31.07.05 – By Greg Nicholas: For me, two of the most under-rated fighters there has been are two former WBO world champions at both middleweight and super-middleweight – Chris Eubank and Steve Collins. They were so very different, with Eubank being a fighter of finesse and Collins taking him on with an ugly but effective style, but either of these individuals could/would/should of given Roy Jones Jr his toughest test.. Chris Eubank was undefeated in his first 43 professional fights, he always styled himself as ‘Simply The Best’, and after Julio Cesar Chavez lost his first fight it was Eubank who held the longest unbeaten record in the world of boxing (both in ammount of fights and ammount of years) and it remained so for over a year.
Irishman Steve Collins famously became the first man to ever defeat Eubank, doing so in March 1995 in an epic battle in Ireland, Collins started the fight as a big underdog which was probably mostly due to having three losses on his record (and probably also due to being very unknown in Britain before beating Eubank).
But in my opinion, Collins was a very under-rated fighter and when you look further into it, his underdog status against Eubank actually wasn’t justified!
Steve Collins started his career in Boston as a smart tactician, with Goody and Pat Petronelli using the flexible Collins to beat certain opponents using certain styles, but Collins was mostly seen as a boxer-puncher back in those days with some capability to produce some punishing punches when the opportunity permitted. A decent boxer, tamed by the Petronelli brothers from going all-out. After defeating top five opponents in the world rankings in Kevin Watts and Tony Thornton in USA middleweight title fights en route to entering 1990 as a #1 contender, Collins took on WBA middleweight title holder Mike ‘The Body Snatcher’ McCallum in Boston. Collins started the fight under strict orders from the Petronelli’s, although it soon became apparent that the tactics weren’t working, despite the Petronelli’s pleading with Collins to be more patient and stick to his gameplan, it was evident that Collins was becoming frustrated at losing round after round using somebodies elses theory.
Collins abandoned his fight plan halfway through the fight and went all-out on McCallum, going at him like a wild tiger and winning atleast four of the last five rounds with his work-rate, body work and aggressive infighting. Nobody ever caused McCallum problems like Collins did after going all-out towards the end of the fight, and at the post-fight interview Collins said that had he gone all-out at McCallum from the start he’d of picked up the win, McCallum was sitting next to Collins and nodding in agreement! And McCallum quickly let it be known that no ammount of money would entice him back into a ring with Collins again!
McCallum was stripped of the WBA title for not giving Collins a re-match, and at 21-1-0 Collins fought for the vacant WBA title against Reggie Johnson. With the Petronelli’s back in his corner having forgiven him for disobeying them, Collins decided that this time, no matter what, he would stick to his game plan throughout the whole fight. Collins came across as a competent boxer-puncher, and when the final bell rang everybody watching the fight with the exception of three men knew that Collins had clearly won the fight. Johnson got the decision controversially, a scandalous decision, Collins had been absolutely robbed.
Collins was back in the ring six months after being robbed against Johnson, and fighting for the European middleweight title against Italian Sumbu Kalambay in Italy. Kalambay was a former WBA middleweight title holder with a resume that boasted a win over McCallum, but Collins dominated from start to finish, sticking to his game plan and as usual appearing as a competent boxer-puncher. Collins again was totally and utterly robbed on the scorecards in his opponents backyard, it was disgraceful judging and Collins very nearly walked away from the sport.
But after those back-to-back losses, Collins completely changed his boxing style. He left the Petronelli brothers and would never work with them again, instead he became an all-out attacker and all-out slugger, relying on his own chin and toughness to grind his opponents down. It worked! What followed was 15 straight wins before retiring, picking up two world titles along the way, as well as finding fame and fortune for sending British legends Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn into retirement (he beat them both twice apiece!). THAT Collins was a world-beater, a marauding warrior who called out a certain Roy Jones at every opportunity for a good three years in the mid-90’s before eventually calling it a day due to Roy not wanting the fight for whatever reason. Collins had Roy screaming to the hills!
If Collins had gone all-out against Johnson and Kalambay, it’s more than likely that the judges would of found it extremely hard to rob him off victory, either that or Collins would stop them. After those back-to-back losses Collins had hired a hypnotist, started using weights, hired a nutritionist, started working with Freddie Roach, grew a goatee beard and then called himself ‘The Celtic Warrior’ at 30 years old. ‘The Celtic Warrior’ who came forward non-stop would beat Boston’s Steve Collins, and in my opinion was the most under-rated fighter of the mid-90’s, with Mr Jones knowing full well.
Chris Eubank came through the ranks as a very talented attacking prospect, he had a 20-0-0 record by 1990 and soon picked up the WBC International middleweight title, he was renowned for his ability to finish an opponent off with sharpness and accuracy, to go in for the kill when he had an opponent hurt. Going into the first Nigel Benn fight, Eubank was just 24-years-old but had a 24-0-0 record, and he beat the WBO middleweight champ Benn with his finishing ability in evidence – leaving him battered and bloodied on the ropes. Eubank’s re-match with the smooth-boxing, world-class Michael Watson (Benn’s first conqueror) affected him for the rest of his career, his finishing ability was in evidence as usual – behind on all three scorecards going into the final rounds, Eubank was desperate, and when Watson scored a knockdown it looked all over, but Eubank then quickly rose off the canvas and caught Watson with a fateful uppercut with Watson’s head bouncing viciously off the tightly pulled lower strand rope. At the start of the final round, Eubank pummelled Watson along the ropes before the referee jumped in to the rescue, Watson was left permanently disabled at the hands of Eubank. Eubank very nearly walked away from the sport.
After seeing what he had done to Watson, Eubank evidently lost his finishing instinct, with almost all of his fights for the rest of his career going the distance. When Eubank had an opponent hurt Post-Watson, he would he never go in for the kill, and often did only just enough to keep his title. But it was evident against European champion Ray Close that Eubank had that powerful right hand in reserve if needed, behind on all three scorecards going into the final rounds for the only time in his career up to that point aside from the Watson re-match, Eubank simply decided to score a knockdown on Close which forced it to be scored a draw (he won a re-match), it was that easy.
When the long reigning WBO super middleweight champ Eubank came up against the WBO middleweight champ Collins, nobody gave Collins a chance due to Eubank seemingly having reserve if needed. But Collins was like a man possessed that night, showing tonnes of determination, and going into the final rounds Eubank was behind on all three scorecards for the first time since against Watson and Close. Eubank turned it on like a light switch though, suddenly it was as if the Pre-Watson Eubank had returned, he became the first man to ever score a knockdown on Collins and had Collins out on his feet. Collins was clearly there for the taking, but Eubank had terrible flashbacks to Michael Watson and backed off, purposely allowing Collins to recover, Eubank decided to strut and pose around the ring as he often did (due to always being a showman the fans loved to hate) rather than finish Collins off. Eubank was a passenger for the rest of the fight and chose to lose a boxing match rather than risk taking a mans life.
But I saw on that night in March 1995 two men who were capable of defeating Roy Jones Jr, with Eubank the most likely of anybody! The reason being, Eubank proved that when he was under pressure and losing a fight, he had a very powerful right hand in reserve if needed – he would need it against Roy Jones! If Eubank was losing on points to Roy (as he probably would be), he certainly had the ability to land a powerful shot late on, and with glass-chinned Roy being nowhere near as durable as granite-chinned Collins, I believe that Eubank could of knocked out Roy in the latter rounds. Eubank called out Roy around 1996, and in my opinion the reason that Roy wouldn’t fight Eubank is because he’d seen what had happened to his friend Gerald McClellan on that tragic night against Benn, and in the back of his mind Roy knew that Eubank had disabled an opponent in his career too. Eubank was slick and defensive, tricky and awkward, and would of given Roy fits due to his strange style anyway. I also believe that the marauding warrior that Collins became in the mid-90’s would take Roy to places that he has never been before and would give Roy his toughest time ever.