Eubank Jnr takes on the exceptionally dangerous Yildirim in Stuttgart, writes Matt Christie
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
‘OF COURSE WE TALKED ABOUT WHO WE WANTED TO FIGHT’
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.
‘I DON’T BELIEVE IN WEIGHT DRAINING FIGHTERS. WHAT’S THE POINT? IT TAKES IT OUT OF YOU’
HARD NUTS: Yildirim [left] eyeballs Eubank ahead of their 12-round battle
WATCH ME GO: Eubank Jnr exhibits no fear whatsoever