Chris Eubank Jr. was so foggy Saturday night that he tried to fight Liam Smith even after referee Victor Loughlin had already called a halt to the action in the fourth round. Joe McNally, Smith’s trainer, had to pull Eubank away from Smith before he could throw a punch a few seconds after Loughlin had declared Smith the victor by technical knockout at 1:09 of the fourth round. Eubank had been knocked down twice, and it was clear he wasn’t in any condition to continue in their 12-round middleweight match, but he told Sky Sports in a post-match interview in his locker room that he was still ready to keep going in the Sky Sports Box Office main event at a sold-out AO Arena in Manchester, England.
“A difficult night? No, I wouldn’t even say that,” Eubank said as he applied an ice pack to the large bruise near his right eye. “I was having a good time, I was landing my shots, I was enjoying the moment. And he caught me with a, you know, once-in-a-lifetime shot. I got up, I recovered, he put it on me again, a few more shots, and the referee decided that it was enough.
“I felt like I could keep going. I felt like I was aware of what was happening. But it’s the referee’s decision. I have to respect it. I felt like I was dominating the fight before that happened, so I think we have an exciting opportunity to, you know, at some point in the future, have that rematch.”
There is a rematch clause in their contracts, which Eubank indicated he will make use of. Eubank (32-3, 23 KOs), who was a 3-1 favorite, commended Smith (33-3-1, 20 KOs) for his remarkable victory, yet he remembered a slip to the canvas causing the second knockdown for which Smith was credited during the fourth round.
Smith blasted Eubank with a left uppercut and then a left hook that first floored him 45 seconds into the fourth round. A befuddled Eubank got to his feet quickly, but he couldn’t stand up straight.
Eubank tried to grab Smith, whose short right hand on the inside seemed to initiate Eubank’s second trip to the canvas. Loughlin stopped their fight after Eubank went down for the second time.
“What did my team say? I don’t really remember,” Eubank said. “It’s hard to hear when everything’s happening. All you have is the referee counting in your face. And obviously, he counted to [eight] and then he kind of, Liam came at me again, threw a bunch more punches, I slipped and then the referee stopped it.”
Brighton’s Eubank, 33, was knocked out for the first time in 35 professional fights. His only previous losses were a 12-round split decision to former WBO middleweight champ Billy Joe Saunders (30-1, 14 KOs) in November 2014 and a 12-round unanimous decision to ex-WBA super middleweight champ George Groves (28-4, 20 KOs) in February 2018.
Liverpool’s Smith, 34, earned what could be the greatest win of his 14-year professional career, which includes capturing the WBO junior middleweight title.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.