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BEN SHALOM: Chris Eubank Jr has always been targeted for taking the easy option… this rematch with Liam Smith is anything but

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BEN SHALOM: Chris Eubank Jr has always been targeted for taking the easy option… this rematch with Liam Smith is anything but

  • Liam Smith and Chris Eubank Jr meet in a long-awaited rematch on Saturday
  • Back in January, Smith handed Eubank the first stoppage defeat of his career
  • BOXXER promoter Ben Shalom reveals where the fight will be won and lost 

At long last, Chris Eubank Jr and Liam Smith meet in their middleweight rematch. Back in January, Smith handed Eubank the first stoppage defeat of his career.

Here, BOXXER promoter Ben Shalom talks Mail Sport through the eight-month journey back to Manchester – and where the fight will be won and lost… 

Both Liam Smith and Chris Eubank Jr know one thing: they have to keep winning to stay at the top, to be in the Box Office events, and to be headlining shows. Because it can a long journey back and neither has that time. 

What unfolded back in January was shocking. Not the result, but the way it happened. 

The atmosphere that night was one of the best I’ve ever witnessed and I expect the same on Saturday. There is even more anticipation this time round. Now people know it can go both ways. 

It’s been a long road for both fighters and it’s brilliant to finally be here.  

Liam has had his injuries and he’s worked incredibly hard to be fit. Chris has stuck with what he thought as soon as he got out of the ring in January: that this fight was something he had to do, something he wanted to do despite there being bigger money offers out there. 

Chris Eubank Jr's upcoming rematch against Liam Smith is anything but the easy option

Chris Eubank Jr’s upcoming rematch against Liam Smith is anything but the easy option

Eubank Jr will take on Smith (left) eight months after the first stoppage loss of his career

Eubank Jr will take on Smith (left) eight months after the first stoppage loss of his career

He deserves a lot of credit for that. Throughout his career, Chris has been targeted for taking the easy option. This is certainly not the easy option. 

This is where he wants to prove what a great fighter he is, to cement his legacy and to show that what happened in January wasn’t the end of his career but what he would call a ‘miracle’.

There wasn’t one moment when I thought this fight would not happen. I knew both fighters wanted the fight and ultimately if they want to get in the ring, they’ll make sure it happens. 

The only thing that maybe could have stopped it? Liam not being able to come through his injury as well as he has. Not working so hard to make sure he was fit. 

Liam has been very irritated by the excuses, so I think he wants this rematch almost as much as Chris. He’s a very proud man. 

But I always knew Chris was determined to do this rematch. He felt his preparation last time was really, really bad. He had a terrible year both personally and  professionally. It was very difficult for him and he feels he can now show he’s the better fighter.  

The change of trainer – from Roy Jones Jr to Brian BoMac McIntyre – is more a change of discipline, a change of mindset, a change of approach to conditioning and how he prepares. 

Ben Shalom, BOXXER's CEO, believes Eubank Jr deserves credit for accepting the bout

Ben Shalom, BOXXER’s CEO, believes Eubank Jr deserves credit for accepting the bout

Shalom admitted Eubank Jr may have underestimated Smith ahead of their first showdown

Shalom admitted Eubank Jr may have underestimated Smith ahead of their first showdown

At this point, Chris knows what he’s good at, he knows his weaknesses and he wants to get back to his strengths. 

And that means I think we’re going to see the fight that we always thought we would. 

Teaming up with BoMac, having that level of team around him – that he’s not really bothered with before – could make him a lot stronger and a lot less susceptible to being hurt.

I knew his preparation wasn’t good for the first fight, I knew how much he had been through. He was still himself at the press conferences but there was a complacency and that’s what worried me. 

I think he underestimated how good Liam Smith is. I think he underestimated the task at hand after a year out of the ring and with everything he went through.

So it’s this time that I’m seeing a different Chris. He’s more focused, he is under pressure but he’s mature enough now to handle that.  

My prediction? It all depends on whether Eubank is in decline or whether the first fight really was a freak. 

I do see it going into the later rounds. Both fighters have everything on the line and I still make Liam the slight favourite – I always did. The advantages Chris had were size, power and strength. That’s what this fight rests on: does he still have that? 

Smith is the slight favourite, according to Shalom, though Eubank is more focused and mature

Smith is the slight favourite, according to Shalom, though Eubank is more focused and mature

Watch Smith vs Eubank Jr 2 on Sky Sports Box Office on Saturday, September 2, live from the AO Arena in Manchester: https://www.sky.com/boxoffice