Boxing ain’t like it used to be, or so they say. And ‘they’ would be right. As evidence, more people in the UK tuned in to watch the two bouts between Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank than saw Andy Murray win Wimbledon.
Captivated by the very real enmity that existed between the two combatants, fascinated by their wildly contrasting personalities, overwhelmed by blood-lust, millions gathered round to witness the bitterest rivalry British boxing has seen.
In corner stood Benn, ‘The Dark Destroyer’: the no-nonsense wild man of the British ring, an all-action knockout artist, everything British fight fans expected a boxer to be. In the other corner stood Eubank, the great eccentric: a man who wore a monocle and jodhpurs, who spoke like a toff, who quoted Nietzsche and Kipling, who denounced the ‘barbarous business of boxing’. Eubank thought Benn uncouth and intolerable. Benn just wanted to give Eubank ‘a good, good hiding’. Not surprisingly, the public couldn’t get enough of them.
In THE HATE GAME, Ben Dirs has spoken to most of those who were closest to the action – boxers, trainers, promoters, writers, duckers, divers, dreamers and schemers – to create an unforgettable portrait of British boxing’s last golden age. It was a golden age that contained plenty of glory, but which was shot through with anguish and tragedy. At the heart of the story are two brave warriors who didn’t so much engage in fights but events. We might never see their like again.