Chris Eubank Jr does not relish playing the villain. For once, he’d like to have the crowd on his side when he fights Liam Smith next weekend.
He can’t count on that happening when he fights Liverpool’s former world champion at the AO Arena in Manchester on January 21, live on Sky Sports Box Office.
“It doesn’t really matter what I want to be, the public decide. I have no preference. I know I’m not a bad guy but a lot of people like to paint me as the bad guy,” Eubank told Sky Sports.
“So I’ve been the bad guy for most of my career and I accepted it. I flourished under that aura.”
There is a heady atmosphere in an arena when Eubank Jr makes his ringwalk. Music blaring, reminiscent of his famous father he vaults the top rope to enter the ring. Some of the crowd cheers heartily, some boo with gusto.
“You’re aware. You’re aware if the crowd is with you or against you. But I’ve never been the type of guy that pays too much attention. Once I’m in that arena I’m in savage mode,” Eubank said.
“Some guys, they like to walk to the ring and they’re high fiving the fans and smiling, they kind of get involved with the crowd. I’ve never really done that. I’m looking at the ring, I’m looking at the fight.
“There’s not been many times where I could get involved with the crowd anyway. When people are booing there’s nothing to get involved with, you just want to get through.
“It’ll be interesting to see how things go down in this fight.”
He is popular even if he’s not the crowd favourite. But Eubank is well used to that.
“Once you reach a certain level or tolerance to something you become numb to it. The first time I got punched in the face it was a huge shock, to my system. It really hurt. Now a heavyweight can punch me in the face and I’m okay after a second. That’s no different to the trolling, the insults, the trashtalk,” he said.
“Now going to a press conference and hearing the trashtalk, because I’ve heard it for so long, it just doesn’t affect me anymore.”
Public perception of Eubank is shifting, notably after how he conducted himself when his fight with Conor Benn fell through when the latter failed a drug test.
“I think a lot of opinions have changed since the Conor fight, believe it or not,” Eubank said. “So it’ll be interesting to see how the public [react], what direction they push me in for this fight. We’ll have to see.
“Am I hoping to be the good guy? I don’t know. I’m so used to being the bad guy I don’t even know what it would feel like to be cheered into an arena. I know I was going to get booed into the arena for Conor. I know that.
“But the crazy thing is now a lot of the guys that were going to boo me are now fans. I see it. Just from what I’ve seen online and what I hear every day.
“At the end of the day people respect genuine, real athletes. Guys who don’t cut corners, who live the life, who don’t make excuses, who don’t hide, who are true and who represent the sport well.
“Regardless of what they think about the way I live my life or the things I say or how I dress, I’m clean. That is more important.
“I still don’t know what my reception’s going to be like in Manchester. If it’s going to be hostile or if it’s going to be a Team Eubank crowd. I guess we’ll find out.
“I’m up north but it is Manchester, not Liverpool.”
Whatever happens, Eubank intends to make it work for him. “I will feed off it because I have to,” he said.
“I have to use the energy that’s given to me. Whether it’s positive or negative I have to use it because I’m having to fight. I can’t go into an arena where people are booing me and think, ‘Oh man they’re booing me, this is really getting me down.’
“I can’t. I’m a fighter. I have to find a way. I learned that very quickly. If they’re not going to get behind me, then use that negative energy and channel it onto your opponent. Make the opponent pay for the disrespect that the crowd was showing.
“So I wouldn’t say I relish it but I accept it. I understand it and I make it work in my favour, if I’m going to be the bad guy.”
He reckons, though, that the clash with Smith will be the kind of contest where he wins the crowd.
“That’s always the fight I’m in. That’s the fights I’ve been in throughout my whole career, where people are against me or wanting me to lose and they’re booing me on the way in and they’re cheering me on the way out,” he said.
“That’s always there. It’s just whether I’m going to be booed in or cheered in. Because I’m definitely getting cheered out. I know what I do and the fans know what I do.
“They know both the guys walking into that ring always put on a good show. We’re never in boring fights.
“We don’t back down. We’re not looking to coast. We’re not looking for ways out. We want the war. We want the smoke.”
Chris Eubank Jr vs Liam Smith is on Saturday January 21, live on Sky Sports Box Office. Book it now if you are a Sky TV subscriber or a Non-Sky TV subscriber. Buy tickets here.
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