Harlem Eubank is not your typical Eubank, but he could still make it to the top

by 24britishtvJuly 30, 2022, 11 p.m. 16
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Harlem Eubank is related to British boxing royalty, has a dangerous left hook, an unbeaten record – yet came up via a tougher path than his cousin, Chris Eubank Jr.

The 14-0 Harlem is the son of Chris Eubank Sr’s older brother, Simon, also a boxer. But while Chris Jr got attention from his pro debut onwards – escorted to the ring with his father, flexing and posturing in a sleeveless suit – Harlem started out in front of barely half-full York Halls.

Simon Eubank and his twin brother Peter were not celebrated two-weight world champions like their younger brother. Instead, the pair were journeymen: bodies brought in to lose to the house fighter for a tiny fraction of the millions Chris Sr would earn. So while they pulled off the odd upset – Peter Eubank once outpointed a young Barry McGuigan – both had lopsided losing records.

The experience of his older twin brothers was often said to be behind why Chris Sr had such open disdain for boxing; a love-hate relationship with a sport he once called “a mug’s game”.

Harlem Eubank describes the situation his dad and his father’s twin brother faced as: “They weren’t looked after… they were on the other side of boxing.” A level-headed response from a man his trainer, Adam Booth, jokingly calls ‘Humble Harlem’ – a different character from the enigmatic Chris Sr or the cocksure Chris Jr.

But light-welterweight Harlem, aiming to reach 15-0 when he faces Mexico’s Eliot Chavez on Channel 5 this weekend, has some distinct ‘Eubank’ family traits. There’s the impressively chiselled physique and – like Chris Jr – he turned pro after a limited amateur career so as to learn in the paid ranks.

The young Harlem, understandably put off boxing by the intimidating fame of his uncle and the harsh experiences his father endured, first fell in love with martial arts after growing up watching Bruce Lee films. He was a youth British karate champion twice, at age 10 and 11 – not that that impressed his extrovert uncle.

He remembers driving back after winning one tournament and bumping into Uncle Chris in Brighton. “My mum shouted to him: ‘Chris, Harlem has just won his second British championship,’” Harlem told the Daily Mail in 2019.

“And he just looked at us with a straight face and said: “I won 19 world championships,” and walked off! No congratulations or anything. I will always remember that. It’s one of my most vivid memories… I think hearing that as a kid, some would be upset by that, but I can remember at the time that I liked it.”

However, Harlem’s love of karate was soon replaced by a desire to play football, a sport where he almost made it as a professional. The now 28-year-old was with Brighton from the ages of 12 to 16, playing in the youth team alongside Solly March and Lewis Dunk – and against a young Raheem Sterling.

But Harlem, very short for his age until a late growth spurt, was let go by Brighton and – after a trial at West Ham did not pan out – turned to boxing, a sport that was in his blood from the start.

Packing in 33 amateur fights, he turned professional in 2017 to learn on the job. It’s a similar path taken by Chris Eubank Jr, by Conor Benn and now by Campbell Hatton. But while that trio had a gigantic profile boost thanks to their superstar dads, Harlem provoked some curiosity due to his surname but far from enough to gild his entry into the sport.

“It helps build your profile, it makes life easier,” Harlem told Danny Flexen about turning pro with the fanfare that trio enjoyed. “But I’m grateful for my path. I know it was meant to be this way, because it’s turned me into a better fighter – I don’t need to rely on anyone for anything. I’m on my own when I fight and that’s how you need to be when you’re in there. There’s no one to help you.”

Still, Harlem is very close to Chris Jr and even the not easily impressed ‘Next Gen’ was on his feet applauding at Harlem’s last fight: a spectacular one-punch KO of the experienced Sean ‘Masher’ Dodd in May.

A rapid left hook out of nowhere flattened Dodd and echoed another British KO of the year contender Harlem unleashed in 2018, when he sent Peter Aleksandrov face-first to the canvas. Yet despite these vicious one-shot knockouts, Harlem’s six KOs in 14 fights do not suggest he has raw punch power – perhaps another Eubank riddle that will be solved in time.

Harlem certainly doesn’t fight much like his cousin Chris Jr who relies on his engine, physical strength and resilience, exhausting foes with thudding blows. Instead Harlem is a skilful stylist with quick hands, sharp reflexes and at his best from distance.

It’s too soon to tell how good Harlem can be based on his limited experience – and how his defence holds up under heavy incoming fire is still to be tested – but he is getting better as he progresses. A test against British 140lb champion Sam Maxwell would be an intriguing fight for both men down the line.

One thing Harlem does have in common with Chris Jr is a desire to test himself against Conor Benn at some stage – the two are actually closer in weight, with Nigel’s son only one weight division above Harlem. So maybe there will be more than one Eubank-Benn next generation fights to entertain fight fans in the future.

A more sombre bond he shares with Chris Jr is that both were incredibly close to Seb Eubank – Chris’s brother and Harlem’s cousin – who shockingly died of a heart attack at the age of only 29 a year ago. Seb and Harlem travelled and trained together, going from Dubai to the Mayweather gym in Las Vegas to Cuba to find sparring.

On top of that, Harlem knows about the dark side of his sport from the closest possible source. “My dad’s memory isn’t the best, as we are talking about the risks of boxing,” he told Tris Dixon on his Boxing Life Stories podcast. “I’m fully aware of the two sides of the coin; how it can develop you as a person, the life it can give you and what it can take away from you. I’ve seen that first-hand.”

What we have yet to see first-hand is just how good Harlem Eubank can be – whether he is a Conor Benn who improves rapidly as a pro, or a curiosity with name value and little else. But Harlem is doing and saying the right things as he plots his own path to escape his uncle’s imposing shadow.

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