Ahead of the anticipated Benn vs Eubank Jr on Saturday, BestofBets.com spoke to former WBC cruiserweight Champion Tony Bellew about matters pertaining to Conor Benn vs. Chris Eubank Jr, and also of his own rivalries from the past.
Conor Benn vs Chris Eubank Jr; history is repeating itself. What are your thoughts on this fight?
Tony Bellew: “It’s huge. It’s just mega. It’s never been done before and the closer this gets, you’ll realise the magnitude of it. It’s global. This is the first time these two boys, during their career, is properly stepping out of their father’s shadows.
“As for a potential trilogy, or similar, it all depends on the performance and the outcome; everything is down to how this fight plays out this weekend and I hope this will mark the beginning of a number of great fights between these two. And as long as the demand is big enough, the supply will be met. It’s always the same.”
“Chris Eubank Jr has come out saying that he can take Benn any time, any day…a punchy statement for someone that has a couple of defeats in the bag. But with all the chat he’s been given out, the pressure is on! But also, he has backed himself into a corner with the retirement pledge he made. He can’t say these things and then back track; especially when he’s stated that he only needs to be about 60% to bear Benn. Not only is that impossible but it’s untrue. Benn is in the best shape of his career so Eubank needs to be careful what he comes out with.
“Benn is undefeated in 21 fights so he doesn’t know what it’s like to lose; Eubank on the other hand, knows his limitations, as they’ve caused his defeats, but the bonus with this is that he’s been able to work on this ’shortfalls’ and those have made him a better boxer. As I’ve said before, although a defeat is hard to digest at the time, it tend to be what makes you a better and more consistent boxer.
“The difference on Saturday, and what makes the outcome hard to predicts, is that both fighters have had to adjust their weights.
“Benn is also seven years younger than Eubank at 25, but Eubank is strong and very fresh and fit so based on all this, I can play out various scenarios in my head, but I think it’ll come down to which version of Chris Eubank Jr, Chris decides ‘to bring’ on Saturday.
“Over the last few years, we’ve seen Eubank Jr play around with different boxing styles, some which has worked better than others; most recently, we’ve seen him imitate Roy Jones Jr, and should he go down this route this weekend, I think Conor Benn may outwork him. However, if Chris decides to become that destructive, strong inside fighter that we’ve seen in the past, then I think he may be too much for Benn to handle. It safe to say that it’ll be intriguing either way.
“Meanwhile, all the risk is on Conor Benn – he’s the one taking a massive gamble by jumping up in weight; and not just any weight but 13 pounds. This is a whole new territory for him and although the increase in weight may make him stronger, he’s not used to his weight. It may pay off but as far as the gamble goes, the odds are currently against him.
“For someone like Chris Eubank Jr, and I don’t say this lightly, but coming down three or four pounds is really tough, I’m not going to lie. But at the same time, you’re going to have huge size advantages when you get in that ring. And someone like Conor Benn is a throwback. You wouldn’t see other fighters doing this, not jumping one weight, but two weights to make a dream fight happen. And it’s not so much the fight, it’s the scenario. It’s the rivalry, it’s the past, the history of the fathers – these two guys have the same ambition that pushed their fathers to the very limits. There’s so much at stake here. There’s so much on the line. It’s just great to see. Good on them.”
So, we’ve briefly touched upon rivalries, I can’t leave you without talking to you about the Haye fights; no one gave you a shot. You were four to one, I think that’s right, because I remember, because I put a tenner on you to win that fight, because I looked at it and I knew you wanted it more. What I want to ask is, obviously you’ve beat him twice, which must be hugely satisfying. How satisfying was it to beat David Haye?
Tony: “It’s obviously nice to go against the odds and everyone writing you off, saying you’re going to lose and you’re going to get absolutely smashed and smoked. And, yeah, that was nice to do, but beating David is no better than beating Mateusz Masternak for the European title. It’s just another fight. I was fighting David for the money, 100%. So, that’s what it was all about. I don’t take no personal satisfaction in beating up David Haye, if that’s what you want to hear. I like David Haye.”
So, was there real hatred between you guys?
Tony: “Of course, before the fight, massively. David hated me, he wanted to kill me. And I knew that. I sensed it from him. I didn’t hate David, I wanted to just beat him. I wanted to win. And that’s all I want to do with all my opponents. I never want to hurt any of them. David genuinely wants to kill me because I’d wound him up that much. You have to understand that. He genuinely thought I was taking the fight for the money and nothing else. That was a big factor, but I also knew I could beat him. He never believed that I believed it that I could beat him. He thought that I was just taking the fight for the money.
“So, when he realized and we got up close, that first time at the first press conference, that this cheeky f***er doesn’t actually… he’s not just taking this… he actually thinks he can beat me. That’s when he’s throwing the punch and he’s lashed out because I’ve insulted his ego. And that’s just how it goes. It is what it is.
“Rivalries, and how it’s drawn on, it’s crazy, but it’s just styles make fights. I can make him miss. I’m used to facing light heavyweights and cruiserweights who are much faster than David Haye, so when you can make him miss, there’s only so many punches he can throw around, and if you keep making him miss, he’s going to tire, simple as that. And that’s just how I work, and I knew the game plan was perfect. Nobody believed me. Next to no one. There were probably [some] in my own team who didn’t believe me.
“But I made it pay on the night, mate, and as I say, the only disappointing side of this is the whole world writes me off before the fight. And the two fights he had previously, he looked so explosive. He looked so powerful. He looked brilliant in the two fights before me. But then all of a sudden, because I beat him, he’s an old man, past it. So, yeah, they’re the only distractions. But I don’t mind. I don’t fight for plaudits, I fought for money, that stage in my career.
“So, I don’t fight to be given praise. Like I said, I’m a prize fighter at that stage in my career, and I am purely a prize fighter. All my dreams have been fulfilled, so my only obligations at that stage is money and cashing out and I done it massively against David Haye not once but twice. And to have the world say I’m going to get knocked out once was great…And then when he comes back and he’s perfectly fine…and I do him even quicker, everything I said in both those press conferences, just go back and watch it, because everything I said before both fights, I followed through with and done.”
“And it went exactly the way I said it would. So it worked out okay. I can’t complain, but I’m also very appreciative to David Haye, because without David Haye coming into my career the way he did, I’d probably still be fighting today. “
Of all your fights which one gave you more satisfaction?
Tony: “I think for all my team and the other people around me, it’s the David Haye fight. This guy said he was going to put me in a coma. This guy said my kids were going to visit me in the hospital, so for the majority of the public, and whenever I’m out now, everyone will stop me and say, “Made up, you beat up that David Haye, made up you beat David Haye. We loved it. We were supporting you.” But for me, personal satisfaction came from the Nathan Cleverly fight. I was detracted and so slated after that first fight with Nathan Cleverly. “You’ll never be a world champion. You’ll never be this champion. You’ll never be that champion.
“Well, I went on and became British, Commonwealth, and European champion. I went on and lifted the WBC Cruiserweight championship of the world. I defended it against a guy who had never been stopped, BJ Flores, I absolutely smoked him and blasted him out of the water like no one else had ever done before, and then I went on and beat his good mate in David Haye twice. After that, I fought for all the belts against the greatest cruiserweight that’s ever touched the Earth in Oleksandr Usyk. I come up short, but I can live with that, because as I said before, I lost to the best cruiserweight there’s ever been in my opinion.”