Mind games have been a part and parcel of big time boxing for as long as I can remember.
When it came to getting inside the head of his opponents Ireland’s Steve Collins was a one of a kind.
When it came to getting in the ring the ‘Celtic Warrior’ was as teak tough as they came.
Willing to fight to the death.
Indeed, two of the UK’s best super-middleweights Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank found that out twice each in defeats to him.
The latter has been candid over the years how in their second fight Collins spooked him by the alleged use of a hypnotherapist.
But for the first time that I can recall at least, he’s now acknowledged what it was that Collins said to him before their first fight that caused him to be rattled.
Speaking to Adam Smith and Johnny Nelson on Sky Sports’ Ringside program Eubank revealed:
“Yes (he played me at my own game). Steve was very good. Let me tell you this story. We go to Dublin (Ireland’s capital) to have a press conference for them. I’m the champion of the world and we go to his back yard! He turns up an hour and a half late! It’s okay. It’s just a trick.”
He went on:
“He (Collins) then speaks in Gaelic (Irish native language) for the next half an hour. Still, you’re just Steve and I’m me. It doesn’t matter. When the referee says box it can only be one way. This is my view.”
What he said next was how he lost the fight:
“Then he starts speaking in English and he says you know, Mr. Eubank, we all admire you. The quintessential Englishman. You dress well. You’re dignified. You’re well behaved. You’re good at what you do. You seem to have a humility that people don’t give you credit for. He’s buttering me up (the purposeful act of massaging someone’s ego). I’m saying (to myself) you know what, whatever. You’re still just Steve.”
“Then he said to me: I’m an Irishman. I do it for the Irish people. I support the Irish people. You’re not really an Englishman (are ya?). You’re an African. What do you do for the Africans? I lost the fight at that moment. The fight was just a formality. I lost the fight (to Collins) at that moment.”
Collins, a controversial mental warfare merchant.
I’m sure many would have thought Collins was crazy at the time for various tactics in his boxing career.
Really though he just out smarted and out foxed opponents in a lot of cases.
A quote from the great middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins springs to mind in this regard:
“Well, (looking back on it all) was I crazy? Or was I crazy like a fox?”
All in all, what a rivalry it was between Eubank, Benn, Collins and Watson during their era.
For the full show with Eubank check it out here on Sky Sports Boxing YouTube (hat tip).
The Collins story above starts 21 minutes 30 seconds in but the whole interview is quite brilliant: