Birmingham, England, Nov. 18, 1990. After weeks of bitter back-and-forths, two of Britain's finest prizefighters enter the ring. Nigel Benn, the betting favorite, comes out with all guns blazing, hunting for the elusive Chris Eubank. After eight rounds of competitive action, both fighters entered the 9th with their title aspirations in the balance. Benn grasps the upper-hand in the 9th round, dropping Eubank with a left hand, but unbeknownst to Benn, his success would be shortlived. Eubank stands up, readies himself and within moments, lands a combination which would rock his foe and bring the fight to within moments of a finish. One final barrage ended Benn, and Eubank was declared the champion of the world.
That night in Birmingham would act as the impetus for a golden age of British boxing and a legendary rivalry that would captivate the UK for the next 7 years.
In the 26 years since that brilliant night in British boxing, a lot has changed. Britain's relationship with prizefighting has seen numerous peaks and troughs. The stellar careers of Naseem Hamed, Ricky Hatton and Lennox Lewis have came and went, but a void still remains in the hearts and minds of British fight fans. While David Haye, Amir Khan and Tyson Fury have prospered, they have failed to capture widespread public support. As British boxing desperately tries to modernize, all eyes are on Saturday night's blockbuster UK pay-per-view, which is headlined by a fight between Anthony Joshua and Dominic Breazeale.
Everyone wants to watch Anthony Joshua and there is no denying it. Everyone expects that Joshua will be a star - to some he is already a star and he is only going to get better. The problem with Joshua is that his time in Europe is limited - after signing a deal with Showtime, he will likely follow in the footsteps of his fellow Olympian, Amir Khan and begin to focus himself on becoming a big name in the United States. With Joshua's time as a British mainstay limited, it is time to look ahead to the future.
The answer to Britain's prayers may well begin with the return of two of UK pugilism's best-known names. With the children of both Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank appearing on the under-card of Saturday's pay-per-view it might be time for two families synonymous with British boxing to rise to the top again.
Chris Eubank Jr. and Conor Benn are at different points in their fighting careers, but both have enormous promise. Chris Eubank Jr. has shown himself to be a chip off the old block - powerful, versatile and a natural finisher with the potential to be a star. Eubank Jr. has faced defeat just once in 23 fights, a split-decision loss to Billy Joe Saunders, but since that fight, he has looked amazing.
With his father by his side, Eubank Jr. has began to build a following across Britain. It seems that he has inherited his father's skills without his extroverted personality, which often polarized fans. Unlike his father, Eubank Jr. seems to have universal appeal and he has handled himself really well in recent years, especially in how he dealt with the aftermath of his recent match with Nick Blackwell.
There have been rumors surrounding Eubank Jr. in recent weeks, the most common one is that if Eubank Jr. wins on Saturday night, he will face Gennady Golovkin in the UK for his next fight. A fight with GGG would skyrocket Eubank Jr.'s popularity regardless of its outcome. Chris Eubank Jr. could be months away from being the star that British boxing desperately needs.
Conor Benn is relatively an unknown quality at this point, but in his first two professional fights, he has looked like he has a lot of potential. This week Benn made the headlines when he got into a heated argument with his father's former foe, Chris Eubank Sr. at a press conference and in that exchange he showed the mental fortitude that made his father a champion.
While Benn is early in his career, I have no doubts in my mind that he could prove to be a force in British boxing. Nigel Benn has stated that he feels like his son will end up being a better fighter than he ever was and while the pair have only ever sparred twice, the results speak for themselves; Conor Benn chipped his father's tooth in their first tryst, when he was aged just 15 and when they laced up once again four years later, Conor knocked his father's headgear straight off with one power shot.
Though there is a gulf in experience and a size disparity between himself and Chris Eubank Jr, Conor Benn has made it clear in the past that he would like to finally score a victory for his family against the Eubanks:
"Would I rather a fight with Chris Eubank Jr down the line over any world title fight? Yeah, I think I would. We need to bring that win back home.”
The future of this generation of British boxers will likely be decided on Saturday, some prospects will fall and some will take the next step towards stardom. Once thing is for certain: this card is bound the be exciting.
Check out the full fight card below:
Anthony Joshua v Dominic Breazeale - IBF world heavyweight title
George Groves v Martin Murray - WBA international super-middleweight title
Chris Eubank Jr v Tom Doran - British middleweight title
John Wayne Hibbert v Andrea Scarpa - WBC Silver super-lightweight title
Dillian Whyte v Ivica Bacurin - heavyweight bout
Kal Yafai v TBC - super-flyweight bout
Anthony Ogogo v Frane Radric - middleweight bout
Ted Cheeseman v Danny Little - welterweight bout
Conor Benn v Lukas Radic - super-lightweight bout
Felix Cash v Yailton Neves - middleweight bout
Sky Sports Box Office: Anthony Joshua v Dominic Breazeale goes down on Saturday at Saturday on Sky Box Office (7 p.m. GMT) and over on Showtime (5:15 p.m. ET)