to­nio Periban. The re­lent­less Yilidrim – who is hap­pi­est in close, fir­ing short hooks to body and up­per­cuts up­stairs - car­ries de­cent power and will be ex­cpetion­ally dan­ger­ous in­side the Hanns-martin-schleyer Halle.

Eubank Jnr in­sists he wanted a tough


opener to his WBSS cam­paign, but be­lieves Yilidrim’s swarm­ing ap­proach will play into his hands. After all, Eubank thrives when he doesn’t have to go look­ing for his op­po­nents and, while still care­less at times, the man­ner in which he slowed the for­ward marches of Nick Blackwell, Spike O’ Sul­li­van and Dmitrii Chudi­nov high­lighted how for­mi­da­ble he can be against the right op­po­nent. But Yildirim, whose eyes blaze with men­ace, is a night­mar­ish preda­tor.

“In my opin­ion, out of all the guys I had to pick from that [Yildirim] was the hard­est fight,” Ju­nior ex­plained fur­ther in his seafront Hove gym last week. “I be­lieve he’s go­ing to come and he’s not go­ing to stop. I didn’t want to have an easy fight. I want to be mo­ti­vated, I don’t want to start com­pe­ti­tion off easy – I want that mo­ti­va­tion to pre­pare my­self for the big fights that will come at the end. He’s like a younger ver­sion of Arthur Abra­ham, less ex­pe­ri­enced but more fire and more hunger. Com­ing off a fight with Abra­ham it was nat­u­ral to pick some­body who had a sim­i­lar style.”

While this bout looks cer­tain to be a fan-friendly af­fair – Eubank Jnr is rarely in any­thing else – it also serves as some­thing of an ap­pe­tiser for what lies ahead. If the Brighton man gets through Yildirim un­scathed, he will meet the win­ner of the October 14 show­down be­tween WBA boss Ge­orge Groves and Jamie Cox with a fi­nal against com­pe­ti­tion favourite Cal­lum Smith po­ten­tially the last stop of the tour­na­ment. The po­ten­tial do­mes­tic ri­val­ries are al­ready be­ing ramped up.

Eubank wasn’t im­pressed with Smith’s re­cent tri­umph over a tougher than ex­pected Erik Skoglund, and has also crit­i­cised Groves’ choice of out­sider Cox for his show opener. Groves, mean­while, sug­gested Yildirim may cause an up­set and while he wel­comes what would be a huge show­down with Eubank, won­dered if the Brighto­nian would be bet­ter off mov­ing back down to mid­dleweight where he might be more ef­fec­tive.

“He’s [Groves] right, I’m not [a su­per­mid­dleweight],” Ju­nior ad­mit­ted, sur­pris­ingly. “Well, I am, be­cause I can get to the 12st limit but it prob­a­bly fits me bet­ter be­ing at mid­dleweight. But it’s not about weight, it’s about mind­set and what you be­lieve you can do. It’s about the train­ing and the abil­ity that you have be­cause if you have that, it doesn’t mat­ter if these guys are a stone or half-a-stone heav­ier. It’s not go­ing to make any dif­fer­ence.”

A re­cent spell train­ing in the May­weather Gym in Las Vegas – a place Eubank hopes to build into fu­ture train­ing camps - ac­tu­ally re­sulted in Eubank re­turn­ing to Bri­tain weigh­ing just 164lbs. Against a fighter like Yildirim, thick­set and used to cam­paign­ing at 175lbs, Eubank bulk­ing up to su­per­mid­dle surely isn’t ideal. His trainer doesn’t agree.

“I like him [Eubank Jnr] fight­ing at this weight,” Ron­nie Davies told Box­ing News. “He’s a small su­per-mid­dleweight but it doesn’t mat­ter be­cause he’s strong. I’m old school, I don’t be­lieve in weight drain­ing fight­ers. What’s the point? It takes it out of you, you’re not the same fighter. Watch a fighter spar be­fore they start to crash weight – they’re not the same fighter after they’ve drained them­selves to make weight.”

Against Abra­ham [w pts 12] and Renold Quin­lan [w rsf 10] be­fore that, it’s true that Ju­nior did not look like a de­struc­tive puncher. How­ever, it’s also true that he has never re­ally been a onepunch knock­out artist; what he was and still is, even at 168lbs, is a skilled, strong and ex­cep­tion­ally fast pres­sure fighter, and one who can sys­tem­at­i­cally ham­mer the re­sis­tance out of all but the most durable.

Yildirim’s whiskers are untested at this level but they ap­pear to be made of stern stuff - just like the rest of him. Eubank should also be­ware of be­ing the ‘away’ fighter in Stuttgart, where Yildirim - man­aged by the colour­ful Ah­met Oner - will be very much the crowd favourite. How­ever, if all is fair - and that’s not al­ways a given - the pick is for the slicker Eubank Jnr to over­come some sticky moments and win on points.

THE VER­DICT Eubank Jnr should be re­spected for ac­cept­ing this mis­sion.



HARD NUTS: Yildirim [left] eye­balls Eubank ahead of their 12-round battle

WATCH ME GO: Eubank Jnr ex­hibits no fear what­so­ever

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