Steve Collins - Training Beyond Mind Tricks
There was an article published recently about a rising fighter, Archie Sharp (11-0, 7 Kos), who has been using mindfulness training similar to what Steve Collins used, and I wanted to look back at what made Collins, “The Celtic Warrior”, so extraordinary. It wasn’t just through utilizing hypnotism and mindfulness in preparing for fights.
Steve Collins is the classic tough-as-nails Irish boxer. Known for his strength, speed, and stamina, as well as his fearless nature, Collins’ courage in the ring and dedication to intense training have helped secure his reputation as one of Ireland’s legendary boxers.
“I worked with Steve for 3 fights,” said Educoworld’s Tony Quinn who helped Collins with nutrition, fitness and strength training during his championship run. “Steve was a joy to work with because of his superior mental abilities, total commitment and the true champion that he is. He went on to have a number of other successful World Title fights.”
Not content with achieving success in Ireland and the U.K., Collins moved to the United States to furthe his professional boxing career and build a path to international glory by training and sparring in some of the best gyms and with the best trainers. After putting together a nice win streak, including a quality 1989 victory over future title contender Tony Thornton, Collins next faced the WBA middleweight champion, Mike " The Body Snatcher" McCallum. Collins demonstrated his toughness when he lasted the distance against McCallum in the New York resident’s first defense.
Two years’ later Collins lost by a close majority decision for the now-vacant WBA title to the accomplisged Reggie Johnson. The highlight of both performances in these losses showed that he was not afraid to go in to the lion’s den for an opportunity to take titles from tough competition. The third and final loss of his career came in the next fight after the Johnson defeat when he traveled to Italy to battle the European middleweight champion Sumbu Kalambay. The Congolese champion had essentially offered Collins a gateway back ‘home’ and he went on to fight in Ireland and the UK from that point forward, beginning a 15-fight winning streak that included world title wins at two weight classes. Most notably his 1995 WBO super-middleweight title victory over long-reigning champion Chris Eubank paved the way for seven successful defenses before retiring in 1997.
Steve never hesitated to mix it up with the best fighters and find any competitive advantages possible to supplement the grit and determination that led to his finest performances. Collins enlisted the help of a hypnotist before the first Eubank fight in an effort to convince him of his own invincibility and to help ‘spook’ Eubank in the process. Both men were knocked down during the match, which took place in Collins’ home city of Cork. But, hypnotist or not, Collins was victorious and took the WBO title.
Collins comes from a fighting family. His brother Paschal also boxed as a pro in the States and currently runs the successful Celtic Warriors gym in Dublin. His other brother, Roddy Collins, is a former soccer player and current manager in the Irish league.
Collins’ thirst for glory may yet lead him back into the ring, even at the ripe old age of 53. Recent reports have linked him to a possible fight against former rival Nigel Benn, who is also 53. Why Collins feels the need to battle Benn again, whom he beat twice as an active pro, is unclear, seeing as Collins is financially stable and in good health. The Irish veteran had previously sought out possible fights with ex-90s rivals Roy Jones Jr and Chris Eubank but neither came to fruition, so Benn was approached in late 2017.
I don’t believe that a proud warrior like Collins, who achieved so much in his career, needs to step in the ring again, but it is his decision and there is always a boxing commission somewhere in the world that will license these money-generating events. However, it is unlikely that the reputable British Boxing Board of Control or Boxing Union of Ireland will allow these matches that amount to little more than spectacles.
Even though Collins is retired from boxing, his legacy is continued in a sense by his son, Steve Collins Jr, a 27-year-old cruiserweight currently fighting in small venues across Ireland, America and England. I have seen his son box live on a few occasions (including his debut) and he has worked hard to forge his own identity as a boxer, while receiving valuable input from his father. Collins Jr operates in a similar style to his father but will face an uphill battle to reach anything similar to the levels of achievement that Steve Sr enjoyed during his 11-year career. Junior has shown a willingness to box both home and abroad, against a range of opponents, displaying a similar attitude to his father when he was searching for opportunities back in the mid-1980s.
I remember meeting Collins Sr at a Dublin show back in 2006. He was friendly and happy to speak with the small group of fans assembled in the lobby of the venue. This seemed at odds with a widely-reported incident in 2006 when Collins had a physical altercation with an Albanian bouncer who refused him entry to a boxing event at Dublin’s National Stadium. Collins was acquitted of any wrongdoing after the incident and the verdict vindicated a man who has spent a career doing his best work in the ring with little need to prove his toughness in other ways.
Not afraid to speak his mind when the situation demands it, Collins pulls no punches in his commentary as well, similar to how he hunted opponents down during his ring career. After a particularly suspicious ending to an Irish title fight between journeyman Michael Gomez and Galway’s Peter McDonagh, Gomez suddenly turned his back midway through the fifth round and said he’d had enough. The fight was over, McDonagh was named as the victor and back in the RTE studios Collins railed against the outcome over what he saw as blatant foul play. “He threw the fight!” barked Collins. Bookmakers suspended bets and the boxing forum boards buzzed about the possible conspiracy. Gomez subsequently retired from boxing and the straight-talking Collins’ association with the boxing broadcaster was over.
If ever a tribute to Collins summed up his philosophy and drive then it is an award created by reputable website Irish-boxing.com who, every year, dish out a ‘Steve Collins: Warrior of the Year’ trophy to a deserving boxer who has displayed the heart, resilience and durability of one of Ireland’s favorite warriors.
© 2018 Steve Wellings