We're very much enjoying Beating England Week here on Balls.ie as we delve into the archive and lap up the nostalgia of great Irish sporting moments as we count down to Saturday, St. Patrick's Day, Twickenham, and England.
Check out some of the great memories we've already discussed here.
As he sat down (and occasionally stood up) with Ariel Helwani to discuss Conor McGregor's chances of upsetting Floyd Mayweather's undefeated record in a boxing ring, Chris Eubank identified one feature of McGregor's makeup that could prove troublesome for the American:
This Conor McGregor is Irish.
Now, I don't know whether you have heard about the Celtic Warriors? Well, in warfare, they have ghost-like spirits. They are able to do what other nations haven't been able to do, they are a hard people.
We know that he is durable, he is tough ... if Mayweather is going to beat him, he is going to have to beat him into submission.
Scarcely averse to hyperbole, Eubank nonetheless spoke from the sorry vantage point of personal experience.
Twenty-two years earlier, it was he who had seen an unbeaten professional record stretching back forty-three fights spectacularly fall against an Irish boxer that had thrown his English counterpart into the "unknown."
As Eubank suggested in the build up to that fight; "I don't know what I'm dealing with tonight ... I shouldn't be put into this situation."
What exactly was Eubank dealing with?
In Steve Collins, the WBO super-middleweight champion Eubank had found a replacement, first and foremost. With Ray Close dropping out of a rematch with Eubank, the 28-3 Collins was a suitable stand-in for a fight already scheduled in Ireland.
Two years older than Eubank, the Irish boxer had had a fraction of his success. Although he had claimed Eubank's old WBO middleweight title 10 months beforehand from Chris Pyatt, the Dublin-man could scarcely claim to rival his opponent in terms of experience.
Having gone deep into the trenches with Nigel Benn (twice), and endured two grueling fights with Michael Watson in succession, Eubank's 43-0 record spoke for itself - sort of.
Demonstrating the kind of careful approach that he has largely adopted with his son's professional career thus far, Eubank was nobody's fool. Possessing the necessary braggadocio to make his fights a constant attraction (to see him finally beaten, if nothing else), a 1994 deal with Sky Sports saw Eubank earn £10 million for a quick series of fights that few suspected would trouble him.
Having racked up wins in Belfast, London, Cardiff, Manchester and Sun City, South Africa, the sixth of these fights in the arena that had hosted Ireland's 1993 Eurovision victory would be his undoing.
A fight that Eubank maintains "Collins won but if you watch that fight start to finish and score it I didn’t lose," the intrigue surrounding this momentous night for Irish boxing cannot but turn to those allusions of the "unknown" that the defending champion was stepping into.
Speaking 20 years after the fight, Collins described how he had preempted Eubank's usual pre-fight antics and was determined to disarm him:
I knew then that this is how he got to his opponents. He freaks them out, he gets into their heads, they get stressed out and then they convince themselves that Eubank is the man. I knew I had to take that way from him.
With the mutually-beneficial relationship between Eubank and Sky Sports resting on the presumption that the boxer would always win, the psychological stakes were usually set in Eubank's favour:
I watched him fight in London. He was fighting some South American guy that was brought over to lose. This poor kid, I think he was Argentinian, he made his way to the ring, he got into his corner and then the Eubank show began.
There was a bit of wait, and while this South American guy was in his corner, there were these giant screen surrounding the ring on all four sides. On these screens all they were showing were clips of Eubank’s knockouts.
It was like the music was synchronized with the film, so you just heard BOOM as it showed Chris hitting these fighters. Guys were falling over left, right and center in the film and Eubank’s opponent was just standing there, all alone, thinking ‘what am I here for?’
Although it would do Collins a disservice to suggest his unusual approach to the fight was all that separated him from Eubank, he and his team pursued a rare, and ultimately unnerving, tactic.
Informing the giant of British boxing that "The Celtic Warrior" Collins would be hypnotised for the fight, Tony Quinn revealed to a startled Eubank just what he would be up against:
Tony told everyone there that I would punch harder, that I would be faster, that I would be stronger, that I wouldn’t feel pain and that if I got cut I wouldn’t bleed.
Eubank wanted out of the fight straightaway. The next day I still had to fight him though, and that man is a warrior.
Suggesting that Collins had been "mechanically altered," how sincere Eubank's concerns were is difficult to determine.
In terms of Collins' attempts at mind-games went however, he wasn't finished. A boxer that thrived on making an entrance, to the tune of Tina Turner's 'Simply the Best,' Eubank knew how to make an entrance count.
On that night however, Collins wasn't going to be intimidated. Sitting still on his stool with earphones in paying no heed to the undefeated champion, the holder of the middleweight belt was about to become a two-weight world champion.
A bout that Eubank maintains showed more about his own bravery than Collins', what the Dublin fighter achieved remains one of Ireland's greatest sporting achievements.
In coming to Ireland on the St. Patrick's Day weekend, Eubank, in an interview with The Irish Times, openly suggested that this defeat had "wasn’t about Steve Collins. It wasn’t about an Irishman being the first to beat Chris Eubank."
Commending his own "balls to come to Ireland on St Patrick’s Day weekend and fight another Irishman when I didn’t need to," misses the point.
With his recently won middleweight belt, this was only Collins' second appearance as a professional boxer on Irish soil. Having somewhat fallen into a fight already scheduled at this venue, Collins, like so many of those Irish athletes to overcome inordinate odds, shook up his opponent and took his chance.
See Also: Beating England At Their Own Game - When Ireland Shook The Cricket World