How ‘divine intervention’ brought Chris Eubank back to boxing – and to his nephew Harlem

Chris and Harlem’s partnership was announced by Wasserman in late October

Chris, meanwhile, takes a moment and a breath before weighing in. “What does it mean?” The 57-year-old has always taken his time choosing his words, and it has always made him a mesmeric orator. “It means I’m delighted. Delighted. I’ve given him tips over the years, and every tip I’ve given him, I’ve seen him actually carry them out in fights. Even just coming up from Brighton this morning in the car, the amount of information that I’ve been able to give him, it’s like: ‘Is he gonna be able to actually take on board this much experience and wisdom? Not only in boxing, but also to do with the media, the public, being still. Is it going to overload him?’ But it’s fun. When I get up, I pull him up; and when he gets up, he pulls me up.”

By the end of the day, the duo will be back in Brighton, where their fighting family have roots – including Simon’s twin brother Peter, and Chris’s son Jr. It is there that the unbeaten Harlem will box Schwarzkopf, marking the Brighton Centre’s first fight night since 1991, when Chris retained his WBO middleweight title. Three years after that bout, to the day, Harlem was born.

Some will call it coincidence; Harlem, with his feel for the spiritual and the divine, might point to something more.

The 29-year-old also has a feel for philosophy. “I think I’ve always been attracted to philosophy, and the philosophy of fighting, because it’s so real,” Harlem says. “There’s nothing fake about it. When you step in the ring, you see someone’s personality in true form.”

Harlem faces off with Timo Schwarzkopf ahead of their bout in Brighton

“It’s the only vocation that’s real,” Chris concurs. “Almost all vocations are pretend, but when you get hit, there’s no pretence behind it. I think of our trainer, Charlie; he’s a fireman, and he’s beautifully placed, because his spirit teaches what Harlem has to do when he’s in a fight. If it’s not going your way, you’ve got to stay in that fight, and if you get knocked down, you’ve got to get up and run back into the fire. Do you have the courage, the testicular fortitude to do what most people can’t do?” Chris, wearing a glinting badge in acknowledgement of Charlie’s service and his own unique role as a US city marshal, turns to Harlem. “I was gonna say, ‘I pray it doesn’t happen to you.’ Sorry, it’s not like that; I pray it does happen, because that’s how you cut yourself away from the rest of the pack.

“That’s the warrior, and that’s why we’re creatures of irony, because we really are here to protect and bring peace, but in the ring we’re fierce!” Chris leans forward as he says it, contorting his face into a mock kind of menace. Now, he is posturing as only he can. Then, he leans back and laughs. “Sorry, I’m taking over the interview, but this is why I’m here, because I’ve got to give you copy!”

Chris, who places much focus on the idea of “protecting” Harlem, takes over a few times. I wonder if Harlem minds, but he smiles softly as if to suggest he doesn’t. I certainly don’t – as keen as I am to hear from Harlem.

Harlem during his victory over Miguel Antin in March

When I ask the younger Eubank what he will be thinking as he emerges in front of a home crowd in Brighton, he manages, “You don’t have time for thoughts. I’m ready, I’m ready to go, I’m ready to––”

“Inflict punishment,” Chris cuts in, before apologising to Harlem again. “I’m sorry! But that’s what I’m here to teach: He has to inflict legal punishment on his adversary. That’s right. I’m gonna teach you a quote by…” he searches for the name, thinking of Samuel Johnson but saying Winston Churchill. “‘Treating your adversary with respect is giving him an advantage to which he is not entitled.’ So, treating your adversary with respect is striking soft in battle. The battle has already started, Harlem’s job is to eviscerate them. We’re here to smash it, we’re going to smash it.” Again, Chris is posturing in trademark fashion.

“When you walk into that arena,” he continues, “and you hear the crowds booing you – or cheering, but it’s better when they boo – oooh, it’s beautiful!”

There will be no boos in Brighton. Harlem will be the hero, Chris his mentor. But for all that Chris feels he can teach his new mentee, he effuses about his nephew’s learnings so far. To Chris, Harlem is a “pure” soul and a “sweetheart”. As a boxer? “Beautiful, brilliant, sugar.”

They will hope for a sweet homecoming.

Harlem Eubank vs Timo Schwarzkopf will air live on Channel 5 on Friday 10 November. Coverage begins at 10pm GMT, with ring walks due at 10.05pm.

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