Chris Eubank Jr insists he was caught by a “once if a lifetime” shot and was “dominating” before his fourth-round stoppage loss to Liam Smith, but hopes to receive a rematch later this year.
Smith stepped up from super-welterweight to middleweight, against an opponent in Eubank Jr who was known for his toughness and potent combination punching.
But in an extraordinarily intense contest at the Manchester Arena on Saturday, it was Smith who rapidly broke down Eubank Jr.
In the fourth round, he demolished Eubank expertly, a perfectly weighted sequence of punches crumpled the Brighton man on to the canvas and Smith never let him recover.
The result was conclusive but Eubank, despite being hurt and stopped for the first time in his career, has told Sky Sports he wants to trigger the rematch clause and fight Smith again, calling the shot a “once in a lifetime” punch, and claiming he was dominating the fight.
“A tough night? No I wouldn’t even say that, I was having fun, I was landing my shots, I was enjoying the moment,” Eubank exclusively told Sky Sports from his dressing room post-fight.
“And he caught me with a once-in-a-lifetime shot. I got up, I recovered, he put it on me again with a few more shots and the referee decided it was enough.
“I felt like I could go on. I felt like I was aware of what was happening, but it was the referee’s decision and I have to respect it.
“I felt like I was dominating the fight before that happened, so I think we’ve got an exciting opportunity, at some point in the future, to have that rematch.
“Listen, it’s boxing, it’s a sexy sport, this is the sport we love. Anything can happen. I never would have believed this could happen.
“I think a lot of people didn’t see this happening, and it happened, but that’s okay. I’m okay with it. It’s part of the journey and I’ve still got a lot left so we’ll see what happens later on in the year.
“He had good hand speed, but it was that one sequence of shots. He threw a bunch of shots and one of them landed and it dazed me. I felt before that I was in control of the fight.
“That third round I was picking my shots, and, no disrespect, but every dog has its day. This was Liam’s night, and I respect him.
“There’s losing a fight and losing a fight. I was dominating the fight and then I got caught, so to me I’m still able to perform and in my mind I’m still the better fighter.
“Obviously I don’t have much of an argument after a loss, but I have an argument to prove I’m the better fighter. It was a shot that landed, and it’s a fight I think the fans will still want to see further down the line.”
Eubank Jr tweeted afterward defeat: “Congratulations to Liam tonight, nice lil shot you caught me with there, my boy. Felt like I could have kept going but referee is in charge and I respect his decision. We’ll get it on again soon .”
Smith is prepared to fight his rival once again, but next time in his Liverpool hometown.
He will though let Eubank Jr take his time. “I think he’s probably going to have to tweet about it and have to talk about it right away. It’s kind of an ego and a pride thing. He’s not going to say, ‘Well, I don’t want that rematch, I’ I’ve just been knocked out,'” Smith reflected.
“But we might get a different answer when he’s sat and thought about it and watched it back.
“He’ll sit down with his team and his family and he’ll decide if he wants that rematch. If he wants that rematch I’ll give him it.
“I beat him once so I’ll beat him twice.”
All Smith wants next is a fight at Anfield, Liverpool’s football stadium, regardless of who the opponent might be.
“It puts me in a good position now, with Chris’ ranking at 160lbs. I can go back to 154lbs if necessary, we’ll see what happens,” he said of the victory.
“But we’ll see who becomes available and what’s right for me, my team and my family.”
Former super-middleweight world champion Carl Froch wonders if Eubank could retire.
“I don’t know how he’s done the weight or if it’s a problem for him, but at 33 years old, middleweight may not be for him. Where does he go from here? That could be curtains on his career. I don’ Don’t want to say he should retire now. It was a bad defeat,” Froch said.
“Where does he go now? Middleweight or super-middleweight? Regardless of the weight, I don’t think we should take away from what a magnificent performance it was from Liam Smith.
“He took his time from round one, he won round one and round two on my card, bit of a bad round three. Liam Smith, I thought he had a great start and he was landing more punches and he was putting Chris Eubank on his back foot and controlling and dictating the pace round the ring.
“Then when he started to land shots, it was fight over.”
Former cruiserweight world champion Johnny Nelson points out that Eubank Jr will still have options.
“There’s fights out there. Look at this place [the Manchester Arena], this place was absolutely rocking. They could do that again. They could do that again at Anfield, wherever it is. But he’s got to think about what weight he’s going to carry on boxing at and what his dreams are,” Nelson said.
Eubank Jr could use the rematch clause in their contract to trigger a second fight with Smith. But Smith has opened the door to other high profile fights in the future too.
Current unified super-welterweight champion Natasha Jonas said of Smith: “Either you do the rematch or you have another big name. He’s proved tonight he’s that world level.”
Carl Froch agreed. “I think what he might be looking at now may be just getting some money in the bank at the end of his career. [Gennadiy] Golovkin fight whether or not he’s still fighting, a big name, filling this place, what an amazing atmosphere it was.
“Since Amir Khan-Kell Brook I haven’t felt that kind of anticipation and atmosphere. So he deserves another big fight at least and I don’t think it needs to be for a world title. I think it just needs to be a big name.”