By John J. Raspanti
Questions always abound before important prizefights. When Manny Pacquiao met Jeff Horn, many wondered if the 38-year-old Pacquiao might get older on fight night, (more on that later) or if Horn had enough experience to deal with Pac. In a few weeks, former champions Mikey Garcia and Adrien Broner will get it on. Garcia has moved up two weight divisions in the last few years. Will his power (30 KOs in 36 fights) move up with him? Can Broner get into shape and beat a top-level fighter?
On July 15, at Wembley Arena in London, England, once-beaten hotshot Chris Eubank Jr. will draw hands with former WBO and IBF super middleweight champion Arthur Abraham. Many wonder if Eubank is moving up too quickly or if Abraham is shot. What about Eubank’s chin? Can Abraham find lightening in a bottle?
Eubank (24-1, 19 KOs) has stopped sixteen of his last seventeen opponents. He captured the fringe IBO super middleweight belt last February by brutalizing Renoid Quinlan in 11 rounds. His lone loss came in 2014 when WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders edged him over 12 intense rounds. Eubank, 27, was furious, demanding a rematch, which fell through during negotiations.
The 37-year-old Abraham is loaded with experience and guile. He defended his IBF world title 10 times from 2007-2009. Abraham, called “King Arthur” by his fans, was riding high until a number of one-sided losses almost derailed it.
Behind on the scorecards against Andre Dirrell in 2010, Abraham felled Dirrell with an illegal blow--drawing an immediate disqualification. In the next two years, Abraham lost by wide margins to Carl Froch and Andre Ward.
After his loss to Ward, he was advised to hang up his gloves. Instead, Abraham, then 31, ignored the retirement talk and licked his wounds for six months. Abraham returned, counterpunching his way to a win over WBO titleholder Robert Stiglitz.
Unfortunately, his victory was short-lived. Eight months later, Stieglitz got his revenge by stopping Abraham in four frames.
Again Abraham was advised to quit, but he’s nothing if not stubborn. He and his team used the same formula that worked so well the previous year. He took some time off, won a couple of tune-up fights, and faced Stieglitz for a third time in Germany.
Abraham rallied from an early deficit to win the match by split decision. He defeated Martin Murray before losing his title to the much younger and bigger Gilberto Ramirez in Las Vegas last year. Would he listen to the advice of his friends and finally hang up his gloves? No. He was soon back in the ring. He’s won his last two fights against lessor competition.
Eubank Jr. is aware of Abraham’s reputation for toughness.
“I think Arthur Abraham has a great chin,” said Eubank. “But I’m going in there to knock him out and knock him out cold.
“I have the tools in both fists to stop Abraham and I will have the crowd on the edge of their seats. I’m faster than Abraham, I hit harder and I have quicker feet,” he said.
Eubank’s advantage in quickness is obvious. Abraham, never fast to begin with, is about as slow as a truck in mud. Whether Eubank hits harder is debatable. Abraham has been on the big stage a number of times before. Eubank has not. Will it matter? Probably not.
Eubank is younger, hungrier, and fresher. He’ll likely pound on Abraham like an abrasive little brother. If Abraham can withstand the onslaught, he might get to test the young man’s chin, and with that, a question will be answered.
I’ve watched the Manny Pacquiao versus Jeff Horn fight twice. Once with the sound on, the other with it off. I had Pacquiao winning both times. Horn won the first round and a number after, but not the fight. Punch stats can be fun to debate, but it was pretty obvious who was landing more. Horn did a fabulous job of using his physicality to force Pacquiao into a fight that he didn’t want. The former champion can’t punch in volume like he once did. He was visibly unnerved by his own blood. He looked like a guy who was questioning whether he really wanted to fight anymore. He looked all of his 38 years, but still, to me, he won the fight.