Marcus Morrison will soon take aim at Chris Eubank Jr, but it won’t be the first time he has had him in his sights. ‘Paintballing with Eubank’ may sound like an Alan Partridge TV pitch, but the pair have already done battle in a different kind of combat zone.
The story goes back to 2008 when Ricky Hatton was being trained in Manchester by Floyd Mayweather Sr ahead of his fight with Paulie Malignaggi. A young Eubank Jr was also part of the camp.
“He had been doing some training with Floyd Senior and I was with a trainer, Lee Beard, who was also working with Floyd,” explained Marcus. “Hatton was working with the pair of them. Eubank was doing some bits with Floyd and I was with Lee so some days we’d be together.
“It was my birthday, so my Dad got a group of my schoolmates together, we bunked the day off school, and he booked paintballing and invited Chris along. He came along and we went for a Chinese afterwards. That’s as far as it goes in terms of knowing him. He might not even remember. It was a long time ago – we were both kids!
“A few years later, and we’re about to get in the ring together. Obviously, we’ve both come a long way in our careers, and I think that it’s going to be an exciting fight.”
The 6ft middleweight from Hattersley – the same neck of the woods as Ricky Hatton – is deep in training camp ahead of his mission to upset the odds against Eubank Jr on a Matchroom pay-per-view card headlined by heavyweights Derek Chisora and Joseph Parker.
Although boxing from the age of seven, the first big dream for Marcus had been to become a top defender for Manchester City. He spent five years at the club’s academy playing against some of the game’s finest prospects.
“Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Ravel Morrison – I played against them. Some big names who’ve done massive things in football. We were just kids then, but they’ve gone on to do big things so fair play to them.”
The pathway for football stardom ended for Marcus, aged 16, after being released by City for being too small.
“They said I’d never grow. I was very short at the time. I remember at school, in year seven and eight I was the smallest in the year. All the girls were bigger than me! Football didn’t work out. I was at City and I’m a big Blue myself so when they let me go, it broke my heart. I walked away from football and didn’t play again competitively.
“I was doing both at the time, I was boxing and playing football, so it was also going to get to the stage where it’s one or the other. The decision was made for me. Looking back now, I’m glad I am where I am.”