Chris Eubank Jr vs Liam Smith: What happened when they sparred and what does it mean for the fight | Boxing News
For Chris Eubank Jr it meant nothing. It was not even memorable. For Liam Smith, however, it was another matter entirely. He emerged from it full of confidence that, underdog or not, he had the beating of the Brighton star.
For the rest of us it leaves a mystery. What happened the last time Chris Eubank Jr and Liam Smith were in a ring together? What happened when they sparred?
Eubank insists that it must have been like any other training session. He does not even remember it.
“It was obviously just another day at the gym. I’m sure I handled it well. I’m sure I imposed my dominance on him, like I do with most of my sparring partners and I went about my business,” Eubank told Sky Sports.
“It was at Amir Khan’s gym. All I remember is that I sparred his brother Paul, I believe, before I sparred him.
“I did four rounds with Paul and then I did four rounds with him and the fact that I can’t really remember how it went just that kind of says it all. If it was anything to write home about then I would have remembered it.
“I batter 90 per cent of my sparring partners. So it’s very likely that I did. But I don’t actually remember.”
That is a claim Smith dismisses.
“He thinks he battered me in sparring? He’s got another think coming,” Smith told Sky Sports. “Look, I took this fight for a reason and I’m massively confident and sparring plays a part in that.
“If he battered his sparring partners, I wouldn’t take this fight; I’m number two in the WBO at light-middleweight, I’m number three with the WBC.”
“They put the rematch clause in,” he added. “If he batters his sparring partners and if he’s so confident in this fight, why put that in? That’s proof in black and white.”
Smith’s memories are particular. He recalls hurting Eubank, specifically with a shot to the body.
“I’ll prove it on the night. His chin’s very, very good. His body’s not so good and he can be hurt to the body. I know I can go to the body,” the Liverpudlian said. “And I know 100 million per cent, I’ve hurt Chris to the body.
“He’ll tell you different because of the smugness, but again I took this fight for a reason.”
Eubank shrugged off the thought that Smith had unearthed a weakness to his body.
“He doesn’t pose too much danger, to someone like me who knows how to handle guys like that. It’s going to be very fun for me I think. This is going to be a very, very fun fight,” the Brighton star said.
“I’m not really that fearful of what a fighter like Liam Smith is or what he can bring to the table. I’m not going to say he’s average because he’s an elite-level fighter. But there’s nothing there that I have to worry about.
“Unless he’s going to be a different guy in the ring on the night, I think I’m going to handle him pretty comfortably.”
The sparring sessions took place more than seven years ago, when Paul Smith, Liam’s older brother, was preparing for a super-middleweight world title clash with Arthur Abraham.
Eubank was there primarily to spar the older, bigger brother and his side appeared almost dismissive of Liam Smith, initially. That changed when they actually sparred.
Paul Smith is reluctant to divulge much about the sparring. But he is adamant about one thing – Eubank will have remembered it.
“I’m not going to say what happened in the sparring because I’m a bit old school like that and sparring stays in the gym. But Eubank knows what happened in the spar with Liam,” he said.
“You don’t forget them type of spars,” he added. “That he’s saying he doesn’t remember it is a bit more bravado. It’s absolutely not true.”
The elder Smith has no fear when it comes to seeing his brother back in a ring with Eubank on January 21.
“It was a tough competitive spar where they’re letting big shots go. But Liam is more than holding his own in that spar,” he said.
He is actually not convinced Eubank Jr will be able to sustain pressure in the way Liam Smith can when they box on Saturday.
“He got in with Liam. I remember exactly what happened. He sparred me. He got out after six [rounds], he was meant to do eight on the Monday. He probably got the better of me. We done six rounds, he won four of them rounds if you were scoring them,” he recalled.
“On the Friday again I caught him early with a right hand, I didn’t buckle his legs or nothing, but it was a good shot and he didn’t really want to engage much then. I’ve seen him do that in fights where he just doesn’t seem to want to engage, he tries to coast through.
“Liam Williams, [Eubank] had him gone, he put a lot into it and all of a sudden he started to feel the pace a bit, took his foot off the gas,” the older Smith continued.
“I think he’ll have doubt about his engine, about his fitness to do 12 rounds, bell to bell, at a good pace. There’s a difference in doing 12 rounds and actually working bell to bell or working in bursts.
“I don’t think he’s done that for a long time. I think that’s his worry deep down inside.”
As confident as Eubank Jr sounds, Liam Smith has just as much self-belief. “You can’t beat me on your jab,” Smith told him.
“It was comfortable for you to do that with Williams because you dropped him with jabs. The fight ended up a close fight with Williams and he dropped him four times. If I drop someone four times they’re getting finished, regardless.
“Strip everything down, strip Chris’ aura down, strip the Eubank name down, performances don’t lie.”
It sets them both up for a ferociously competitive contest. Manchester’s Anthony Crolla, the former world champion, was one of Liam Smith’s gym mates. He witnessed the spars.
“I am predicting an unbelievably entertaining fight,” Crolla told Sky Sports. “In all honesty it was fantastic sparring. I must have seen them spar about five times.
“It sounds cheesy but if the fight’s anything like the sparring we’re in for a treat.”
He acknowledges that sparring is different. It’s part of training, for learning, when fighters are in camp and not 100 per cent.
“What I saw wasn’t the best Chris Eubank,” Paul Smith also noted. “Listen Chris Eubank could hurt Liam as well… We’ll find out.
“It’s a proper fight. It’s a 50-50 fight.”
Their sparring though is an indication of the nature of the contest we can expect to see on Saturday.
“I’m not just saying Liam got the better of every spar because he didn’t and again what do you take from sparring?” Crolla said. “And listen Junior’s improved a lot since then.
“But Liam I’d say definitely got the better of the majority of them and landed some lovely shots. I know he’s mentioned about hitting his body.
“Junior is fantastic at rattling those three [punch combinations], fours, fives off fast hands on the inside. I think it’s who can impose that the earlier.
“Junior will always have success with someone who’s there in the pocket with him. I think Liam’s going to have to come through the fire for sure if he’s to be successful that night. That’s why I think it can’t be anything but a fantastic fight.
“I think both fighters are going to have to go to the well,” he concluded.
“What a start to January, and even better it’s in Manchester.”
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