Ted Sares looks back on Steve Collins, the Irishman who challenged for world titles at middleweight and then in the mid-1990s went on a run that qualifies him as one of the great super middleweights in the division's short history.
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I‘ll fight him [Roy Jones] in a phone box in front of two men and a dog.
...it's like having your teeth broken...Yeah, sickening. That's what it felt like, it was sickening....you feel the searing pain, then it's gone in an instant.
-- Collins describing what it's like being hit by Nigel Benn
With the shocking descent of Roy Jones Jr. over the past five years (5-5-0 since 2004), it's perhaps timely to look back at the "Celtic Warrior" and his uncommon body of work. After all, a fight between the two could never get made back in the day but in retrospect, it may well have involved Collins giving a prime Jones all he could handle and maybe more.
Steve Collins fought from 1986 thorough 1997 and retired with a 36-3 record. What most fans don't realize is that he won his last 15 fights in a row, 11 by stoppage. Even more impressive is that this iron chinned Irishman from Dublin retired as WBO super middleweight title holder, something very few champions ever accomplish.
Among his early victims were Sam Storey (for the Irish Middleweight Title), rugged Tony "The Fighting Postman" Thornton and Kevin "Killer" Watts (for the USBA Middleweight Title.) His first loss was against future Hall of Fame inductee Mike McCallum in 1990 for the WBA Middleweight Title. It was one that I saw live at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston; in fact, I saw him fight many times as he did most of his early work in the Boston area. After losing to the "Body Snatcher," he won 5 straight before dropping a razor thin and controversial MD to Reggie Johnson and a close UD to Sumbu Kalambay both in 1992. He rebounded by winning the WBA Penta-Continental Middleweight Title in 1993 by knocking out South African Gerhard Botes.
Finally, after relocating to England from Boston, he won the WBO Middleweight Title with a KO over the very capable Chris Pyatt (42-3) in 1994. He then would close out his career as he continued the aforementioned streak of wins. Incredibly during this run, he fought and beat Chris Eubank twice in succession in 1995. Eubank was 41-0-2 coming into the first fight. A year later, he stopped Nigel Benn two times in a row. Benn was 42-3-1 at the time of the first duke. While Admittedly, both opponents were past their prime, what the Celtic Warrior accomplished has to be considered a remarkable feat given the stature of those two legendary Brits and the fact Collins was defending his crown.
Amazingly, he had book-ended his career with 16 wins at the start and 15 at the end--with a beginning and ending TKO as icing on the cake.
Collins, the quintessential professional, toiled in Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England, Northern Ireland, France, Italy, Atlantic City, Las Vegas, the Meadowlands Arena in New Jersey and, of course, in and around the Boston area. More to the point, he was an extremely tough, iron-chinned, tenacious, and skilled fighter who took on the very best.
When they conduct the International Boxing Hall of Fame ceremonies this coming June, let's hope this great warrior is no longer overlooked.