Tom Gray

Froch-Groves reminiscent of UK’s super middleweight glory days

Mar. 18, 1995 – Steve Collins UD 12 Chris Eubank, Green Glens Arena, Mill Street, Ireland

When champion Chris Eubank travelled to Ireland to make the 15th defense of his WBO super middleweight title he was still unbeaten and showed little sign of slowing down.

The enigmatic showman had defended his title six times in 1994 and was coming off a superb decision victory over teak tough challenger, Henry Wharton. That type of solid preparation would be vital because Steve Collins, the WBO middleweight titlist, was as tenacious a competitor as one could ever encounter.

It had been a fascinating career to this point for Collins. The Irishman had learned much of his trade under the tutelage of acclaimed coaches Goody and Pat Petronelli, who had taken Marvelous Marvin Hagler to the middleweight crown, and he was highly respected within the sport.

During his time in the States, Collins had captured the USBA middleweight title and his only losses had come against reigning or former world champions in Mike McCallum, Reggie Johnson and Sumbu Kalambay. He had under rated boxing ability, but what he really loved to do was fight and his engine, courage and relentlessness were beyond reproach.

Deep in his heart Collins also knew that constant pressure was the key to defeating Eubank, who used showboating tactics to buy time, bluff and replenish energy. The Irishman’s game plan would therefore be to exert pressure at all times and force Eubank to fight for twelve hard rounds.

Still, regardless of his confidence, Collins chose to hire some extra help. Dr. Tony Quinn, a celebrated hypnotherapist, was put on the payroll and the pair headed off to Las Vegas where Collins would endure a grueling training regime, as well as a dose of Quinn’s mind altering treatments.

For the first time in his professional career Eubank seemed genuinely psyched.

“I’m going into unknown territory,” said the champion. “In forty three fights I’ve always known what I was dealing with, but tonight I don’t. It’s not fair that I should be put in this situation, and if I had my way I would pull out of the fight.”

Whether Eubank really believed the odds were against him, or whether he was just playing to the public, is open to question. Collins, by contrast, barely spoke during the build-up and his intensity seemed implacable.

“I’m fully prepared for this fight mentally and physically,” said Collins. “I’m going to win and you’re looking at the new champion. I’ve never been better prepared in my life.”

So heightened were his emotions that Collins made his ring walk on the verge of his tears, but when the Irishman stepped between the ropes his demeanor changed. Wearing earphones, he immediately took refuge on his corner stool and closed his eyes in a bid to blank out Eubank’s swanky entrance.

True to form, and as Collins anticipated, the champion made his way to the ring with the help of a Harley Davidson, accompanied by the familiar strands of Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best” – then the bell rang.

The challenger immediately went on the offensive and backed Eubank up with sustained aggression, body work and an accurate left jab. It may have been Collins first fight at 168 pounds but Eubank did not have a noticeable strength advantage and found it almost impossible to hold his man off.

As game as they come Eubank fired off sparkling combinations, but the great showman looked very uncomfortable, fighting at pace, and Collins was walking through the fire to land telling shots of his own.

The Irishman’s lead was bolstered further when he scored a knockdown in the eighth and the home crowd exploded. Eubank was caught by a powerful straight right to the body, which caught him squared up, and he was very lucky to avoid a huge follow up left hook.

Real urgency set in for the champion when he was advised by trainer Ronnie Davis that a knockout was required before the tenth. Eubank was fired up and motioned for Collins to “bring it” and within moments the Irishman was on the floor. A terrific right hand shot caught the challenger on the point of the chin and he went down, badly shaken, grappling for the ropes.

Collins took several moments to recover but Eubank incomprehensibly stood off. Instead, he taunted his opponent, who smartly used the time to clear his head and any hopes of a Eubank stoppage vanished. Three year later “Simply the Best” made a similar mistake against Carl Thompson, in a WBO cruiserweight title fight, and gave away what appeared to be certain victory.

Both Eubank and Collins whipped in fight ending shots for the remaining two sessions, but the prevailing thought at ringside was that a new champion had arrived. Eubank chanted down at press row, before the official announcement that he had a draw but the tied result, which had bailed him out in two prior title defenses, against Nigel Benn and Ray Close, was not there to save him this time.

The decision was unanimous for Collins, 116-114, 115-111 and 114-113.

Collins called out everyone from Sugar Ray Leonard to Roy Jones, but the only fight which made sense was a rematch and the Irishman prevailed once again, by split decision.

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