Chris Eubank Jr says boxers “must lead by example” in the fight for inclusive sport after controversy in Manchester.
Ugly scenes at a press conference on Thursday overshadowed Saturday’s fight between Eubank and Liam Smith as the boxing year started on a sour note.
“It was pretty much the lowest, most out of control conference I’ve ever been to – it shocked me,” BBC 5 live boxing analyst Steve Bunce said.
“Boxing has crossed that line.”
Eubank, 33, was the subject of makes fun of his sexuality of Smith for much of the event and responded by taunting his opponent about his hometown of Liverpool and smearing his marriage.
Unified light middleweight champion Natasha Jonas admitted it was a “bad look for boxing” while retired boxer George Groves said, “Both fighters crossed that line of professionalism.”
Smith has since apologized to anyone “offended”, but insisted “not a single homophobic thing” came out of his mouth.
Eubank responded with wearing a rainbow armband at the weigh-in Friday during a show in support of the LGBTQ+ community.
“Liam disrespected, hurt and alienated a whole group of people,” he said. “It’s unacceptable. We don’t want that in boxing. We want to be all-inclusive in this sport.
“When you prepare to fight a man, the tensions are high, I understand. But we have to be responsible, we have children who look up to us and we have to lead by example.”
Eubank denied that his reference to Liverpool needing a hero during tough economic times was a taunt of social class.
Fight promoter Boxxer and their broadcast partner Sky Sports spoke to Eubank and Smith after the media event, reminding them of their responsibility to conduct themselves professionally.
Neither intends to take further action against Smith or Eubank, but the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC) will conduct its own hearing into what happened.
“Board stewards will look directly into the conduct of both boxers,” a BBBofC statement said on Friday.
Bunce said he expects fines to be issued by the governing body.
“I’ve never heard this homophobic language or stuff used in this way before in boxing,” Bunce said.
“Maybe like a throwaway line but it was relentless. Liam kept going relentlessly and then Chris could have handled it better. It got out of hand.”
“They won’t be banned for this, and I don’t think they should be,” he added. “But they should face a fine.
“And maybe everyone involved should face a fine.”
LGBTQ+ rights organization Stonewall said the proportion of sports fans who think homophobic remarks in sport are acceptable nearly halved between 2017 and 2022, from 25% to 14%, but increased. said the Manchester incident proved that more work was needed.
“These examples show why it’s so important for boxers, trainers and individuals to continue to lace up and continue the fight for inclusion,” said Stonewall communications and external affairs director Robbie de Santos. .
“Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic comments have no place in sport.
“It is vital that sporting authorities take cases like this seriously and make it clear that anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric will not be tolerated.”
It is common for fighters who use derogatory language and discredit the sport to be reprimanded by the BBBofC, although no UK fighter has ever been banned for using homophobic language towards another opponent.
Eubank joins a small but growing group of elite athletes eager to take part in a public show of support for the LGBTQ+ community on a major stage.
Bunce, who will commentate on the fight for BBC Radio 5 Live on Saturday, hopes Eubank’s actions will lead to progress in the sport.
“It’s the famous armband it wasn’t good enough for Fifa and for some of the highest paid athletes in the world to wear – and Chris wore it,” he said.
“It was beautiful, I thought it was a very good thing.”
“What happened here this week in Manchester will not go away. It will not be an isolated incident. It will stay.
“It’s going to linger with Liam Smith. We need a little more explanation and a little more openness so that we can move on.
“Chris Eubank may have started it today.”