By Jonathan Oxley.
As Chris Eubank entered the Greens Glens Arena on March 18th, 1995, he had already been mentally beaten and was suffering a serious sense of panic coming into the fight, something that Eubank was certainly not used to.
Irishman, Ray Close, had to pull out of the fight with Eubank and Steve Collins willingly stepped into his shoes as a replacement that would perhaps cause one of the most shocking boxing upsets ever seen. Undoubtedly, Collins was a very good fighter, having won the WBO middleweight title just ten months prior with a TKO victory over Chris Pyatt, proving himself to be a world-level fighter.
Eubank had been unbeaten in all of his previous 43 fights and was perhaps the biggest draw in British boxing at that time, fans were drawn to see the cocky showman, some to see the glittering entrances and bravado, some possibly there to see the Englishman lose spectacularly, such was his love/hate relationship with boxing fans in the U.K.
Collins actually had great respect for Eubank, “He was great and he was the best thing that ever happened to the middleweight division in my time. I can never thank him enough for being around and what he done to the game. He brought money to the game, he established Sky Boxing as a channel. There isn’t a lot of Chris Eubanks around.”
“I went to see him fight. I followed him because I knew I was going to fight him one day. I told him many years before we actually fought that I was going after a fight with him, and I knew eventually I would catch him, by the time I did I think he knew himself that it was too late and it was out of his control.”
“I watched him fight in London. He was fighting some South American guy that was brought over to lose. This poor kid, I think he was Argentinian, he made his way to the ring, he got into his corner and then the Eubank show began.”
“There was a bit of wait, and while this South American guy was in his corner, there were these giant screens surrounding the ring on all four sides. On these screens, all they were showing were clips of Eubank’s knockouts.”
“It was like the music was synchronized with the film, so you just heard BOOM as it showed Chris hitting these fighters. Guys were falling over left, right and centre in the film, and Eubank’s opponent was just standing there, all alone, thinking what am I here for?”
“Then the music starts, ‘Simply the Best’ starts playing—Eubank had the best entrances in the world. I don’t know if he made his entrance on the motorbike that night or he was carried to the ring, but he was coming in and he was bigger than life.”
“Everybody in the arena was losing their minds for him and I could just see the little guy sitting there watching the big screen, watching Eubank enter. While Chris was entering, his opponents’ cornermen were moving to the beat of ‘Simply the Best’. That’s when I thought to myself—this is all mind games.”
“Eubank had more or less told this guy, ‘it’s not about you, it’s about me’. He must’ve felt like he was only there to take up some space in the ring because it was clearly the Eubank show.”
“I knew then that this is how he got to his opponents. He freaks them out, he gets into their heads, they get stressed out and then they convince themselves that Eubank is the man. I knew I had to take that away from him.”
Collins knew this would be a chance that he could not let pass him without a superhuman effort, he was fighting at middleweight and by his own admission had been bullied and pushed around in several fights because of his lack of physical stature at the weight, stepping up to super-middleweight would be seemingly an impossible task. Collins realised this and realised he needed an edge to give him a greater chance of a victory, something that would make Eubank lose focus, this is where the mind games would come in to play for the Irishman.
At the official weigh-in, Collins knew that he had his man right where he wanted him and now was his chance to take maximum advantage. “For the official weigh-in, we were in a little room in the back. He walked in and I’m there doing some skipping, trying to lose the last bit of weight before we go to the scales. Eubank came into the room, he saw me skipping and he made a little comment, ‘very unprofessional’, he said or something to that effect,” said Collins.
“I put the skipping rope down and I walked straight up to him, and got nose to nose with him. I told him, ‘I’m the new champ, I’m going to win’. He looked at me like I had ten heads and I just kept telling him that I was going to win. I said it so many times that it became a mantra—I looked like a lunatic.”
“He backed off a bit and I could see that I had scared him. Someone said to me ‘what’s going on here’, and I told him that I had been hypnotized and that I had a hypnotist with me in the room. I could see him react to that immediately, he wasn’t comfortable with it at all.”
“I had Tony Quinn with me, a very clever man, he’s a bit of genius this guy. He said to everyone in that room that he had hypnotized me. When he said that, the most interested person in the room was Eubank.”
“Tony told everyone there that I would punch harder, that I would be faster, that I would be stronger, that I wouldn’t feel pain and that if I got cut I wouldn’t bleed. Eubank wanted out of the fight straightaway. The next day I still had to fight him though, and that man is a warrior.”
Eubank was clearly rattled with this revelation and was immediately out of his mind with worry at the prospect of apparently facing a man that he now believed could feel no pain, perhaps his head filled with thoughts of the tragic consequences of his fight with fellow Brit Michael Watson.
“That’s why I’m afraid, that’s why I wanted to call the fight off,” said Eubank. “That’s why I would call the fight off if I could now, it is unknown territory. For the 43 fights I’ve had in the past I’ve always known what I was going in to.”
“I don’t know what I’m dealing with tonight. I’m fighting someone that has been mechanically altered and that’s an unknown area. I shouldn’t be put into this situation.”
As Collins entered the ring that night he told himself it was his time and he would be victorious in front of his own fans, he entered wearing tartan shorts emblazoned with ‘The Celtic Warrior’ the crowd were frenzied and prepared for the arrival of Eubank.
Eubank entered with the usual characteristic showmanship that had gotten under the skin of many of his opponents, however, this time there was one huge difference. Collins didn’t watch any of the entrance, he sat in the corner with his head covered and headphones blanking out all of Eubank’s music and theatrics, thus preventing the showmanship having any influence over him. Collins emerged only when prompted by his cornerman and looked almost sleepy, he had been so relaxed.
The rest, as they say, is history. Collins went on to claim Eubank’s world title via unanimous decision to become a two-weight world champion.
Just how much of the victory was down to Eubank being spooked by Collins’ decision to tell him that he had been hypnotised, only the two warriors will ever know the answer to but the Irishman went on to claim another victory over Eubank as the pair met again, this time via a split decision.
As many a fighter will attest to, boxing is as much preparation of the mind as it is a preparation of the body, without either the other becomes meaningless.