Alan Dawson – London
Headhunting WBO World Middleweight champion Nigel Benn, who was 27-1-0, 25ko prior to his epic war with fellow Englishman Chris Eubank (24-0-0, 14ko), relinquished his crown to the undefeated upstart during a nine round battle for local pride, international acclaim and the world title on November 18, 1990 at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, England.
Round By Round Summary
Round One: Eubank was sprightly as soon as the fight began, dancing in circles around Nigel Benn – paying respect to the Dark Destroyer’s proven knockout power. Benn may have traditionally started fights with heavy hands but it was Eubank who had his opponent troubled first with a series of right fists. Benn attempted to reply by forcing hook shots but Eubank’s evasive maneuvering ensured Benn swung at air. Eubank kept his fists low and relied more on his foot-work to slip away from Benn’s punches. Midway through the round, Eubank again found success with his right mitt.
Round Two: Benn’s left hook began to sneak through in the second and Eubank was wobbled by a right from the champ. Benn rarely strung together multi-punch combinations… instead, he’d occasionally snap out a jab or, more commonly, look to land a power shot. His foot movement was also come-forward and this contrasted Eubank’s style who used lateral movement, relied on his reflexes to slip Benn’s punches and would – when openings presented themselves – flurry. Eubank took a straight right direct on the chin and backed away from his attacker. Benn was the busier and more aggressive fighter in the first two minutes, however, Eubank finished the stanza strongly as he troubled Benn before pinning him against the ropes and firing punches at will.
Round Three: Benn’s power again became apparent in the third stanza as he rocked Eubank with a stiff right. The challenger refused to back up and instead, brawled his way out of trouble. Benn looked to land heavy leather on Eubank with a right hook, left hook, right uppercut but all three shots missed Eubank’s bonce. Further hook shots completely missed Eubank but Benn remained the aggressor. Eubank struck Benn with a number of clean uppercuts at the end of the second minute which sparked a toe-to-toe exchange. The round finished with a brawl as Benn found success with his right.
Round Four: For the second time in the fight, Eubank had Benn pushed back onto the ropes but the lion’s share of the challenger’s punches were blocked by the forearms of Benn. The bad intentions from both boxers resulted in facial damage – Eubank with the larger brunt of it despite Benn’s eye beginning to look positively ghastly (and in dire need of the enswell). Eubank reeled slightly after Benn struck him with a punishing shot on the midsection. Eubank was forced to hold as Benn dazed him with a right.
Round Five: Eubank maintained a right mitt close to his head in order to provide a cushion for any incoming left hook bombs hurled by Benn, however, the punch he continued to fail to deal with was Benn’s straight right. Eubank, though, began to root his boots rather than dance around Benn like he had in the first. The tempo had slowed considerably and Eubank exerted an authoritative jab. Eubank’s one-two looked sterling.
Round Six: The leit motif of Eubank’s in the fifth stanza, hit and not get hit, continued in the sixth as he out-boxed the champion. Now the war-like momentum from the first four rounds had dissipated somewhat, Eubank was able to control the tempo with his jab. Eubank clattered Benn with a superb right hook midway through the round, only for Benn to respond with a less-than-gentlemanly left to the bollocks. Referee Richard Steele allowed Eubank sufficient recovery time. When the action returned, both fighters aimed to do considerably damage. Eubank’s uppercut was also a grand weapon. Benn’s body blows were brutal.
Round Seven: Eubank circled Benn but the sprightly pace from the first was now a languid walk. Benn’s relentless body-work may have gassed Eubank. A well-executed multi-punch combination had Benn staggered at the mid-way point. Benn, again against the ropes, had to cover up and fend off a Eubank attack. Eubank turned his back on Benn, he held onto his groin and cowered so the inference was that he had – for the second time – taken a shot to the groin, however, Steele didn’t call it and so Benn took advantage. By the end of the round, Benn was sporting an Erik Morales set of eyes.
Round Eight: The fight had it’s first flash knockdown in the eighth round as Eubank was floored by Benn – the punch, of course, was the straight right… the same punch that had troubled Eubank multiple times in previous rounds. Eubank took a count but voiced discontent at Steele. At the end of the round Eubank paraded around the ring, cocking his chest with glee all over his face. When Benn emerged from his stool to take the fight to the ninth, it was obvious he was fighting with just one eye as his left was completely swollen.
Round Nine: Eubank’s one-two was meritorious. Should the jab have missed he’d ensure he landed the follow-up right. Benn attacked Eubank with more tortuous body-punching and, despite Eubank’s protestations that a stray was below the belt, Steele wanted nothing to do with it. Eubank was on the canvas in the ninth but the referee correctly deemed it a slip and, within moments, Eubank put together a phenomenal attack that had Benn in serious danger. It began with the jab and the follow-up right and Benn, like he had been when previously troubled, was against the ropes, covering up, trying to buy time. Steele waved the fight off during Eubank’s second major flurry of the round when again Benn was against the ropes, replying with little. The ninth round stoppage victory gave Eubank his first world title.
The fight, to this day, is still regarded as a British classic, with referee Steele (who was the third man in the ring for Mike Tyson, Marvin Hagler and Julio Cesar Chavez contests) even commenting that it was: “The most dramatic fight I’d ever refereed.”