As referee Michael Alexander held George Groves' hand aloft following a classy semi-final performance of the World Boxing Super Series, a bloodied Chris Eubank shook his head in disbelief. Maybe it was fighter's pride, possibly delusion, or more than likely, it was the result of one too many shots to the head, as nobody could have seen this as anything but a pretty convincing defeat for Chris Eubank Jr.
The two British talents produced a highly entertaining scrap on Saturday night as the Manchester Arena crowd were treated to the spectacle that was greatly anticipated. It was a matchup that was destined to result in excitement as the all-action style of Eubank Jr was pitted against a man who is quickly becoming somewhat of a ring general, in George Groves. Both fighters had something to lose, in their respective titles, and something to gain in the form of a spot in the final of the Super Series tournament. While bragging rights served as a little added motivation - as if that was needed - it was 'St George' who left with all the accolades, leaving Junior with several questions regarding his career.
Where did it all go wrong?
So, the most obvious thing to point out was the performance Eubank. Now don't get me wrong, there are lot of things to like about the 28-year-old. His cockiness and arrogance have clearly won him very few fans, as has his father, who is as legendary as he is controversial, (and that's only his fashion sense). Those things aside, his forward pressing, ultra-aggressive style is a real joy to watch and when it works, it is a key factor in some of the more dramatic clashes throughout 'Next Gen's' career. That high-risk, high-reward style gets fans off their seats. The problem with this though is that when it doesn't work, it looks awful.
For 12 rounds, it was man against boy, with Eubank constantly pressing Groves using very little boxing skill in the process. Who uses a haymaker to set up haymakers? It stunk of desperation from the offset and did nothing to enhance the reputation of being one of the nation's brightest talents. Groves controlled the tempo throughout and never truly looked in trouble, avoiding the wild flurries for the best part with better ring craft and movement. Eubank didn't have an answer to the technical prowess of his rival, and when he did connect, the Hammersmith fighter was just too big and strong.
In the past, we have seen Junior use this to his advantage, where running down opponents usually spells the end for the smaller, less talented fighters. The bulk of those bouts came down at the lower middleweight division, a place where Eubank's size, athleticism and power was more than a match for all but one of his opponents. As a result, there has never really been the need to devise a 'Plan B', if athletic ability is not enough to see him through. Groves subsequently exposed this weakness, which made it blindingly obvious that a new trainer is needed.
There was a huge red flag seeing Eubank Sr cornering his son while hearing that he has no permanent coach. It was bad enough that he looked like a semi-professional referee on 'dress down Friday', but there is a distinct lack of a top-level team capable of taking a talent, like Junior, to the upper echelons of the sport. All the top fighters have professional camps supporting them, while possessing the ability to change up the gameplan when everything hits the fan, but when the going got tough, it was just more haymakers. Swinging for the fences is not usually how fighters progress to the top level. Defence is paramount and that is something that seems to be missing from Junior's basic skill set.
Former British world champion, 'Prince' Naseem Hamed was as vocal about Eubank's future as social media was, providing a damming post-fight evaluation, stating that Eubank should consider his career. That is a little drastic as the man is still in his physical prime, (Eubank that is, not Naseem). He still has time to change things, and as mentioned in the previous article, will never be short of potential suiters for big money fights as everybody wants to take the Eubank scalp. However, another amateur looking performance similar to the one he produced over the weekend would all but spell the end of the high-profile clashes.
So, what next? Eubank has a couple of options, all of which include finding a camp to help him round out his game. Developing ring generalship is crucial in closing the gap between himself and some of the sport's biggest names. Should he not take this route and continue to be the entertaining but reckless banger, the only alternative is to return to the 160lbs division, where his raw attributes can serve a greater purpose. One concern there is that division contains a couple of the world's greatest, in Saul Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin, not to mention the only other man to defeat Eubank, Billy Joe Saunders, who on current form would be too strong for Junior once again.
Without a drastic change, this may be the story of a talented fighter whose name was bigger than his ability. Continuing alongside his father may generate interest in terms of popularity, but what is hype if he is unable to back it up? It is not the end of the world and at 26-2 - there is still a lot to work with - but at present, significant improvement will be needed in order for him to regain his stock and remain in the world level conversation.
Where do you think Eubank Jr goes from here? Comment below...