"Love your colleagues, love your neighbour, you get so much back by helping people"Nordin Ćatić

Chris Eubank, the British former professional boxer who competed from 1985 to 1998, spoke at the Cambridge Union last Thursday (03/06). Alongside sartorial elegance and stupendousness, his illustrious career saw him hold the WBO Middleweight and Super Middleweight titles between 1990 and 1995. And here’s what he said when Varsity spoke with him.

What inspired you to get into boxing, and who was your inspiration?

My inspiration was Bob Marley. Not to say he ever boxed but [he gave] words of integrity, righteousness, and inspirational words of correctness and decency: no matter how much they are crushing you, you are going to hold your head up high. Boxing is the one vocation where you are at the bottom of the pile, but you can rise to the top. It is probably hard to find in any vocation the system or game which give[s] you the opportunity to get to the top and gain the respect and ear of everyone.

Do you think there are any rising boxing stars like you, and would you like a boxer to have a similar style to what you had?

I want to share what I learnt, I want to see it, I want to see fighters [who] know the art and craft and have the integrity to stay in fights that they cannot win and show valour. That is important to me and that’s not being taught: these guys are looking at it as some type of way of making a few quid. Boxing is a way of life; if you get it right you truly can win the hearts of the people. You cannot do that with other vocations. If you show you care about people, it goes a long way.

If you weren’t a boxer, what would you be?

I would have probably been in ballet. I was good enough in gymnastics, they told me I could start taking classes, because “you are that good”. That was in 1979. Gymnastics helped me so much in my career, because it gave me something other fighters did not have: poise. In boxing it gave me an elegance which the other participants in boxing just did not have.

You’re known for having quite a unique personality. Sometimes I feel I can’t be myself and people may judge me, and I am sure most people have felt like that at some point in life. Do you ever feel afraid and like you’re being judged for being yourself? Do you have advice for people on how they should handle that situation?

Ok, those are all things to people, they are ten a penny, hundred a penny; if you want distinction why shouldn’t you have it? All it takes is for you to be a gentleman, if you are not being rude to anyone you should not worry. The human condition is as follows: if you are stepping out from the pack, the rest must point you out and they are going to do that as they do not have the courage to step forward. Jealousy is the tribute that mediocrity pays to genius.

One of the hardest times I had in my career was probably around 1992, when I first started carrying a cane. The cane was something for an aristocrat that had gems on it. I remember walking into this audience, and you could hear them talking about me. It took so much bottle to carry the cane and pull it off. People used to say “he’s a cockney from Peckham, look at him!” I would never be afraid to be who I wanted to be, the more I did it the more press I got for it. Because I was not afraid to explore and be creative, I flew, and you can too, in whatever field you’re in. When you start making a difference, that’s when you start getting called out, that’s how you know you’re making traction. Controversy is good.

Back to boxing, you must be a proud father seeing your son Chris Jr having a successful boxing career. Just how involved are you in the background supporting Chris’s career?

Of course, I am a dad. The dad is the trainer, the manager, the one who stews and makes sure that things won’t happen to him, the one to protect him. The one who must protect him from the band of money makers, and I have. No matter what the critics say, I am proud of it. A dad has to protect his child. There are snares, there are potholes and tricks. I have a duty to look out not just for Chris but all my sons. When you are a dad, you have to look out for everyone. It is the same as when I told the students this evening when they came for the meet and greet after the talk: make sure you look after the poor, they are your children. If you do not look after them then someone will take advantage of them. Look after your neighbour.

Lockdown has been tough on everyone, what are you most looking forward to doing once it is all completely over?

I have enjoyed lockdown because [...] I have been able to make use of this time. The use has gone around feeding me, feeding my brain with lovely things so there is no waste. Lockdown should have been for everyone an opportunity to reflect and make things better. The news drags people down and there have been unfortunate incidents, but you must stay positive and look at everything.

Finally, what advice would you give to youngsters today?

Love your colleagues, love your neighbour, you get so much back by helping people [...] That is how you have a wonderful life.

With thanks to William Wynn Thomas (The Cambridge Student) for his contribution towards questions.