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When Ray Close beat Chris Eubank but was denied

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It was the Scottish Exhibition Centre in Glasgow, May 15 1993 and Chris Eubank was making another defense of his WBO super middleweight belt, for the seventh time. His opponent: the 24-yearold Belfast-born and raised Ray Close, who had previously taken the European belt by TKO 10 against Vincenzo Nardiello. Having previously failed in an attempt against Frank Nicotra of France, who stopped him by TKO 8. Close was Eubank's equal in height and looked very strong physically, but his record wasn't exactly stacked with big names or titles, so experts surely thought it would be an easy night for Simply the Best.


And how wrong they were! Close took charge from the start, repeatedly landing one-twos and bullying Eubank on the inside, which wasn't exactly easy. For the first six rounds, the crowd at the Scottish Exhibition Centre witnessed a surprisingly tame performance from Eubank, who seemed to struggle with Irishman's strength and ferocious attack. In the seventh, Eubank took it up a notch and landed some good shots, but Close was unmoved. He continued bullying Eubank for the next two rounds, even though the BBC judge Harry Gibbs curiously had Eubank ahead after the ninth. Eubank sensed urgency as he came out for round ten and flew at Close, trying to hurt him and knock him down, but was unsuccessful as Close stood his ground and returned the fire. Close stung Eubank with a left-right-left before the round ended to come out on top once again. Much to Eubank's and his manager Barry Hearn's surprise, Close was able to take anything Eubank had to give and come up with a response. Finally, in the eleventh, Eubank's big break came: as Close was leaning against him, Eubank unleashed a huge right uppercut that hit Close flush on the jaw and down he went. Close once again surprised by getting up quickly, but was on shaky legs and Eubank jumped him, trying to bring the show to a close (pun intended). However, the Northern Irishman weathered the storm and even came back by the end of the round, landing some clean, crisp punches. As the bell sounded for round twelve, Eubank knew he needed to do something special in order to retain his title-most likely score a knockout. He flung himself at Close, but again, the strong Belfast man stood like a rock and even drove the champion to the ropes, banging away to the body. He also ducked and slipped many of Eubank's punches, showing a surprisingly good defense. Close then landed a series of punches which hurt Eubank and he was on shaky legs. A knockout looked out of grasp and so did his title.


As the bell sounded, the two warriors embraced and Close then let out a wail of triumph as his cornermen lifted him up. The Glasgow crowd roared its' approvement of both the fighter and the fight they had witnessed. He had let out that same wail, not unlike a Banshee shriek, in the corner during the fight earlier, as Eubank had started to get more offensive, as if he was trying to psyche himself up to keep attacking. It was clear this guy had fought the fight of his life, but would he get the decision? The scorecards were announced as the two fighters stood hugging one another: Dave Parris had it 116-113 for the challenger, Torben Seemann Hansen 116-112 for Eubank (I wonder which fight he was watching and wether he forgot his glasses?) and Roy Francis 115-114 for Eubank. However, only a few moments later, the announcer changed the result into a draw, as Francis obviously discovered an error on his card. Eubank was unaware of it however, as he ducked through the ropes to sit down for an interview and was surprised when the interviewer told him the fight had ended a draw. He praised Close but would not admit that his performance had been his worst so far, at least since he became a champion. Close was not interviewed right after the fight but one thing was certain: he was the winner in the eyes of the crowd and some others as well, including Jim Watt.


The rematch was held almost exactly a year ago, May 21 1994, only this time in Belfast, Kings Hall and once again the fight was a difficult one for Eubank, him needing a split decision to retain his title. As for Ray Close, he drifted into obscurity from there on, only having a few low-key fights before hanging them up in 1997, at only 28. Two impressive performances against the man who was considered one of the best p4p fighters in the game back then didn't exactly make other big names eager to fight him. On a curious side-note, before fighting his more famous cousin, Close fought Frank Eubank and beat him on points in 1990, after getting knocked down once. That is what actually happened against Chris, or what should have happened.

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