Eubank on sharp end of Collins


TOM HUMPHRIESwatched as Chris Eubank arrived on a Harley Davidson but left Millstreet on a tumbril

CLAP CLAP Clap clap clap. Clap clap clap clap. STEVO!

The corrugated roofing of the byre in Millstreet echoed with the rolling thunder which hailed the new super middleweight champion of the world. Mr Steve Collins from Annamoe Terrace in Cabra. All hail.

Millstreet on Saturday night. Seldom can the exotic Chris Eubank from Brighton in England have tasted a stranger or more alien environment.

Travelling with his customary blaze of pomp and circumstance to a small, rural Irish town which reeked of burgers and frying onions; through the homely mess of buildings that is the Millstreet complex, past the rows of thoroughbred horses blinking inscrutably over their half doors, and into the arena where an 8,000 crowd, frenzied with excitement is passing a demented Mexican wave around the place.

His regal blood must have chilled somewhat.

With the first Mexican wave and the first lusty roar a new era in Irish boxing was born on Saturday night. A great hype-spangled bandwagon has rolled into town with Steve Collins at the head.

In the chaotic aftermath, the self-proclaimed ‘Celtic Warrior’ from Cabra spoke of defending his title before 50,000 people in Croke Park this summer. Outside with the spivs his monkey-suited promoter, Barry Hearn, was a busy man with a new phenomenon to hype.

Ah! When promoters are smiling all the world seems bright and gay.

Every punch in the sweaty sauna heat on Saturday night drew either a bloodthirsty roar or a shocked gasp. This was boxing Irish style. A smattering of boxing aficionados and a whole barn-full of escapees from the Late Late Show audience.

Collins threw himself into the splendid pre-fight pantomime with the class of a champion. While Mr Eubank, bare-chested, gleaming and astride his shiny Harley Davidson, was mechanically hoisted above the baying crowd amid a cacophony of booing and pumping Tina Turner music, Collins sat slumped in his corner, limp and dead to the world, a blackwatch tartan hood draped over his head and his own theme (from Rocky, of course) pumping into his ears.

Eubank posed and strutted and flexed his considerable muscle.

Our man from Cabra slept through it all.

Finally he was roused and the flailing began. Over 12 rather furious rounds, Collins launched 537 punches in Eubanks’s direction and suffered or dodged 334 retaliatory assaults. Both men landed on the seat of their pants a couple of times, and in the 10th round of a close contest a great gasp of dismay went up as Collins suffered the cleanest blow of the fight and reeled backwards.

These modern morality plays seldom disappoint us. Collins struggled to keep out of Eubank’s way until his senses returned. The final two rounds were spent consolidating the impression of superior aggression which he had been constructing all evening.

Eubank strutted around in the prescribed theatrical manner, boxing more calculatedly and in short, frightening bursts. When the final bell sounded, though, he had already calculated the odds.

“No way. No way,” he mouthed to his trainer, Ronnie Davis, who in turn caught the eye of a confederate in the crowd and shook his head in resignation.

Thus it was. A unanimous decision in Collins’s favour was all that the night permitted. “On yer bike! On yer bike,” roared the mob as the defeated champion left the ring where Steve Collins was still taking giddy embraces.

Chris Eubank came to Millstreet on a Harley Davidson and left on a tumbril. That’s boxing. The sharp end of real life.