Editor’s Pick: Steve Collins describes why he was the first to defeat Chris Eubank
“ When Eubank wanted to rest I made him busy, when he wanted space I squeezed him, ” says Steve Collins of a famous psychological victory.
My biggest night was the first fight with Chris Eubank, at the Green Glens Arena in Millstreet, Ireland, and it happened on St Patrick’s weekend in March 1995. It was my great chance: my chance to establish myself and succeed.
I was 31 and was planning to retire. I had been a boxing pro for 10 years and had the WBO middleweight title, but struggled to keep up and had three title defenses canceled: I was completely demoralized. It seemed like there weren’t any big fights for me, so I was going to go back to working full time as an electrician because I had no money and had kids. Life was changing: I didn’t own my house and it was time to get reasonable.
Eubank was at his peak; it was boxing’s best known and most important attraction. He was the best thing that ever happened to the super middleweight division, trust me. Some saw him as unbeatable, and some saw him as arrogant, but everyone knew who he was, even if they weren’t a boxing fan.
I could see he was beatable and I knew how to beat him; I thought he had made a lot of sense in picking the right fights. Like Eubank, I was promoted by Barry hearn, and I believed Hearn wanted the best for the business, which was Eubank to keep his WBO super-middleweight title.
At this point in my career I was trained by Freddie King but I was based in Las Vegas for this fight – living alone – and King spent very little time with me because he was gone with Herbie Hide. I was mostly on my own and got help from local trainers.
I studied Eubank and saw what his strengths were and what his weaknesses were; I knew it was all about mind games. I could match him physically, but I had to take away his psychological advantage. This is where sports psychology and my hypnotist, Tony Quinn, came in.
I made sure Eubank was aware that I was using this, and I disproportionately scared him, making him think that not only had I taken away his advantage, but that I had superhuman powers. I took that advantage and took it down to raw physics and boxing ability.
At the weigh-in, I had expected my behavior to be strange because I wanted him to know my state of mind: I wanted him to ask questions.
When it happened, I was jumping because I was a pound overweight and was trying to jump so off; he commented that I was unprofessional and not doing weight so I dropped my rope, went straight in his face and started talking to him, repeating – like a mantra – what was about to happen.
I just had a quirk about myself; he had met me before and knew I was pretty laid back but this time I was intense.
He couldn’t figure out what was going on and later asked, “What’s going on with Steve Collins?” My hypnotist had hung around and waited for this, and said, “He was hypnotized. Eubank’s curiosity got the better of him, and he started asking questions, which he shouldn’t have because he played in our hands. He said to him, “I hypnotized Steve so that he didn’t feel pain, that he didn’t get tired, that he hit harder…” And Eubank believed it all, and it totally has him. disoriented. But let me tell you now: I felt the pain.
My locker room before the fight was very intense. There was no entourage; it was me, my trainer and his assistant. No one wanted to enter; no one was allowed to enter.
I just wanted to do it.
I believed in my heart and soul that I was going to win. I knew I was going to be pushed and tested to the limit, but I believed I had the game plan and the ability to win. I could never be too excited; the more excited I was, the better it was and I thought I was unbeatable.
King was in my corner at night; he wanted me to win. When the bell rang, he wanted to be the coach who beat Chris Eubank.
In the ring, I knew that Eubank’s entry was a major psychological asset – it could undermine an opponent and win the crowd, and give him a superiority advantage – so the last hurdle was to take that entry away from him, so j put my balaclava on. , my headphones in, and sat in the corner listening to a tape and waiting for the ref to call me. But I was aware of everything. I could hear his music. I could feel his arms on the ropes, him jumping over the ropes; I felt it in the ring, I could hear the introductions, the fireworks. All. But when Eubank entered the ring, it wasn’t all about him: he was looking at me, I wasn’t looking at him, so I was the center of attention.
I couldn’t wait to put it on, but once the bell rang it landed a big right hand and I thought, ‘It hurts: okay, that’s gonna be hard. I knew that in order to win I had to start each round like it was the first; my game plan would start over.
For every punch he landed, I landed two. When he wanted to rest, I made him busy. When he wanted to move in a direction, I was there waiting for him; when he wanted space, I squeezed him.
But he threw blows. His punches to the body hurt him, his punches to the head hurt, and I’ll tell you what: I did some big punches, and it surprised me how hard, durable and strong he was. He wanted me to look at him and react to him, but that’s not what happened: I made him look at me. I just had to hold him up and never let him know how I was feeling and see that I was tired. It was about keeping that face visible, that control.
I knocked him down in the eighth round with a shot I had practiced in training, which I stole from Bruce Lee, the one-inch punch. I trained in martial arts for this and practiced it because I knew it was a shot that would work on him. I threw the right against the body, and practiced throwing the left hook afterwards, and put it all in: I honestly think that if that left had landed, it would have knocked it out, but it did. missed because he passed. I knew the fight wasn’t over and he was going to come back and try to jump on me, and that’s exactly what he did because in the 10th round he put me on top.
He grabbed me with a right hand that I didn’t see.
I fell, but it didn’t hurt. I nodded at Eubank and thought, “Good luck,” but I was never in danger; I just seemed to have the capacity to absorb the punishment.
After that, I was tired – the heat in that place was incredible – and I kept saying to myself, ‘Dig deep, you’re the new champion, this is your highlight’, and I threw everything I had in it. At one point, towards the end, he would get desperate and say, “Come on, come on”. I put my arms out and said, ‘Chris, I win, you come to me, I control.’
One thing anyone who has shared the ring with Eubank will tell you is that until the last second of the last round he was always dangerous. He had this strength and power and wanted to win. On the last lap, stupidly, I went to stand face to face with him. I wasn’t going to let him go thinking he could have gotten me on the last lap. It probably wasn’t the right thing to do, but I did and then at the last bell I knew I had won. I knew, he knew, the crowd knew.
In the locker room, I collapsed and four doctors had to come in and put me on oxygen.
My body temperature rose and they covered me with ice; they were going to take me in an ambulance but it calmed down. It was just total exhaustion.
A lot of great fighters are here forever and don’t have the chance to show up, against a big name, in a big fight. It was the big name, the big fight. And I got it, and I won.