Chris Eubank Jr. transcends titles at this point in his career, according to his promoter.
Last month, the brash British middleweight staved off irrelevancy by avenging his loss to Liam Smith earlier in the year by stopping Smith in their rematch held at AO Arena in Manchester.
The win has revived talks of a possible showdown with Conor Benn, the welterweight who was set to fight Eubank at a catchweight last October. But the revelation of one of two positive drug tests from Benn led to the cancellation of that high-profile affair. Benn, despite ongoing conflict with the British Boxing Board of Control and United Kingdom Anti-Doping, returned to the ring last month for the first time in 18th months to pick up a unanimous decision over journeyman Rodolfo Orozco.
Since the win over Smith, Eubank (33-3, 24 KOs) also saw his name move up within the middleweight rankings of the WBO, whose title is currently claimed by southpaw Janibek Alimkhanuly of Kazakhstan. Alimkhanuly quickly took notice of the development and offered a stern challenge to the Brit on X.
“Now Chris Eubank is number one in the WBO [ratings],” Alimkhanuly wrote last month. “I’ll knock him out in the first round with my eyes closed. He knows it. If he agrees to fight me, this fight will have to happen in Vegas!”
But Alimkhanuly’s title would not be much of an incentive to Eubank, according to Nisse Sauerland, who, together with his brother Kalle at Wasserman Boxing, promotes the Brighton native. Not when there are names like Benn, Gennadiy Golovkin, and Canelo Alvarez out there. Alimkhanuly, by contrast, is relatively unknown and has proven himself to be a draw.
“There’s loads of other names out there at the moment,” Sauerland told iFL TV. “You’ve got GGG. You’ve got Canelo. He wants big fights. There’s talks of this WBO [mandatory] Janibek. And it’s like, it’s a bit like the AJ (Anthony Joshua) scenario. Look, for us (fans), it’s probably a great fight. We’d enjoy watching it. It’s the WBO title. But does it transcend? No. It doesn’t transcend, like a Benn, Canelo, Golovkin.”
Alimkhanuly (14-0, 9 KOs) could perhaps sweeten the pot if he winds up picking another belt later this month, on Oct. 14, when he takes on IBF titlist Vincenzo Gualtieri at Ford Bend Epicenter in Rosenberg, Texas.
However, Eubank himself rejected talk of facing the winner of Alimkhanuly vs. Gualtieri, citing their low commercial appeal.
“I don’t know who they are,” Eubank told Sky Sports. “And I’m in the game. So the general public are not going to know who these guys are, which means it’s hard for them to tune in if you’re making it a pay-per-view event, which a world title should be.”
Eubank called out Alvarez this past weekend after Alvarez easily defeated Jermell Charlo over 12 rounds to retain his four 168-pound titles.
Sean Nam is the author of Murder on Federal Street: Tyrone Everett, the Black Mafia, and the Last Golden Age of Philadelphia Boxing.