IT WAS five years ago this month that Seb Eubank took his seat in the crowd at York Hall to watch his cousin and best friend Harlem make light work of the fifth fight of his career.

It was business as usual for Harlem that night, winning five and sharing one of the six rounds against Bulgarian Angel Emilov to move serenely to 5-0. Later, the cousins and their friends would head down the road to Brick Lane for a celebratory feed.

As plant-based athletes, Seb and Harlem insisted that they eschew the famous salt beef bagels that most of the late-night revellers were most interested in on that particular street and instead headed to Mooshies, a vegan burger joint.

As they ate, they reflected on the fight and chatted about the future; Seb had enjoyed a winning start to his professional career in Manchester a month earlier and the pair had big plans in the sport. Neither of them knew it would be the last time Seb would ever watch his cousin box in the flesh.

In July 2021, Seb Eubank, the second son of Chris Sr, died after suffering a heart attack while he watched the sunset from the sea in Dubai. Back home in England, Harlem and the rest of the Eubank family would never be the same again.

Since that night in Mooshies, Harlem has moved to 16-0 and is now the headline act as he returns to York Hall to face Christian Uruzquieta on Friday night. His late cousin will be front and centre in his mind once more.

“York Hall was the last place he watched me fight in March 2018,” he tells Boxing News. “So now when I fight there I really feel his presence and energy with me.

“Me and Seb both started boxing at the same time, we went down the amateur gym together. I started late at 18. We trained together and he was one of the big motivators for me.

“Every fight, he was sending me messages and flying from the middle east to come and watch my fights and be with me in the dressing room. He really gave me that early encouragement. He told me I really could do this.

“He was one of the big motivators for me. It’s difficult but I really feel his presence with me as I go into these fights, especially at York Hall.”

Often the loss of someone close to you, particularly in sudden or tragic circumstances, can have a profound effect on the way you view life. For Eubank, now 29, that goes without saying.

“We don’t necessarily know the answers and why things happen when they do,” he adds. “I have strong faith in the creator and sometimes there’s a bigger plan.

“Because if you look at it any other way you just can’t make sense of it. Sometimes we’ve done all we came here to do in this physical plane and it’s time to pass onto the next, we’ve fulfilled our mission so we can depart. Viewing it like that has helped me process it but a lot of us are still going through that process now.

“It is crazy when you look back at how everything has panned out. But I’ve got a lot of good memories with Seb and that’s what I try to focus on and that’s what brings me happiness.”

Eubank is speaking on a rare rest day in training camp as he prepares for another step up in what he describes as a ‘slow-burner’ or a career to date. The next day, British lightweight champion Gavin Gwynne will arrive for sparring. Having fought four times in 2022, Eubank has more momentum now than he’s ever had.

He has always trodden a very different path to Chris Jnr, even though aligning himself to his cousin may have opened more doors. That said, Harlem was supposed to box on the undercard of Eubank v Conor Benn but he, along with all the other undercard fighters, were left out of pocket as a result of the clomifene found in Benn’s system by VADA.

Harlem was also there 12 weeks later when Eubank was dropped and stopped by Liam Smith inside four rounds in his first fight since the start of the Benn saga. His cousin knew something wasn’t right.

“I was in the changing room beforehand and I saw the whole event unfold,” he says. “The energy was different.

“I was taking a few videos like usual and I looked at them and was kind of thinking ‘this doesn’t look right’. The energy in the video didn’t look like someone who was about to go out into the firepit.

“Chris is unfazed, he is untouchable in mindset and how he prepares but I didn’t see that in him in the dressing room that night. He knows what he has to put right to amend it next time.

“He wasn’t like I’ve seen him in the build-up to other fights. He knows deep down that wasn’t a true account of himself. Only he knows the reason behind that.

“A lot of people noticed. Paul Smith, Liam’s brother, was in to watch the handwraps and he even said afterwards that he thought Chris seemed defeated before the fight in the dressing room. That is not Chris Eubank Jnr. I’ve never seen him like that before but it all comes down to preparation and only he knows how he prepared for that. But I think in the next fight he will show a truer account of himself.”

It was the worst possible start to what may be a pivotal year in Eubank Jnr’s career. Now Harlem is vying to kick off his own 2023 in style. And, should all go to plan, there will only be one method of celebration on his mind.

“Well Mooshies closed down during lockdown but now they’ve moved to Hard Rock Cafe and they do a pop-up there so maybe we should go as a tribute,” he adds. “If not, I’ll find another spot to reminisce on those good nights.

“The loss of Seb is still very real and we deal with it on a daily basis. But whenever I get a chance to celebrate his life I will. He’ll be there with me on Friday.”