What comes next for boxing after “unacceptable” taunts? Chris Eubank Jr. vs. Liam Smith

After the controversy in Manchester, Chris Eubank Jr. asserts that boxers “ought to set the example” in the fight for an inclusive sport.

The fight between Eubank and Liam Smith on Saturday has been overshadowed by ugly scenes from a news conference on Thursday, which hastened the end of the boxing year.

Boxing commentator Steve Bunce of BBC 5 Live remarked, “It was perhaps the lowest and most out-of-control conference I’ve ever been at — it horrified me.

That line was crossed by boxing.

For a significant portion of the contest, Smith made fun of Eubank, 33, for being gay. Eubank retaliated by making fun of Smith’s hometown of Liverpool and his marriage.

Natasha Jonas, the undisputed light-middleweight champion, said that it was “terrible for boxing,” while George Groves, a former boxer, remarked that “both combatants crossed the line of professionalism.”

Smith has now expressed his regret to anyone who was “offended,” but he has maintained that “not one homophobic thing” was spoken by him.

In the conversation on Thursday, Smith repeatedly asked Eubank why he hadn’t been spotted “with a girl,” appeared to indicate that Eubank is gay, and he also posed the question, “have you got something to tell us…?”

“Do you want to tell us something?” Smith asked. Considering that no one in this room has ever witnessed you with a woman. I’m not that kind of way [gay] buddy, I enjoy women, he subsequently stated.


Eubank retorted, “My personal life is my personal life; it has no bearing on boxing. But I’m content and at ease. Before making remarks regarding Smith’s personal life and making the accusation that Smith had an affair with his wife, he said, “if you want to go dark and personal with it.”

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Eubank showed his support for the LGBTQ+ community by sporting a rainbow wristband at the weigh-in on Friday.

According to Eubank, Liam “disrespected, hurt, and alienated a whole group of people.” “That can’t happen. That is not what we want in boxing. In our sport, we want to be inclusive of all.

“I understand that tensions are high when you’re getting ready to fight a man. However, we must act responsibly since children look up to us and we must serve as role models.

Eubank disputed that his remark about Liverpool requiring a hero in hard times was intended as a social class slur.

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After the media event, fight promoter Boxxer and its broadcast partner Sky Sports spoke with Eubank and Smith to remind them of their obligation to conduct themselves professionally.

The British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC) will do its own hearing into what happened, but neither party plans to take any more action against Smith or Eubank.

A BBBofC statement on Friday stated that “the stewards of the board will be considering the behaviour of both boxers personally.”

Bunce stated that he anticipates the regulatory body to impose fines.

In boxing, Bunce remarked, “I’ve never heard that profanity or homophobic crap used in that way shape or form before.”

“That was unrelenting, maybe as a throwaway sentence. Chris could have handled the situation better as Liam continued to berate him. The situation became out of control.

a photo of Chris Eubank with a rainbow armband on the back of his Manchester United jersey
Fighting athletes should “lead the example” for a diverse sport, according to Eubank. “They won’t be banned for it, and I don’t think they should be,” he continued. But they ought to pay a fine.

And perhaps a fine should be imposed on everyone involved.

The percentage of sports fans who believe homophobic slurs in sport are acceptable has practically halved from 2017 to 2022, from 25% to 14%, according to LGBTQ+ rights organization Stonewall, however it was noted that the incident in Manchester demonstrated that more work is still required.

These incidents, according to Stonewall’s head of communications and external affairs Robbie de Santos, “highlight why it’s so crucial for boxers, coaches, and individuals to continue to lace up and keep up the battle for inclusion.”

“Comments that are homophobic, biphobic, or transphobic have no place in athletics.

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Instances like this must be taken seriously by the sports authorities, who must also make it clear that anti-LGBTQ+ speech will not be permitted.

No British boxer has ever been banned for using homophobic words towards an opponent, however the BBBofC frequently reprimands competitors who use offensive language and bring the sport into disrepute.

Eubank is one of a few, but rising, number of professional athletes ready to participate in a public display of solidarity for the LGBTQ+ community on a stage of national significance.

Bunce, a BBC Radio 5 Live commentator who will cover the fight on Saturday, feels Eubank’s tactics will advance the game.

Chris wore the controversial wristband that Fifa and some of the highest-paid athletes in the world deemed unfit to wear, he claimed.

“I thought it was a really fantastic thing. It was gorgeous.”

“What occurred in Manchester this past week won’t be forgotten. It won’t be a singular occurrence. It will continue.

It won’t leave Liam Smith. For us to proceed, a little bit more elaboration and openness are required.

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