Chris Eubank Jr and Liam Smith faced off for the first time this weekend; neither spoke a word to the other and the cold reaction was reflected in their comments afterwards; Pair to meet again on Tuesday at press conference with coverage from 11.30am
Tuesday 29 November 2022 11:30, UK
Chris Eubank Jr meets Liam Smith on January 21 in a Sky Sports Box Office event at the AO Arena in Manchester and victory could lead either man into contention for a world title fight.
Eubank is highly ranked by the WBC at middleweight and Smith, a former world champion at super-welterweight, is stepping up to 160lbs to take on his rival in this fight.
WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman has confirmed to Sky Sports that if the fighters' teams choose to take that route, it is possible for this contest to be made an eliminator for its middleweight world title.
"It could be," Sulaiman told Sky Sports, as Eubank is the WBC's second-ranked middleweight contender.
He would wait for the fighters' representatives to initiate that process.
"[At the WBC convention] we just knew of the cancelled fight that unfortunately happened," Sulaiman said, referring to Eubank's scheduled October bout with Conor Benn which collapsed when Benn failed a drug test.
"But Eubank is a tremendous fighter and he has a great history behind him and of course we would support if the plans are made to go through the WBC platform," Sulaiman said.
"He has the door open. We will wait to hear. We will see."
BOXXER promoter Ben Shalom has also acknowledged that world title ambitions will be at stake for Smith and Eubank Jr.
"We know Liam Smith's well-ranked in the WBC," said Shalom. "He wants to become a two-time world champion, Eubank has always wanted to become a world champion.
"At the end of the day Liam Smith is a big step up for Chris, and when he's stepped up before at world level, some would argue it's not gone well - those are his two defeats.
"So I think this is a massive fight for Chris. Fair play to him for taking it because he probably didn't need to. Out of the options, this is the toughest, but that's what makes it such a big fight as well.
"I think whoever loses has got a real problem."
Eubank Jr and Smith came face-to-face at the weekend for the first time since the announcement of their January 21 fight.
On set for filming commitments, they did not speak a word to one another when they came head-to-head and engaged in their first stare-down.
But Eubank told Sky Sports afterwards: "He's ready and so am I."
Before the bout with Benn fell through, Eubank had claimed he only needed to be at 60 per cent. Now for Smith, he has unexpectedly suggested he would not even have to be at that level for this fight.
"Sixty per cent is much too generous to give to Liam Smith. He's below that and if he's ready for it then he will receive it," Eubank said calmly.
Smith hit back: "He's seen my interview where I've said he knows he can't be 60 per cent for this and he's thought I'm going to play that game, I'll be 55 per cent. That's just him being a clown.
"You only have to see the announcement for people to know it's a much tougher fight for Chris Eubank Jr than Conor Benn was. He's not stupid. He knows that.
"He said I've fought no-one at his level. I've fought Canelo and Jaime Munguia. Any time Chris has fought anyone better he's lost and I feel it'll be the same on January 21."