Boxing called on to ‘take decisive action’ after homophobic comments made by Liam Smith

Boxing has been called on to “take decisive action” after Liam Smith directed homophobic comments towards Chris Eubank Jr in the build-up to their grudge fight on Saturday.

Smith questioned Eubank Jr’s sexuality at Thursday’s press conference, leading broadcaster Sky Sports to make an apology.

Eubank Jr, who insisted Smith “embarrassed himself” with his comments, then wore a rainbow armband at the weigh-in before posing head to head with his Liverpudlian rival.

“We don’t discriminate,” Eubank Jr added. “We don’t alienate. We want boxing and sport as a whole to be all inclusive.”

The British Boxing Board of Control confirmed on Friday that they will “consider the conduct of both boxers directly,” British LGBTQ+ rights charity Stonewall has urged the governing body to show they take anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric seriously.

A spokesperson for Stonewall told the Independent: “Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic comments have no place in sport. It’s vital that the sports authorities take instances like this seriously and make clear that anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric will not be tolerated, by taking decisive action.

“We know that anti-LGBTQ+ behaviour represents a minority and, over the last five years, the proportion of sports fans who think homophobic remarks in sport are acceptable has almost halved - from 25% in 2017 to 14% in 2022.

“But, despite the progress in LGBTQ+ visibility that sport has seen this year, these instances show why it’s so important for boxers, coaches and individuals to continue to lace up and keep up the fight for inclusion. Together, we can create a better sporting world where the sport is truly everyone’s game.”

Sky Sports presenter Anna Woolhouse praised Eubank Jr’s move to wear the rainbow armband, stating: “It is good to see Chris is supporting the LGBTQ+ community with an armband after some rather unsavoury comments, so it’s good to see.”

Eubank Jr and Smith pose after making weight (PA)
Eubank Jr and Smith pose after making weight (PA)

Eubank Jr also claimed Smith “crossed the line,” telling PA: “It escalated quickly – and that’s OK. This is boxing, this is the entertainment business, this is the fight game and this is real.

“People react to fighting a man in different ways. He embarrassed himself up there but it’s OK. We’re going to fight it out and settle our differences in a couple of days’ time.

“It’s crossed a line and for people looking at it, it’s wrong. We shouldn’t act like that. It’s fight week, we’re both starving and making weight. If anyone took it personally, I apologise.

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“It was always going to get a little bit heated like that. At the end of the day, it’s just words. Just take it with a pinch of salt.”

Former world champion George Groves, who defended his super-middleweight title against Eubank Jr on points in 2018, then added that the comments made by Smith may have provided his rival with extra motivation.

“When the fight was made I thought it was Eubank Jr’s to lose, but when you dissect it, it’s a closer fight than what it appears on the outside,” Groves told Sky Sports.

Chris Eubank Jr during the weigh-in wearing a rainbow coloured arm band (Action Images via Reuters)
Chris Eubank Jr during the weigh-in wearing a rainbow coloured arm band (Action Images via Reuters)

“Maybe the heated press conference yesterday flickered something in Eubank Jr, who had a slight change of mindset from going out to do business to wanting to do a bit more.

“I’m sticking to my guns that Eubank Jr will win, but if it’s a brawl, I think Eubank Jr will not only win but hurt him.”