Critical night for Eubank

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The Independent Online


Maybe it is only through manufactured paranoia that Chris Eubank can prepare himself fully for an attempt to regain the World Organisation super-middleweight title from Steve Collins in Millstreet, County Cork, tonight and set up further riches in the ring.

What else can you think when you hear Eubank going on bitterly about the psychological tricks Collins employed prior to their first contest and that by again engaging a hypnotist the Irishman is not only cheating, but putting his life at risk? "I do not wish to see Collins, speak with him or smell him until it is legally possible for me to punch him on the chin," Eubank lisped typically this week before submitting finally to the contractual obligation of joining the champion at a press conference.

An intriguing contest - Collins scaled 11st 13lb, half a pound lighter than his opponent, at last night's weigh-in - it is obviously critical for Eubank, whose reputation seems to have been raised as much on spectacular entrances and quite ludicrous posturing as boxing ability. Ferocious collisions with Nigel Benn and the ill-fated Michael Watson identified Eubank as a fighter of some substance, but in steering clear of leading Americans, he has left doubts in many minds.

The habit of taking short cuts in preparation, especially when matched against carefully selected opponents, finally caught up with Eubank when he lost the title on a decision to Collins last March, after holding back curiously from the advantage of a 10th-round knockdown.

Eubank insists he will be a much more dangerous proposition for Collins this time, but there has always been the suspicion that his posing serves to mask serious limitations in stamina.

This was central to a success that raised Collins considerably in stature. Superior in speed, he made Eubank uncomfortable by forcing him to fight the full three minutes of every round and found him out in the process.

While Eubank's true worth in the division is in question, he has natural power and a strong chin. In common with all counterpunchers, he becomes frustrated when forced to pursue an opponent.

The Irishman surprised him first time around by mounting fast attacks and is not short of experience. When challenging unsuccessfully for the World Association middleweight championship five years ago, he went 12 hard rounds with Gerald McCallum, who was considered too dangerous by Eubank's advisors.

Since losing the title, Eubank has stopped Bruno Godoy on a cut in the first round and Jose Ignacio Barruetabena in just 55 seconds, but as both were shamefully overmatched, nothing can be drawn from those efforts.

As defeat tonight would put paid to the alliance Eubank hopes to forge with Frank Warren after ending his professional association with Barry Hearn, it can be assumed he is up for the challenge. This and the fact that Collins has never been stopped suggests another long contest that should just about go the more powerful challenger's way. Otherwise, it is all over for him.