Eubank eager to crush `nonentity'

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Angry may not be quite a strong enough word to sum up Chris Eubank's mood in the countdown to his 15th World Boxing Organisation super-middleweight title defence in the rural setting of Millstreet, Co Cork, tonight.

The Dubliner Steve Collins, who is Eubank's latest challenger, upset the champion at a news conference six weeks ago - and Eubank is still seething about it.

"It could go the distance, but I hope I knock him out. I saw him as reasonably balanced before that conference but now he's a nonentity," Eubank said. "I have to put up with a man who is aggravating because of his narrow- mindedness.

"His statement disturbed me and I do not like being disturbed. Nigel Benn did the same to me in our first fight. He did not respect my ability. This is not about the fight now, it's about honour.

"I am fighting for more than my pride, standard of living and record. He is putting out a bad message to people and I have to stop him talking this way. I want no apology from Collins - beating him will be enough."

Collins, 30, accused Eubank of forgetting his roots. And if the mercurial champion is as fired up as for that first epic with Benn four and a half years ago, the Irishman is likely to run into Eubank the warrior rather than Eubank the annoying enigma.

The warrior was on view in Eubank's last defence against Henry Wharton in December when he turned in a top-class display to keep his title without a trace of controversy.

That has not always been the case. Eubank's list of narrow squeaks is well chronicled but he has become accustomed to feeling less vulnerable with Puerto Rican judges at ringside.

To date, nine Puerto Rican judges have scored exclusively in favour of Eubank during his championship reign and two more - Nelson Vasquez and Ismail Fernandez - will compile the points at the 7,000-seater Green Glens show jumping arena which hosted the Eurovision Song Contest a couple of years ago.

The Ulsterman, Ray Close, should have got this chance ahead of Collins but was ruled out of a third meeting with Eubank after an irregularity was discovered in a routine brain scan.

Collins is widely experienced and his three career defeats have been against world champions: Mike McCallum, Reggie Johnson and Sambu Kalambay. But Collins has not fought before at the 12 stone super-middleweight limit, has not had a bout since taking the WBO middleweight title from Chris Pyatt last May and has not met a truly front-ranking opponent for a couple of years.

The challenger is very resilient, however, and has never been stopped in 31 bouts. But while being tough, strong and determined, he cannot be classed as a major league puncher.

Eubank's chin is, of course, a formidable fortress and Collins must base his strategy on outworking the man in front of him.

"Eubank's negative style bores me. I have no fear of him after going with a true great like McCallum," Collins said.

"Eubank has a good chin but I'll find it. Mike Tyson had a great chin but got knocked out and Rocky Marciano was supposed to have had the best chin ever but got knocked down by a light-heavyweight [Archie Moore]."

Nevertheless the signs point to Eubank's 12th distance victory in 13 outings and the fifth of his £10m Sky TV deal. Medical precautions for the bout have been intensified in the wake of the Gerald McClellan tragedy.