Middleweight contender Marcus Morrison and top coach Joe Gallagher have seen Chris Eubank Jnr and Liam Smith at close quarters, giving them unrivalled insight into this weekend’s fight. Morrison, a former opponent of Eubank Jnr and a former sparring partner of Smith, has seen and felt both of their punches, while Gallagher, the former long-time coach of Smith and someone who has also worked the opponent’s corner in a fight against Eubank Jnr, has constructed game plans involving both men.
Question: Is Eubank vs Smith a better fight than Eubank vs Benn?
Marcus Morrison: There was a lot of hype surrounding the Benn and Eubank Jnr fight but that was only because of the dads and the history between them. In terms of the actual fight, I feel like Benn would have gone in there wanting to win but would have been much too small; the size difference would have been huge. Whereas here, with Liam, you have a seasoned, world-class light-middleweight against Eubank Jnr, who isn’t the biggest middleweight in the world. I was surprised to find that when I fought him (in 2021). People keep saying Eubank Jnr will be the bigger man against Smith, but I really don’t think he will be.
Joe Gallagher: It’s 100% a better fight. I think the thing that made the Eubank Jnr vs. Benn fight interesting was the history between the two dads. But Liam Smith is actually more like Nigel Benn than Nigel Benn’s own son is, in terms of going into a fight against Chris Eubank Jnr. If you look at the first fight between Eubank and Benn, that was between two very hard, proud men who had both fought at world level. For Conor Benn, though, a fight against Eubank Jnr was a huge jump up in class and also weight. This fight between Eubank Jnr and Smith is a much better fight. Also, the fact both can’t stand the thought of losing to the other replicates what Benn and Eubank were dealing with before their first fight.
Q: In what areas does Eubank Jnr have an advantage?
Marcus Morrison: People see the hand speed and they see that he can punch a bit and that’s why he carries his reputation. I can understand why people would look at this fight and have him as favourite. But it’s only until you get in there with a fighter like Liam Smith that you realise what makes him so effective. Eubank Jnr’s qualities are more obvious but that doesn’t mean he has more of them. With Eubank Jnr, it’s mainly the hand speed that surprises you. I wouldn’t even say he was a big puncher. I’ve been in with many bigger punchers. But his hand speed was a lot to deal with. Also, in mid-range he’s dangerous. It’s there he crowds you and lets his hands go. It’s hard to deal with.
I can see this fight being similar to the fight Smith had with Anthony Fowler (in 2021). Eubank Jnr could have success early on, in the first four or five rounds, but Liam is a hard man. He can be nasty and spiteful, and I think you’ll see the nasty side of him in this fight. If you don’t iron him out, you’re in for a tough night’s work. I honestly don’t believe Eubank Jnr is a hard enough man to do that to Liam. But I do believe he could have some success early on.
Joe Gallagher: I was ringside when he fought George Groves (in 2018) and that night I thought to myself, You’re a hard man, you. You can really fight. He was caught by a few heavy-handed shots from Groves early and yet was still swinging away in the final rounds. I was surprised he never kicked on from that and challenged for world titles. He was good enough and he had nothing to be afraid of after that fight. His speed of hand is unbelievable. When Marcus (Morrison) fought him, he said that was the main thing he noticed. And he is also a hurtful puncher. You only have to look at the performance against Avni Yildirim (in 2017) to see that. Putting Liam Williams down four times (in 2022) showed that as well.
Q: In what areas does Smith have an advantage?
Marcus Morrison: Liam is highly underrated; he is a world-class operator. However, I can imagine that if you look at Liam from the outside. he looks a very beatable fighter. He’s not some monstrous puncher with one-punch power. He hasn’t got super-fast hands. But what he does have is good timing and unbelievable shot selection.
From long range I think Liam will outbox Eubank Jnr and I don’t think it will be long before Eubank Jnr wants to get close and use his hand speed. At that point I think Liam will get even closer and beat Eubank Jnr up with tighter punches on the inside. I think he will hurt Eubank Jnr to the body in the middle rounds and this will affect how the fight pans out. It’s then late on Liam will have most of his joy.
Joe Gallagher: I think Liam is one of the most underrated British fighters out there. He’s never really been given the credit for his boxing IQ – the way he cuts the ring off, the way he bides his time, his cool head under pressure. You saw all that in the two Liam Williams fights and also on the biggest stage against “Canelo” Alvarez (in 2016). He acquitted himself well against Canelo and didn’t go in there to survive. He even had some good moments in that fight. The trouble was he got done with body shots because he hadn’t been sparring; his body wasn’t used to it. Against Eubank Jnr, though, his boxing IQ, his patience, his shot selection and his defence will all be very important.
Q: To beat Smith, what would you tell Eubank Jnr?
Marcus Morrison: Knowing them both, I don’t think Eubank Jnr is a technically good enough boxer to outbox Liam. Failing that, then, you’ve got to stick to what you’re good at, and Eubank Jnr is a very good fighter. He’s not a very good boxer but he’s a very good fighter. I felt like I was outboxing him early on in our fight but when he resorts to what he’s good at he has a lot more success. He needs to turn this fight on Saturday into a brawl and use his hand speed. That’s the only way I see him winning. He has to seriously hurt Liam early on.
Joe Gallagher: Well, he’s got to be fit. He’s got to be 12-rounds fit. In other fights he’s been able to go for walks and move around, but he won’t get that chance with Liam. We know he can throw power shots for 12 rounds and still be doing it in the last, so that will stand him in good stead. I think his speed of hand will also be vital. No disrespect to Liam, but if you look at his fight with Anthony Fowler, early on there were moments when Fowler landed good shots regularly. I think Liam maybe stayed in the pocket a little bit too much that night. But Liam always knew it was going to be a long fight and that he would have to sacrifice rounds before catching up with Fowler. And that’s what he did. Can Liam afford to do that this time, though? I’m not sure. Eubank Jnr could be a fighter who goes a few rounds up and then, when you put your foot to the floor, he matches you and goes with you.
Q: To beat Eubank Jnr, what would you tell Smith?
Marcus Morrison: From early on try to win as many rounds as he can by outboxing Eubank Jnr. Keep him working. Keep him constantly thinking. What Liam also does well is he puts pressure on you where you’re constantly on the move and looking for a way out. That becomes very tiring. To do that for 12 rounds is very hard work. If Liam can win the first few rounds, and weather what I think will be an early storm, he should comfortably win this fight. My main concern for him is getting through those first four or five rounds unscathed. But Liam certainly has the toughness to do it. Later on in the fight he can then start to take Eubank Jnr apart to the body.
Joe Gallagher: Revert back to the two Williams’ fights. In the first fight he met him head on, had a fight with him, and bullied the bully. Liam was snarling and spitting that night. That’s Liam Smith at his best. In the rematch he then went out and outboxed Liam Williams and never got involved. Nobody realised he had that in his locker.
Now, if you look at Eubank Jnr’s performance against Billy-Joe Saunders, when Billy-Joe was boxing he was winning rounds easily. When he stood and fought with Eubank, though, it became Eubank Jnr’s kind of fight.
Liam has to be cute, judge the distance well, don’t go in and get caught with shots, and do a lot of feinting. Maybe ask Eubank Jnr to come on to him. Chris will go to throw but, if you’re not standing in front of him, he won’t throw. He needs you to be on the ropes to unload. Either that or he wants you to come after him. Will Liam do that? I know Liam can box on the back foot and has a very good boxing IQ. He can walk Eubank Jnr onto shots and put on a counterpunching display if he wants.
Q: How big a factor will mind games be in this fight?
Marcus Morrison: I don’t think that will pay off for Eubank Jnr at all. Liam has been around far too long to fall into that trap and fight emotionally. He’ll have a game plan and he’s usually very good at sticking to it. If anything, it might bring out some nastiness in Liam. He’s going to really want to hurt him anyway, but if you rile him up beforehand it could make him even more spiteful on the night. Both have been around a long time, though, so they know the score. I’m sure both will handle the needle and all the emotion on the night.
Joe Gallagher: Liam’s very good at noting what’s said and putting it in the back pocket. He doesn’t get emotionally drained or obsessed or in his head about it. He’s very bullish. You saw that when he boxed in front of 50,000 in America (against Alvarez). He kept a cool head in a hot atmosphere and stuck to his game plan. Eubank Jnr in Manchester in front of 20,000 is nothing for Liam. Both fighters, in fact, have fought on the big stage. Eubank Jnr’s fight with George Groves was a big fight in a packed-out arena, and Liam Smith’s fight against Canelo was even bigger. On both those nights they came up short but acquitted themselves really well.
Q: How do you see the fight unfolding next weekend?
Marcus Morrison: I think it will be a Liam Smith points win. But if I had to put money on it, I’d go for a Liam Smith late stoppage. I think he hurts Eubank Jnr to the body in the middle rounds and then he catches up with him and finishes him late on.
Joe Gallagher: Liam wins and gets the credit at last for his boxing IQ – more than just getting credit for his bravado. I feel that if there’s to be a stoppage in this fight it will probably be due to cuts and it will probably see Eubank Jnr winning. But on points Liam Smith wins. I don’t think Eubank Jnr will be able to handle Liam once he gets in his groove. The referee has to let him go to work: punches to the body, up and down, and everything else. When Eubank steps away or goes for a break, Liam will then step with him and not allow any rest. Should it go 12 rounds, I expect it to be very close on the cards.