British middleweight champion Nick ‘Bang Bang’ Blackwell is back in training and back trying to convince himself Chris Eubank Jr., his mandatory challenger, won’t pull out of a fight with him when their scheduled title contest goes to purse bids this afternoon (December 16).
Twenty-five-year-old Blackwell has been ordered to fight Eubank Jr. twice before by the British Boxing Board of Control, but both times Eubank Jr. has looked the other way and pursued other opportunities. Blackwell, therefore, sadly expects more of the same this week.
“I’m telling myself the fight will happen and that he won’t pull out again, but he’s withdrawn from an eliminator and a final eliminator in the past and has also turned down a good private offer to fight me,” said Blackwell. “I don’t know why he would suddenly get brave now when he can just continue ducking me and cherry-pick a world title fight next year.
“You never know, he might man-up and do the right thing, but I think he’ll be hoping for a Billy Joe Saunders rematch. He’ll want Billy Joe to beat Andy Lee this Saturday night and then fight him for the WBO title. He’ll think Billy Joe is an easier opponent than me and won’t want to get beaten up by me in a British title fight.”
Blackwell watched Eubank Jr.’s seventh round stoppage of Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan last Saturday night, aware that he could fight him next, and saw a lot of the same old flaws he’s spotted in the past.
“It went the way I thought it would go, not the way I wanted it to go,” said Blackwell. “I wanted Spike to win, but didn’t think he would.
“Eubank Jr. didn’t box very well to begin with. He got dragged into a fight, he got caught and wobbled, but after that he settled down, improved and ending up looking quite good.
“Spike realised he wasn’t going to win the fight after round two and I think his corner made the right decision to pull him out when they did. It would have only got worse for him.
“I just want to get in there and beat Eubank Jr. up. He thinks he’s invincible at the minute and it’s quite amusing to me, having been in the ring with him before (in sparring). I know he’s not invincible. So does Billy Joe Saunders. I just want the chance to prove it and shock a few people.
“In my mind, Eubank Jr. hasn’t really fought anyone. He fought Billy Joe, but Billy Joe didn’t train well for the fight; he always believed Eubank Jr. was going to pull out. Billy Joe still boxed him from range and made him look silly. Other than that, though, who else is there? Spike didn’t really turn up.”
Rather than idle boasts, Blackwell speaks from experience. He has sparred Eubank Jr. on more than one occasion and has seen a side to the Brighton man that fills him with confidence ahead of a potential showdown.
“The last time I sparred him (in 2014) it was the first spar of my training camp and I beat him up,” he said. “I smashed him around the body and he didn’t like it. We were supposed to do six rounds and he got out after five.
“He can say it was a bad day but even his trainer, Ronnie Davies, said to me, ‘He needed that. He needed a good beating today.’ Ronnie then said, ‘Listen, you two will never, ever fight unless there’s a lot of money and a big title on the line.’
“Eubank Jr.’s obviously got better since then, but so have I. If he thinks I was strong then – and, believe me, he did – imagine what he’d think if we sparred or fought now. He was asking me for strength tips the last time we sparred because he was so overwhelmed by me in the ring. Well, I’m 25 now. I’ve matured physically and am enjoying the benefit of full training camps. He wouldn’t be able to live with me.
“He likes to fight at his own pace and he hates being put on the back foot. I can put him on the back foot and keep him there for every minute of every round. I wouldn’t go at his pace, I’d go at my pace, and he knows that my pace is way too much for him. He couldn’t handle it the last time we shared a ring and he won’t handle it next time, either.”
Ultimately, whether Eubank Jr. goes through with the fight or, as Blackwell suspects, darts the other way, the reigning British middleweight champion is just proud to be on the verge of claiming the belt outright.
“It doesn’t really matter who I fight,” he said. “Yeah, it would be good to beat Eubank Jr., and he’s my ideal next opponent, but I just want to win that Lonsdale belt outright. Not many people can say they’ve done that. And, when you take into account the fact I’ve come from an unlicensed background, with not one amateur fight to my name, it’s quite an achievement. I’d be delighted to be able to have that British title for keeps.”